Cathedral of Sound

I remember a gig I had late last year; a routine Saturday wedding gig where I ended up hanging out with the other musicians- friends, as they always become. We went to one of their homes, ordered Thai food and drank beer. Music permeated the evening, as it always does.

We laughed and ate and joked about the stressful journey to the gig (as they always are). In that sense, it was an entirely unremarkable evening.

Somehow, the selection of records and Youtube videos made its way to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, two names that need nothing more said for them than what their place in musical history already says for itself.

I can’t even remember the song, that’s how sublime the experience was. It might’ve been Summertime. The atmosphere of the song was so powerful, so evocative in its hazy, smoky quality, that our conversation gradually trailed off. There we were, beers in hand, cross legged on the floor, listening to two musical greats- hushed to silence in respect and sheer admiration for their art.

Words were no longer enough. It felt disrespectful- mindless chatter over the top of genius. It didn’t even make sense to think about the song- the structure, the form, the harmonies. Everything in that moment was poised to take in the next note in its fullness.

It felt like walking into a cathedral, when you step foot inside a revered building and are immediately accosted by the energy of thousands of souls who have left whispered prayers hanging in the air.

We were on a harmonic odyssey of a ride, the nuances of the line and tonality leaving us mesmerised.

The music faded to silence and none of us wanted to speak, silent in hushed respect for the two who had held their place, phantom-like, just seconds before.

This is my favourite way to experience music. When it hits you in an unexpected moment, strikes a nerve in the context of life experience, and has such a powerful effect that silence and full, mindful listening is the only answer. In the midst of the thousands of tiny thoughts that permeate everyday living, it has the power to silence you to a trance, to remind us that there are things in it we do not understand and that notes on a page aren’t actually notes on a page but microcosms of the human spirit.

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