16.1.18 Son, conducting.
I bought myself a pair of noise-canceling headphones for Christmas and increasingly have to persuade myself to take them off. I struggle with urban background noise and chatter and the escape that headphones offer to give you a day accompanied instead by piano, cello, harp is one I find hard to resist. Take away the sounds of your environment and it becomes ever easier to observe. Put music in your ears and every movement in your sightline becomes part of some grand dance. My new favourite pastime is to play music loud through my headphones until I can hear no other sound and then just watch. I watch for alignment.
Today I play songs from Max Richter's recomposition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which I will never tire of for as long as I live. I listen and I watch and I watch and, there: the footsteps of a woman walking her dog past the window of the community centre begin to match the repetitive andante pull of strings and for a moment or two, her dog's wagging tail joins the beat. A pause and a considered, swelling note coincides with a man bracing to leave his armchair, veins thick on his hands, and a nose-scratch behind him catches the staccato that follows. I watch a coat shrugged off in perfect 3/4 time and smile. If only they knew.
A slow cello joins and I watch an elderly woman raise knife and fork with each glide of the bow: a fragile, hesitant conductor. The leaves outside respond, rolling into flurries of accelerando, the trees in the wind playing the air with their whole, wild bodies. I hear no words and so the mouths of people opening their mouths to talk in my view of the busy cafe take on new sounds of high, tremulous strings, or deep rumbling bass. All are birds in an instant. A woman with a chin like a perfect circle says something to her companion and the quick stutter of violin fills the air, like a robin at dawn. Another stands and distractedly moves her gloves through her bare hands, fingers tapping against the leather and I imagine clarinet joining the sound in my ears, the people around me adding new notes and new instruments to these old, old songs that have accompanied human life for 300 years. A man raises his buttered toast with a crescendo and pauses it, mid-air, to interject with a word. Once, twice, rise and pause and rise and pause and I cannot help but lean forward to wait for the satisfaction of the bite landing at last with a burst of the refrain. So much aligns, in fact, when you watch for long enough that it becomes impossible not to believe that life must have some underlying melody, some inbuilt rhythm, that we're all secretly attuned to. Perhaps we're all just puppets and this is all just song and dance
The music builds. A woman with large, hoop earrings types on a laptop, animato, and the quickening in my ears chases her fingers, faster and faster. I hold my breath. There is nothing but this, nothing but this perfect orchestration of everything and I let it swell in my heart and my ears, until, until, until it ends with a flourish.
As the music stops, in perfect synchronicity, the room is suddenly, imperceptibly still, just for a moment before moving to life again, and I have to sit on my hands to stop from bursting into impulsive, rapturous applause.