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Sound and sharing

A few days ago, when I went out to take my laundry off the clothesline, there was a musical instrument sitting on the lawn beside the clothesline. It was a sort of electric guitar on a stand, and it belonged to my next-door neighbor, Mark So. And it was playing a one-note composition (I think the note is F-sharp) he had made in dedication to my laundry and my new fascination with watching my laundry dry. He even wrote out a “score” for me to keep.

Yesterday, my other next-door neighbor, Paul Rudy, treated our whole group to a one-hour sound composition he has created while staying here, a “suite” of sounds that he described as a sort of movie-without-visuals. It was indeed evocative — sometimes disturbing, eventually redemptive.

Both of these kinds of “music” — compositions without a distinguishable “melody” — are new to me. Even though I probably won’t be moved to emulate them (I’m a folkie for life, I think), hearing them has enlarged my capacity for listening: the intersection between sound and art is larger than I’d imagined.

Last week, I met an Austrian woman at the visitor center, and we have become friends. Verena is a sound healer; she has a array of instruments, some of which she brought to my casita after we took a walk today. Others, because they are large, have been left behind in Austria while she is traveling, but luckily she had pictures of them stored on one of those wonderful little flash cards you can plug into a USB hub on just about any computer. So I was able to see a picture of an instrument that is also a table (like a portable massage table). The client lies on the table, and Verena plays a series of tones on strings that are underneath the table.

The instruments she brought to my casita included a Native American flute and a small drum, some rattles of various styles and sounds, a brass bowl, some small brass cymbals/gongs, and a very tiny, wonderful instrument, a silver ball less than an inch in diameter that makes a beautiful, shimmery sound when you hold it in your hand and jiggle it.

We had a “potluck lunch” (she brought soup and zucchini and bread, I provided yogurt cheese and avocado, olives and chile/garlic paste). Afterwards we had a lovely hour or so of sharing: poems, pictures of her homeplace, and even some drumming and singing. Not to mention savory ginger-carrot soup, stir-fried zucchini, and bread with delicious spreads.

I’m tallying up the “sound adventures” of the past three months, and I’m amazed: voice lessons, Al’s piano studio, the flickers’ drumming on trees and metal pipes, the chip-chip of the downy woodpecker at the bird feeder, and now these most recent sound experiences. I have a feeling that, in the future, when I think of Taos, it won’t be just the mountains and the skies I remember.

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