Friday, January 29, 2010

sound effects

Wow, it's cold (in the teens). And, as everyone knows, the wind chill makes it colder. Even in the house, even with the radio on, I hear the whoosh outside in all those leafless trees. What is that whoosh?? The wind, the air itself, isn't the sound — isn't it?? Is the "windy sound" actually the sound of branches bending, hitting, rubbing up against one another?? I'm not proposing, just supposing. The trees are moving/dancing rather wildly this morning. I was watching them as I raced home moments ago after venturing two quick blocks and across Touro Park for a coffee fix thinking it's so windy and cold (although beautiful and blue) that it'd be cozy to climb right back into my big, warm bed ... but I won't do that.

Last Sunday, however, I did stay in bed longer than usual. It was 9 a.m. (oh, my) when I finally rolled over in response to sharp streaks of sun sneaking around the edges of the window shades and the sound of our sole-remaining parakeet, Pixie, rustling around getting ready to chirp from under the blanket covering her cage. At the same time, I heard a new sound, or a relatively new sound, or — I'll get it right eventually — a sound that was heard, or had been heard, but hasn't been heard for quite a while in this old Newport neighborhood: church bells ringing out from Channing steeple.

First a few scales, three or four repetitions, eight notes, top to bottom, as if a child were practicing on the piano, or a choir were warming up voices. Then nine bongs, or dongs (not ding-dongs) — that's how I knew it was 9 a.m. — and that was it. How nice. And how nice that the bells are back, after an eight-year vacation of sorts. And that the steeple is back, after being taken down (yes, down) and reconstructed over the past year or so.

But, wait, the music continued (!!), in halting fashion, or so it seemed, although it might have been that odd delay/echo that makes tempo tricky and tunes hard to recognize when played on church bells that melt distinct tones all together somehow as they reverberate through a neighborhood (and through one's very bones). The first hymn — or I assume it was a hymn — I didn't recognize, but the second was "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens. Remember it, and him (whatever he calls himself these days)?? Whoa, childhood ... it took me there, or somewhere. Somewhere else. And more songs/hymns followed. Lovely hymns. I'm not sure how many. One slow warm bell after another. I never moved.

Even Pixie listened; never chirped.

The concert concluded as it began: with scales, eight notes, several repetitions, going upward this time, then ten last bongs. Ten o'clock. Really?? Time to get up (!!). And, all that time, people were going and coming — I didn't see them (being in bed), but I'm sure of it. They'd come and gone, into the church, out of the church, stood outside, listened, heard. It's impossible to capture it ... not just the bells but the whole scene, or any scene, let alone to isolate one element: the steeple, the lesser steeples, the statue, the inescapable power lines (for which we must be grateful, but why orange??), people walking dogs through Touro Park ...

I tried different angles — later in the day — then accepted it ...

FYI — That last one (right there ^^) isn't Channing, but St. Mary's.