Friday, July 6, 2012

The Soundtrack of Life

I have a friend who loves to listen to music while cycling up mountains. Another friend, an avid runner, won't hit the road without her iPod full of tunes. On my recent trip to California, while taking my daily walks, I noticed that most of the walkers whose paths I crossed were wearing earbuds of some sort - obviously they were listening to something.

I seem to be just the opposite. When I'm outside walking, or riding, or working, I like to listen to the sounds of the outdoors. The chirp of birds, the laughter of leaves tickled by the breeze, the music of wind in the pines, the tiny slap of water at the lake's edge, are soothing and exciting by turns. Mysterious rustling in the undergrowth as I ride past a stand of trees, the small thunder of a woodpecker in a nearby forest, the lowing of cows, or the distant whistle of a train - all these fascinate me and foster whimsy or creativity. My thoughts are free to roam when I'm out-of-doors, and many of my best ideas come to me there.

I work in a frequently noisy atmosphere, with (truly) needy people coming and going all day long - so I enjoy a quiet atmosphere at home. The ticking of clocks and the muted noise of traffic outside provide more than enough background sound for most of my indoor activities.

If it Ain't Baroque....

I dearly love music (especially Baroque, as you can see by the top layer of my CD drawer above), but I lack the ability to tune it out. (This is another reason I seek solace in silence and the sounds of nature.) Music engages my mind so completely that it can sometimes be a distraction from the task at hand. And if the music includes vocals or lyrics, I have to listen to the words. I can't fully shut them out, try as I might. (Very frustrating at times, especially if the music is annoying and the lyrics poor.)

There are exceptions to this love of silence - driving is one of them. If I'm alone in the car I usually have some kind of music playing - classical or Baroque being most common. Music from the seventies seems appropriate for a date night or a weekend evening out. Driving in Southern California definitely calls for classic rock (not sure why but it seems to suit the California mood).

Housework (which doesn't require much thought) seems like a great time for fun or rowdy music. I don't mind sweeping or vacuuming or doing laundry nearly so much if I can belt out some ABBA or U2 or Nat King Cole whilst toting armsful of dirty towels or shoving the furniture around.

For jangled nerves or a shot in the creative arm, I find Bach's keyboard music a must. So much beauty and order can't help but have a happy effect on a frazzled brain. And for overall cheerfulness and accessibility, it's hard to beat the concerti of Albinoni and Handel.

One last exception to my love of silence - and a nod to my cycling friend. I too find music to be a great help in climbing. And since I don't carry electronics on my bike rides, here's how I supply it: when faced with a hill, I pick a song (or songs) from my mental playlist - one with lots of verses - and sing under my breath until I reach the top. Then my thoughts are free to fly with my bike as I swoop down the other side.

What is the soundtrack of your life? What do you like to listen to, and when?

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  1. Your description of Nature's music is beautiful.
    I am a lover of the Baroque and of Bach, and Puccini can reduce me to tears.
    Silence is also needed. (as I type this I can hear my stomach growling!)
    What a lovely and peaceful photo.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  2. I love bird songs and just general nature sounds too. But for helping the Goatmother clean the house or the barn, we just gotta' have 'oldies' - 50's and 60's.

  3. I'm afraid I tend to fill the gaps, much to the annoyance of my hubby, I tend to have music on most of the time. When I go out walking with the dog, I do have my iPod on, counting my steps and listening to something inspirational, I am a singer, but have to remind myself that others would probably prefer to listen to nature, not me!

    I'm a musician, and will listen to most music , but then I can block it out too, so if something is particularly grating, I may not actually be listening!

  4. I love this post..I to find as I get a little older that I do not like to listen to music while I am outside walking or just working in my yard... I love to listen to the things happening all around me and in the distance. I do listen to some music while cleaning the house.. mostly country or I will turn the television on just to have on for other noise so I won't feel alone in the house...sounds funny, but true.

  5. I LOVE ABBA for housework too it's also good for speed walking in the city...but I have this strange affinity to Captain and Tenille's "Muskrat Love." Ha, strange but true.

  6. I love the sound of "silence" too, whenever we've been out and about I love to come back to the quiet.
    Like your music drawer,I love playing Purcell on the piano, maybe I'll order a cd by him.

  7. I am another sound of silence lover. And I seem to have gone from someone who listened to music a lot to someone who listens rarely. Our living room CD player broke and in the time it took us to get around to replacing it (too long) I think I got out of the habit. Silly and I must do something about it because I love music and have fairly eclectic tastes. Classical, folk and indie being most likely to be on my playlist. And a touch of choral doesn't go amiss either, I think the last thing I listened to was John Tavener's The Protecting Veil.

    Great post Sue :D

  8. Rarely before have I found myself silently nodding to entire blog post before tonight, Sue. When out of doors I need to feel in tune with nature's sounds. It would almost seem rude for me not to listen to the blackbird warbling or the wind stirring leaves.

    When in the comfort of my own home I usually listen to Baroque music only as it NEVER fails to both uplift me and soothe me. I am directly tuned into Baroque harmonics. I love it. I take great joy in listening to a plethora of classical music - Schubert is a dear friend to me - but more and more I find myself needing silence. Finally in the car I like to listen to the radio or music again.

    A lovely, thoughtprovoking post. And I must say, finally, hurrah for Annie's mention of The Protecting Veil. Mine is recorded in Winchester Cathedral and was a gift from my eldest sister who contributes a lot to the cathedral's musical program.


  9. I did a good many years tuneless on the bike, except for singing hymns (at the top of my lungs!) when I have to ride on Sundays, and I found out during this last Ride the Rockies how much I miss hearing the babbling brooks, the hungover crickets, the singing of birds, the falling of rocks... YIKES! Yes, I heard rocks falling and promptly got out of the way!!!

    Mostly, though, I had to listen to my own huffing and puffing... ha ha!

    My favorite climbing music remains cycling soundtracks (particularly those that bring memories of TdF highlights!) or the wild violin of David Garrett. Funny how you mention his name among females of a younger generation, and they all swoon.


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