Thursday, November 18, 2010

River Music

Staying on the same topic, silence, I'll continue. I must, for this book has in a way opened for me a whole world, that cries out for examination. The author's quest to preserve natural silence, and to spread awareness of the need for it, really resonates with me, even though I may not be as good at hearing the subtleties like he is, given that he's been focusing on sound, on listening, for so long. I hardly give any thought to sound, beyond listening to music; but, not being a musician, it's pretty casual listening. My sister, who was in the school choir in high school, says of a country group she like, "I love the way they use a lot of sharps and flats." I don't know what that really means. I know the definition of what sharps and flats are, but don't know how to hear them. I don't have the understanding behind it.

So, reading this passage sort of blew my mind:

From the sound of the water alone I've learned to distinguish the age of a tumbling stream. Older flows, such as those in Appalachia that escaped the last glaciation, have been tuning themselves for many thousands of years. Their watercourses and stony beds, smoothed to paths of least resistance by the ageless cycles of torrents and floods, sing differently. To my ears, they're quieter, more musical, more eloquent. Youthful streams, with their newly exposed and angular, unsmoothed rocks, push the water aside brashly, with a resulting clatter. (p 23; One Square Inch Of Silence)

A stream as music, literally! Oh sure, we've all heard that said poetically, but who among us have ever listened to a stream close enough to understand the water as tuning itself to the hillside, singing a duet of mountain and water? The passage continues:

In all cases, the rocks are the notes. I sometimes attempt to tune a stream by repositioning a few prominent rocks, listening for the subtle changes in sound. (p 23)

I've done this before, as a child making little dams and rockwalls in streams, and have myself noticed the way the sound changes. How could it not? Of course, our additions and subtractions to the stream are more intrusive than anything, and are probably quickly erased as the river finds it's own harmony. But it's fun, at any rate, to read that the music of running water is also reality, that the poetry applies directly. It makes me want to go sit down by a stream and hear the world sing.

1 comment:

  1. Since you live in Big D, you could go build a little dam against to the curb the next time it rains or, possibly, you could experiment with your bathtub. :-D

    It rains constantly here in SW Washington. At night, when all the world is asleep, I often sit and listen to the rain. It sings.

    There are also many streams here. There is a pond and creek in the gully below our house. I listen to the creek almost daily!