If these ceilings could talk
“A sensation caused in the air by vibrations of longitudinal waves of pressure passing through the surrounding air or other medium.”
That is how my Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines sound. It’s very logical, like something Mr. Spock would say.
Such a dry definition seems about right when referring to certain sounds — harsh ones like honking car horns, obnoxious motorcycle mufflers and earpiercing smoke detectors.
The definition doesn’t seem so adequate for more pleasant sounds, such as those made by swaying trees make in a summer breeze, the joyful sounds of children playing, the snoring of contented old dogs or the magical sounds that fill Prince Edward Island’s many musical venues.
The majority of us, those fortunate not to have some form of impairment, take our senses for granted. We are hot-wired to the five of them: sound; sight; touch; smell; taste.
Unless we purposely put a barrier in the way, i.e. acoustic ear muffs, blindfolds, gloves, etc., it’s virtually impossible for our senses not to kick in.
All of them are precious human gifts, but the sense of sound is the one that has been on my mind of late.
Just recently I attended a musical recital at the historic Kirk of St. James in Charlottetown. The mezzo-soprano’s rendition of the works of Handel, Giordani and Rossini vibrated off the Kirk’s stately interior columns and up to its beautiful ceiling.
It reminded me of my own church and its warm interior, which features stained wood from its floor to the walls and up to the vast ceiling. Imagine the number of wondrous musical performances that have danced about in the air.
Or, imagine the sounds that have bounced off the walls and ceiling of Confederation Centre of the Arts’ Homburg Theatre — for that matter, in any of the many community halls, churches and school assembly rooms across the province.
The venues lined with wood have most tweaked my supple and, some would say, child-like imagination. It’s the same wood that was once part of a living, growing organism fuelled by sunshine and water — ingredients humans and trees have in common. Of course the wood that surrounds us has been greatly altered by saws and hammers and oils and lacquers. But since it once was living, I’m not convinced it still doesn’t possess one of the five senses — the sense of sound.
If so, imagine the great joys, sorrows and moments of musical excellence that must be ingrained in the wood.
I wonder, do the layers of music pile on top of one another, much like sand sediments do to form rock? Only in the case of the musical sediments, they must exist in a dimensional plane that can’t be seen or heard by we humans. Or, at least by those who don’t take the time to listen and imagine.
So, the next time you are seated in a musical venue, don’t just look around; allow your sense of wonder to dream about sound.
And, most importantly, to listen.
The historic Kirk of St. James’ sanctuary in Charlottetown hosts many concerts throughout the year.