This morning, before settling into a piano practice session, I take a moment to listen to live entertainment. Opossum Run provides the pedal point, an oscillating low Russian bass D thundering against granite boulders that do not budge. The Hogs of the Washington Redskins' front line would be envious. A persistent, random staccato pings the alto line, as raindrops chime A off the cabin's metal roof. Gone or drowned out is the usual soprano descant of tweets and chirps midst the drones of man-made planes. Leaf crunches have diminuendoed into soggy slosh, pianissimo.
I find comfort here, as the repetitions change. Did the low D accelerate and ascend to an E-flat? Have the altos diminished with a ritardando?
Has this natural music been the inspiration for minimalist composers like Philip Glass (for example, Kundun), John Adams (Shaker Loops) and Steve Reich (Eight Lines)? Listening to the entertainment this morning, I think I understand them better. If copying is the highest form of applause, then perhaps as they composed, God smiled.
I recently heard a critic commend a piece by Philip Glass. He compared this kind of music to modern art (I forget whose, maybe that of Sol LeWitt or Richard Sera). He likened both to lying on the grass watching clouds in the sky slowly change patterns. I don't think I'll watch, or listen to, a tree grow or a rock erode, but I had never before so clearly sensed a connection between the visual and musical arts.
Virginia caught on to this much faster than I.
[If you're interested in hearing the music mentioned, try:
Or the art:
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