I often get a chance to retreat to local quiet gardens – open spaces untouched by human hand or technology. I use these times to slow down, take stock – meditate. And I’m always struck, when the sounds of the city eventually vanish, that I think I can hear a sort of music in these natural surroundings. The wind in the trees, the bird song, the insects buzzing around, a pool of water rippling from a steady stream entering it, bushes rustling from squirrel activity – it’s all rather a symphony of natural improvisation to me. If you close your eyes – focus solely with your ears – you can almost work out notes and scales being performed – hear the key of the countryside. The low hum of a low note that grounds the always changing symphony of subtle close chords – a deep murmuring hush … then a fly buzzes by your right ear – a nut is being broken apart by a squirrel just behind your left ear. It’s a surround-sound Avant-garde, ambient, experimental, improvisational piece that you’re listening to…. always changing, always interesting music of the spheres – spiritual.
Sitting in this nature, with eyes closed, allowing yourself to believe you are listening to a live concert, it really can become so. We just have to set our brains to that frequency (the “radio of nature”).
I’ve held a long fascination with experimental ambient soundscapes and minimalistic, abstract music. I’ve followed the work of artists such as Terry Riley, early Tangerine Dream, Eno, Cluster, Robert Fripp, Stockhausen, Sigur Ros, John Cage, David Sylvan, Steve Reich, Popol Vuh (band), and although electricity/synths/technology are involved, in many ways, I think this style of music gets close to the existential feelings we have in nature – and reflects the randomness, the vibrations, the profoundness of the natural world – the unknowable. Even minimalist artists such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich somehow for me tap into an elemental truth of raw nature – its circular, ever-repeating, yet still random events. For me, it’s those particular artists’ way of musically representing something elemental and deeply intense – humans’ response and reaction to nature & it’s terrible beauty – again, completely unknowable. It’s Zen like, and of course, mathematical, as is nature; there’s a profound logic involved – a spiritual science.
If you get a chance, the next time you’re out in nature – away from the hubbub of the city, close your eyes; let your ears do the seeing. It’s a real concert.
“Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting
without being aware that it’s counting”
– Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz – (Inventor of Calculus)
“The ear is the way”
– The Upanishads
“Can you hear the rushing of the river? That is the way”
– Zen Buddhist saying