Nearly every day during season, about 4 p.m., our home falls under a spell of enchantment. Music begins to whisper through our thick, backyard foliage from somewhere within the two-story condos that run behind our residential street. When the first tentative strains reach my ears I rise from my desk or easel, as though lightly hypnotized, and make my way to the back lanai… likewise does my husband, from whatever part of the house that was occupying him, with two glasses of wine in hand. We sit by the pool. We listen. It’s live music and it’s been going on for years.
At first we’ll sit quietly, already forgetting our daily endeavors, trying to name the instrument – it varies. Flute one day, trumpet another, trombone still another… some we can’t discern. Clarinet? Sax? recorder? George is better than I am. It’s always quite soft, so it takes a few bars to “name that tune.” We hear Beatles and Janis Joplin, holiday and ethnic favorites, big band standards and show tunes. We know most of them and often try to stumble through the lyrics. We are thoroughly engaged, and the day’s concerns fall away like scales. We have fun.
This story has all the best elements: mystery, variety and a delicious combination of familiar and new. Songs that are familiar to us become new under the human touch of our Mysterious Musician (MM). The arrangements bend to the touch of the MM. We don’t know the age of the MM, nor gender, nor exact location. We don’t know anything. We wonder about MM’s occupation. Professional musician? Conductor? Teacher? Or, perhaps someone retired from a non-musical profession just trying to reconnect with their love for music? We even wonder where MM’s summer home is. Our imaginations are tickled and we enjoy the liveliness of that part of our brains.
Once, about a year ago, I was incited to investigate and followed the sound as far as one of three second-floor opened windows. As I tippy-toed across the back lawn the music suddenly stopped. I felt horrific, like an intruder, or a stalker. I ran back home and the music was once again floating through the air by the time I reached my much amused husband. Smartly, he said nothing and poured more wine.
What I hoped was not to disturb, but to locate, our MM with the intention of sending flowers in gratitude for sharing this lovely gift. A quid pro quo sort of thing. What I love most about live music is the variety from that human touch, the thing that separates it from recorded sound. It’s what I love about seeing a great painting, instead of a reproduction, up close – I can see the artist’s brushstrokes; I can experience their journey across the canvas. Same with sculpture or pottery; I can see the marks of the artist’s hands. No two are ever alike.
Watching live theater or dance is felt so much more deeply than watching a performance on TV. You can hear the thud or click of their footfall, their very breath. We can all enjoy historical programming, but going to a museum and seeing the actual stitching, carving or tools, made by hands long-gone builds a unique and personal thread between witness and creator that can span centuries. I am in love with this feeling, this stepping outside of myself, this connection.
And it’s this daily reawakening for which I’d to thank our MM. So if you’re reading this, thank you, and I promise, no more sneaking about your property. Sorry about that.