Monday, March 19, 2012

James Plattes "The Silver Spear & The Banshee."

She turned to me and asked, "What about you? Did you enjoy that?"

"Hmm," I paused. "Did I enjoy that? Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it.

"You know, I got on the Steamship today because I'm headed back to the Vineyard and I'm going straight to work. I work at the local radio station. WMVY. And I had a bunch of stuff I had hoped to accomplish on this ferry ride. I found this booth, sat down and opened my laptop, and I was deep into my work when you arrived.

"Now let me say this: I love music. I LOVE music. In fact I was sitting here with my headphones on, listening to some new releases when you arrived. That's part of my job. People send me their new songs, and I try to give them a good, fair listen to decided if the station is going to play them.

"I saw you come up the stairs and I could see the instrument slung on your back and I smiled because I feel some kind of kinship with people who love music enough to make it a daily part of their life. But I didn't give it much thought when you sat in the booth, directly behind me.

"Let me say again, I LOVE music. So I flashed through a wave of varying emotions when you started playing your fiddle.

"On the one hand, good for you. You have an instrument and you have a gift and you feel like sharing. A fiddle, on the morning before St. Patrick's Day? On the Steamship? How delightfully unexpected!

"On the other hand, your fiddle was REALLY FUCKING LOUD AND RIGHT IN MY EARS, LADY.

"I mean, if a person came onto the boat, sat in the middle of people clearly trying to work (or converse as the people around here were), and put a boombox down and turned it up as loud as you were, I think we would all think that person is kind of an ass. If a person came on the boat, sat right down next to you and started talking on their cell phone right next to your head, at a volume similar to your fiddle, we would also think that person is a complete ass.

"So why is it different for you? It's not. It's kind of the same thing.

"I was trying to listen to music, oddly enough. To listen and absorb and enjoy music. And I was being interrupted. Over-powered. By music. Other music.

"Maybe you saw me take off my headphones. I had my back to you and I was staring out the window at Vineyard Sound. I was trying to enjoy your playing, for the beauty within it. But I couldn't help coming back to the notion that a) you were forcing this upon me and b) I really did have to get some work done on this ride and you were a huge f-n distraction.

"Maybe you saw me pick up my laptop and go to another section of the boat, where I was able to listen to the music I chose, and get some stuff done.

"Or maybe you didn't notice my comings and goings. Maybe you were lost in your music. Though I bet you took note to the smattering of applause from some of the other passengers. Maybe that was incentive to keep playing. And certainly it played a role in me not asking you to go somewhere else and play. Before asking me if I enjoyed your music, you asked the guy at the next table, who said he did like it. Who am I to decide for other people?

"So when you ask me if I enjoyed your playing, I could try to be objective and say that I found beauty in your music and your willingness to share it. But unfortunately I have to view it from a subjective place where it was more of an annoyance than a pleasure.

"That being said, maybe I'll run into you some other time, and you'll be the one who sat down first and are already playing your fiddle, and I can decide to sit in the booth next to you, tell myself 'The Hell with work, for now I'm going to enjoy this musician' and get lost in your sounds. I hope you have a great St. Patrick's Day."

She turned to me and asked, "What about you? Did you enjoy that?"

I was awash with a myriad of conflicting feelings. I, for a split second, wished I was Elizabeth Montgomery in "Bewitched" where I could freeze time and have 5 or 6 minutes to gather my thoughts. But I knew I didn't have that time, so I just answered, simply:

"Yes. Very nice."

Then I spent the next 5 or 6 minutes composing the above monologue in my head.

As my mind reeled through those thoughts, I packed up my things, and made my way toward the Walk Off ramp. And in those 5 or 6 minutes, though she was 20 steps ahead of me, I learned all about the musician's family, what her plans for the day were, who her brother was and what he did for a living, what she looked like as a child and a number of other things she was easily and loudly sharing in conversation with the passengers she was next to.

Okay, so she's someone who doesn't have a clear sense of boundaries about where she ends and the rest of the world begins. She has no idea how loud she is or that those within her aural range might not be interested. There was ego at play, but not arrogance. Just an ego that roams freely, unaware.

I tried to soften my feelings. To accept that she was not malicious. To connect to the purity of expression that is live music. To have empathy for someone who probably doesn't realize that the things that are potentially delightful about her, are annoying in other contexts. To go forth into my day feeling like I had learned something from my strong reaction to this brief vignette.

But the thing that sticks out the most, that I can't get out of my head:

Fiddles, unaccompanied. In a large, mostly empty room. Are REALLY FUCKING LOUD.

(Apologies to James Plattes. He has absolutely nothing to do with this post or the person mentioned in it. I wanted some solo fiddle music to go along with my story, so readers could turn it up really loud and have an experience similar to mine. So I went on Youtube and found something at random that seemed pleasurable, and akin to what I had heard.)

Hear it on Youtube.

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