“In a public setting such as the inter-web, reflecting on my past makes me uncomfortable. Away from my home, I am disinclined to give an out-of-context description of what I’ve done, who I’ve been, how I live with whom and so forth. My lifetime of discomfort and misunderstanding is probably at the heart of the matter. I have never been good at thinking things through and instead, have plunged into my next item of interest with naive enthusiasm. Often reinventing the flat tire, learning by doing. Now I have more than six decades of experience finding myself alone with enthusiasm. What is this place?
It’s snowing. More than ten inches so far. Fine flakes settling straight down in still air, coating everything and staying put. Air temperature is just below freezing. This is about the time for it. Mid-November in northwest Vermont, a few miles from the border. The season of stillness approaching or perhaps silence returning to the foreground of attention.
It’s about sound. And movement, and how one works with the other. How sound affects feelings and prompts responses. Sound travels as a waveform with a physical presence, reaches the ear drum after being delicately collected then moves three tiny bones in succession inside the ear. The movement extends throughout the frame and structure of the entire body processing sound into the motion of animated experience. An experience worked out on the backdrop of silence. Ancient silence, persistent motion, new experience.
Sometime before fifth grade I began piano lessons because my mother was a strong proponent of that element of upbringing. In the end, the keyboard was a lasting mechanical reference but I didn’t like being told what sounds to make. Mandatory practice was intolerable and I couldn’t hear written music. At some point I spent a short time with trombone. The attraction might have been that there are no frets on a trombone. My interest collapsed under the weight of practice and written music. A junior high classmate showed me how to play the “Secret Agent” theme song on his electric guitar and it caught me. After that came a life-long, naive, enthusiastic plunge. Self taught, self directed, spurred on with a world view that if a person can do it, I figure I can do it half as well, and that’s okay with me. Let ‘er buck.
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May I sit down and back you up on guitar? I do enjoy it but I don’t think in terms of conventional music theory. I might know the tune well, but I have to hear it again your way and let the sound take me around. With some patience we’ll get right after awhile. Or not. Maybe we can swap a couple of fiddle tunes. If you start one, I’ll do what I can. I’m neither a performer nor an entertainer so it might take a couple passes before I’m on board. If I can hear what you’re doing, the sound will make me move if it’s moving you. Someday. Where is that sound?
If we play a couple of tunes we might hear something personal. Touch some common ground of rhythm or the form of a timeless melodic shape in the air. Experience a nonverbal sense of something good. We might be led to conversation but why not laugh and play another tune? In the beginning was a sound.
Editor’s note: For clarity, I recommended the author remove “fungible” from the text. To restore the original as written, replace “inchoate”.”
Profile written by Dave Hoke