Chopin and Shoals

By , May 22, 2010

Living on a homestead in the age of the personal music player, I often ask the question: should nature be enjoyed unaccompanied whenever possible, or does music enhance the experience? Which is better, to appreciate one’s surroundings fully by remaining open to the many natural sounds around one, or to listen to music while one communes?

The recent death of a jogger whose personal stereo apparently deafened her to a local wolf pack argues strongly for the former. Certainly, we choose our moments to use our MP3 players, and always keep the volume low enough to hear ambient sounds. We’re unlikely to be attacked by wild animals here, but it makes sense to be aware of one’s surroundings.

Yesterday, I chopped wood. As I often do, I plugged into my MP3 player, set it on shuffle, and went to work. When I’d finished chopping and stacking the wood to dry on the beach, I went to the water’s edge to have a look around. When we returned from our recent trip, I had assumed that the herring run had finished, but earlier in the day I’d discovered that shoals are still moving through the area. I looked into the water, and, just as Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise began to play, a large shoal swam by. As the calm procession of fish moved past at a stately pace, flashing brilliantly in the bright sunshine, the ethereal piano music enveloped me. The shoal’s movement seemed perfectly timed to the flourishes and runs in the piece.

I experienced a moment of synchronicity diminished by my efforts to describe it.

At that moment, I willingly accepted that sometimes, nature’s beauty can indeed be enhanced by man made music.

The piece ended just as the last fish swam by. Then, the next song began: Trout Fishing in America’s What I Want Is A Proper Cup of Coffee.

Perhaps I had been mistaken after all . . . .

2 Responses to “Chopin and Shoals”

  1. ava says:

    hi mr. zeiger,
    thanks for this lovely post. the andante spianato seems like a hymn dedicated to nature.
    take care,
    –ava

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    I’m not familiar with that piece. Sounds like I need to hear it. Thanks for the recommendation!

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