March 30, 2010

Trade-wind music

SOMETIMES IT PAYS to procrastinate. I waited for so long to install a music player in my boat that they invented the iPod and made things a whole lot easier. But then I procrastinated about the iPod, too, and came to the conclusion that all I needed for music while cruising was a small AM/FM radio.

What drove me to that conclusion was the fact that you never know what’s coming up next on the radio. Often it’s something you’ve never heard before, something you’re glad to get to know; something you would never have chosen for yourself, given its name. The surprise element appealed to me greatly.

The main surprise was how few classical music stations my little radio could find when I got to the wilderness on the west side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The classics always seem to be on FM for some reason, and as you cruise north of the city of Vancouver, FM coverage gets very spotty. There’s plenty of AM, of course. Lots of rock, country, Dolly Parton, and blues, but no classics on AM.

So I was once again thinking iPod thoughts one evening in a quiet little anchorage up north when, by some freak of radio-wave propagation, Franz Schubert’s Ninth Symphony came bursting through. That was the one they considered too long and too difficult to play, so it wasn’t until 10 years after Schubert’s death that Robert Schumann discovered the manuscript and made it famous.

It holds special delights for me because it reminds me so vividly of a voyage I made in the southeast trade winds of the South Atlantic. Schubert’s music forges ahead in a series of swoops just like my 30-foot sloop surged down those long tropical swells for days and weeks.

Every time I hear that last movement, beginning with the triumphant “Ta-dah-dah!” I feel myself lying on the sun-warmed foredeck, looking down over the bow at that split wave fanning out on both sides.

Schubert urges us on relentlessly, driving forward, forward, in an exciting contagious rhythm, as unstoppable as an express steam train. Persistent repetitive quatrains match the thrust of my sloop as she surfs forward on sunny blue seas flecked with sparkling white foam. Forward, forward, alive and joyous, filling the air with optimism and a wonderful feeling of progress toward a goal.

It’s a marvelous piece of music. Beethoven’s Seventh has a similar feel about it in places, but it’s Schubert who takes me straight back to the deep waters of the trade winds.

On this occasion it was a surprise gift from my little radio, and a temporary one at that. So maybe I’ll go along with the iPod idea after all. I’ll be able to listen to Schubert whenever I want then. But, of course, it would lack the wonderful element of surprise. So maybe I’ll just wait a bit. Who knows what new source of music they might invent next?

Today’s Thought
If they can’t hum it after we play it, it’s not for us.
— Lawrence Welk

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #33
Circling in fog. Well documented studies carried out in the Northern Hemisphere show that people cut off from sensory information about their surroundings tend to move in a circle, usually clockwise. Thus, if you’re caught in fog or dense rain without a compass, it’s more than likely that you’ll be circling in a clockwise direction.

From a New York book catalog:
First edition, profusely illustrated — Unconventional Sex Practices — spine cracked, appendix torn, $75.”

1 comment:

Oded Kishony said...

I'm pretty sure the iPod has a 'random' selection option. You can also randomly download music. Just like listening to the radio only better reception.

I'm particularly fond of Schubert's quartets

Enjoying your blog!

Oded Kishony