Night Symphony

It’s late. Through the open window I hear steady cricket chirps over a background of miscellaneous insect drones. Layered on top of this is the white hum of the refrigerator, the clicking of keyboard keys, and the cackle of a woman’s laughter from a distance. A night symphony.

It’s based on W. A. Mathieu’s “Symphony of Place” exercise, from his book, The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music. I love this book, and if you need a beautiful and swift entry into the world of music, sound, deep listening, and silence, I highly recommend it.

When I taught an undergraduate music humanities class as a graduate student, I assigned a “symphony of place” journal entry where they had to pick a time and a place and go there, and write down all the sounds they heard in the order they heard them. I wanted their ears opened first to the sounds of nature, and/or the city, or of breathing before I introduced them to pieces from Western music history. I really wanted them to hear deeply–maybe for the first time since childhood.

I don’t know if they got anything out of that assignment, but I still use it as much as possible throughout my day–when my mind is bogged down with random chatter or if I’m feeling tense, I try to just sit and listen for a few minutes. And right now, I don’t know anything more soporific or relaxing than cricket chirps….

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