Saturday, 27 November 2010

Moving music

As the bus made its way down Rideau Street into downtown Hades, I watched the reflection of the sun flash by, ricocheting off windows and walls, seemingly in time to the Bach piano concerto playing on my ear buds.

Yesterday, I was talking about how statues and sculptures change with the surrounding environment and our perception of them. I suppose this is true of all art. When I was in a youth theatre at age 17, I was amazed how we could perform the same play three nights running and each performance was distinctly different, according to the audience reaction and the moods of the actors.

Music seems to be the most dependent on environment and mood of all, especially now we can take it anywhere. Last summer, I was (again) riding the bus and saw three boys walking along the sidewalk and imagined their adventures. It then occurred to me that they could be doleful or up to no good, but the upbeat song on my iPod gave me the illusion that they were walking with youthful and light-hearted energy. I was superimposing a soundtrack on whatever they were getting up to on that sunny July afternoon, and watching them like a movie.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was listening to Tempo on CBC Radio Two and because Henryk Górecki had just died, they played the first movement of his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. No, I don't mean the famous second movement; I mean the first movement that begins with an interminable grating of the lower string instruments as they overlap each other in steadily mounting grief. Listen to the first few moments of it. If you can bear it:

I gazed up and down the street and everybody looked miserable, bogged down, staring at the ground as they waited for the bus or dragged their shopping in their listless hands. Of course, had I been listening to a lively jazz piece, they would have appeared busy, energetic and probably kind of hip.

A few days ago, I was stuck outside a Grand and Toy stationery store, waiting for it to open. Having nothing else to do for five minutes, I strolled over to the railing and looked directly down two levels to the food court below where I could see people strolling diagonally across the red tiles. Every now and then someone would approach the trash bins and deposit stuff in them, pivoting gracefully away to dance across the floor. Well, that's what it looked like. This was blaring on my iPod:
As I listened, I noticed strings of white Christmas lights dangling into the court like tropical jellyfish. The bulbs blinked rapidly along with the notes, as the shoppers -- well -- tripped the light fantastic.

I was almost sorry when the store opened.

1 comment:

Rob said...

And if you had been listening to some Philip Glass you would think everyone was speeded up to about ten times normal speed.