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In Sound: Life-Music: The Sonic Landscape of Life
By Matt Borghi - 11/06/2001 - 12:28 PM EST

(c) 2001 - Matt Borghi

Thereís a northern place that I like to go to. This place is on the west side of the state, and on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. Itís a beautiful and peaceful place. Iíve been coming here at least once a year, for years now; my favorite time is in the fall. Itís a great place for tourists especially those from Indiana, Chicago, and Wisconsin, and in the fall all of the tourists have gone. When Iím hear Iím really able to get my bearings and sort things out. This is definitely the place I come when I need to sort things out.

The room that Iím sitting in now is kind of like a windowed-in porch that overlooks the lake thatís adjacent to Lake Michigan; in fact one feeds the other. Itís late October and the sun has disappeared, probably for the rest of the winter. From where Iím sitting Iím watching the leaves fall from wind blown trees. The leaves lose time as they dance in the sky and fall to the place where they will rest. The water on the lake is growing choppy now as the arctic wind out of the north swoops down onto the land.

I remember one time I was here, two or three years ago. That had been a bad year, and verily I needed to regroup, psychologically, emotionally, and otherwise. That autumn was the first time that I stayed in this old turn-of-the-century cottage on the lake.

As I recall, it had been raining for most of the ride north, as my father had already been up north, and he had come down to pick me up on a Friday after work. As we drove north, he slept beside me, tired from having already made the ride once that day. I recall listening to public radio, as that was really all that was available in the rural areas, and I would have to change the station and find the next station as the previous one moved out of range. That night there seemed to be no shortage of Mozart and Haydn being played on the radio, and the radio contrapuntally matched the sound of the raindrops that pounded the truck as we drove headlong into the blustery autumn night.

The rain had subsided for a little bit, as we were pulling down the road that led to the cottage. My mother and grandmother were already waiting at the cottage for us. I was tired as well, as it had been a long day. The wind was howling at my ears as we pulled to a stop in front of the cottage. My dad, now awake, got out and I followed him in. I made my way into this old and comfortable house and looked around. After exchanging greetings with my mom and my grandma I looked around for a place to set up camp. I wandered to the back of the house, and found this patio.

The patio had a table, some chairs, and a bed on each side. The room was cold, and I liked that, it felt comfortable. The wind was gliding across the lake and beating the windows outside. The rain began again and I sat in the dark of the room and listened to the subtle polyphony of the rain dancing on the windows, and on the lake. Verily, it was a beautiful sound.

I began bringing my stuff in and set up. At the time I recall things werenít as high-tech unlike now, and instead of a laptop, I took out pad and paper and wrote a poem or some observations or something. I sat there listening to the quiet that emanated from the room and the thunderous wind that was blowing the rain like nails into the side of the house. This was my first night at the house, and truly a night I havenít forgotten, even now, several years later, as that night, I felt a strange and unfamiliar peace, the likes of which I hadnít felt in a while.

That night I laid in my bed for some time listening to the rain and the wind. The rain didnít stop the whole night and the wind continued the whole weekend. There was a strange symphony of natural sounds that I couldnít help but enjoy and feel the majesty of. Beyond just listening to the sounds outside though, there was a strange nostalgia of listening to winter getting ready to set itself down for yet another long-stay on this lake-side port town that had seen so many before. Some of you might be familiar with a recording that I did some time after that entitled Huronic Minor.

Huronic Minor was based on The Great Storm of 1913. The storm of 1913 was the greatest that the Great Lakes had ever seen, it lasted the longest, caused the most damage, and took more lives than any storm before or since. The majestic and driving power of the Great Lakes was something that I wanted to capture with Huronic Minor, and in a lot of ways I think that I did. While Huronic Minor was more or less focused on Lake Huron and the eastern side of Michigan, the storm of 1913 affected all of the Great Lakes and most of the region. I know that a lot of my own feelings of the Great Lakes were put into Huronic Minor, but I also know that the feelings that I experienced, that night, while I sat in this lakeside patio, while the wind howled and the rain came down were intertwined with the overall texture of my work on Huronic Minor.

Thereís something about the Great Lakes, or large bodies of water that have always brought me a strange feeling of inner peace. Thereís something about standing in front of something so much larger than yourself and just listening to all that is going on around you.

Thereís a large pier, here, that I like to walk out on. The further that you go out, the windier it gets, and thereís something strange about the wind echoing by the nubs of your ears, almost whistling; itís like the worries of the world are a million miles away, like the people on the beach that are nothing more than specks on the sandy shore. The water beating against the breakwall seduces the spirit and massages the mind making you part of an over all sonic tapestry that seems to be at the core of being itself. Itís like if you believe in the whole concept of the sound of the universe being ďOmĒ then for those seconds that are you enveloped in those sounds you are part of the overall symphony that is life.
Sitting here now, listening, thereís very little going on. The wind has picked up and the sun has moved to the next hemisphere. The quiet of the world outside resonates deeply inside. There are no birds singing in the maples, for theyíve taken flight to the south. There are no gulls gallivanting around the shores in search of food, as the winds have made them move inland. There are no boats filled with fishermen, or picnicking families careening to and fro. The lakeside is quiet.

The music of life is all surrounding, wherever you go there it is, you only have to listen for it. At different times in our life the life-music, as Iíve come to call it, grows louder than other times, but really our ability to perceive it is all that grows. Iíve found ways to tuck bit of the life-music away, and when I need it the most, I do just as Iím doing now, and I reminisce, as some form of life-music has complimented almost all of my life. The noise of life, at times, can become too much, overwhelming, itís these times that we need to refer back to our meta-physical reference points and explore some of the life-music that weíve had the opportunity to listen to, bask in, and enjoy during some of the finest and most beautiful times in our life.

The next time youíre driving by a lake, harbor, sound, or a river, think about it, or get out and listen to it. People might wonder what youíre doing and think that youíre crazy or something, but get out anyway and listen. I always think back about the things that Siddhartha, from Herman Hesseís book of the same name, heard when he listened to what the river had the say. Siddhartha was listening to the river, but that was just one form that life-music has taken.

As youíre reading this now, listen to the ambience of your space; it may be loud, it may be quiet, it may be somewhere in between, but what you are hearing is your life-music, this is the soundtrack to your life, bask in, think about it, and contemplate it, but most importantly enjoy it.

Within this life-music is inspiration and musical idea. All of our compositional ideas be it as a songwriter, or as a guitar player originates from life-music whether were conscious of it or not. The key is to utilize it to a compositional end.

Life-Music: Listen for it, enjoy it, and then use it!


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