Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Polyphonic Spring

"What the hell is 'polyphonic'?"

I won't say who asked me this, but I will say that the question was asked while I was in Sighnaghi with James and Katherine. The three of us were hanging out in our hotel reading (and critiquing) the horribly over-written Sighnaghi town web site, looking for suggestions on what we should see while there. The description of Georgian culture contained a reference to its "polyphonic singing." And that prompted the question.....

"Polyphonic" means many sounds that harmonize. In its strictest sense, it refers to music that has multiple, independent melodies that harmonize with each other. I think it can also cover 4-part harmony. Easy enough to understand for anyone with a church or school choir background -- SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass -- or..... "Sing After The Beat," as my dad used to say...). Traditional Georgian music has harmonizing parts that are considered polyphonic, thus the reference to it on the web site.

While in Sighnaghi, the three of us went to a monastery to look around. This word was in the back of my mind as we quietly explored the grounds of the complex. A path led to the holy spring; it was long and a little treacherous, but I wanted to see the spring, so I followed the snowy, icy stairs/trail to the bottom of the ravine and the spring. While walking in the woods alone, I became aware of all the sounds around me -- and the thought came to me that Spring is a polyphonic season. In the woods I could hear the snow sliding off the tree branches and hitting the ground with a slushy, heavy thud. In other places the snow was melting off the trees with a drip, drip, drip that punctuated the sound of the falling snow. The water from the spring ran out of the rock in a musical gurgle that formed its own melody in time with the snow's sounds.

In Shamgona, Spring is a few weeks ahead of much of the rest of the country, and the sounds of the changing season have multiplied and grown in intensity. While soaking up some much-needed sunshine today, I made a list of the sounds that I noticed....

New birds have brought new songs with them. These new songs sprout from happiness for the warm sunshine. (At least, that's what they say to me!)

The breeze in the palm fronds -- a dry rattle that, if I closed my eyes, just might convince me that I'm on the beach in Puerto Rico.....

Thirteen new piglets emit tiny squeals as they try to build their pig pile higher and higher. Grunts and squeals -- an octave or two higher than their mother's -- announce to the world that life is new and exciting.

The hens who are sitting on eggs cluck softly to their growing chicks, assuring them that the snow has gone for good.

Roosters chase the hens (who aren't sitting on eggs) all over the yard. Both squawk as they participate in the "catch-me-if-you-can" game of mating-tag.

Children who have been set free from the confines of their kitchens run and play with awakened vitality.

The hello-"beep" of the police truck seems to have a softer quality than it did all winter long.

Even the rusted metal gate to the cemetery scrapes against its post in the breeze with a restored belief in life outside its borders.

Is there any season as obvious as Spring? Spring makes itself known to every sense, and I love being close enough to it all to notice the changes and revel in them. Life is being renewed. The world is waking up. The layers of independent melodies that harmonize with each other as the world celebrates its reality and renewal are music to my ears.

Pause and listen -- there's music everywhere.

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