A Little Night Music

June 5, 2116

The night was magic. The green had turned to black, the white to purple, and blue to pink. Bullfrogs sang to the placid river. A barge wended its way east to the lock and dam, its spotlight aimed at the bank. And shadow birds flew to rookeries and nests.

And in Alton, the Phil Dunlop Nonet played the entire “Birth of the Cool,” Miles Davis’ seminal album, at the Miles Davis Jazz Festival. Miles’ celebrated nonet included a French horn and tuba, and these brash young men from St. Louis faithfully recreated the sound, and the audience sat in rapt attention, ate chicken wings and potato salad, and drank beverages, and it was mellow and jumpy and diverse. I sat at a table with five beautiful women dressed to the nines, and I became sociable—for a spell. For a spell, I was not cynical, not worried about politics.

Last night on the drive home, I was pure string theory, and infinite notes swelled out to the river, swelled across my arms and chest, and the chorus of insects improvised and the night hawks sang.

I stood in the yard and listened to Ruby Puppy sing the alarm from the farm across the highway, her frenetic barks warning raccoons and coyotes: No trespassing. The hyperactive mockingbird in the spruce tree trilled its own version of “Birth of the Cool,” playing all the solos, and I counterpointed, and the bird flew close, and we improvised.

The universe sings like a tuning fork, a resonating echo that early man tried to imitate with flutes of bone. All sound is music. The deer huffs and blows out its cheeks like Dizzy, the rabbit whines soprano, the rattlesnake plays its own percussion, the cattle sing low, the trees are cellos, the stones are drummers, the sleeping babies hum, the window fan whirs, the June bugs are bassists, the owls sing scat, our hearts are tender drums.

Only humans play songs of regret, songs of loss, spirituals to an unknown God, for human music possesses knowledge, and there is the origin of blues.

On Ozark porches, fiddles and guitars; on stages, electric glide of keyboards and Fenders and trumpets and horns; in symphony halls, cascades and glissandos of chords, the dreams of Bach and Hindemith; in hospices, the music of harps: this I imagined last night, standing in the dark and listening. Listening is the truest seeing.

The night was soulful, soundful, sentient.

The night was magic.







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