Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mezzo piano

or Soft Focus

Nothing in the world sounds quite like a high school marching band, and very perplexed it made me to hear one while I was outside watering the seedlings yesterday afternoon.  It was quite a good band, as these things go—well in tune, fairly precise, plenty of pizzazz—but a bit out of the blue.  As far as I know, no high school lurks in the neighborhood waiting to spring its marching band on innocent passers-by, and bands don't usually appear out of thin air.  A nearby park occasionally hosts special events, and perhaps this was one of them.

Trombones, trumpets, piccolos, snare drums; the bass drum driving them all along, holding them all together—hot sounds and loud, sounds that surprised me on a cool March day.  The park hosts a summer concert series, and on July evenings I often hear occasional strains of salsa, swing, blues—hot brass, hot guitar licks, hot driving rhythms.  Then, the bright sounds partner well with a summer sunset, with the summer flowers in the garden—neon pink autumn sage, orange marigolds, red geraniums—flowers with saturated colors intense enough to stand up to the southwestern sun, our famously clear light.

New Mexico does intensity well, and that makes the gentle days of spring like today, when the winds die down and the marching bands stay home, all the more precious.  These afternoons hum along at a mezzo piano, a moderate quietness, that is a little more familiar to people in greener lands.  For a few short weeks, the sun is neither so low in the sky as to cast everything into relief nor so high as to wash out details.  Here, at its halfway point, it allows for a soft focus; it is kind to pastels, to the delicate colors of spring.

This would have been a good day to overhear not a marching band but a neighbor idly strumming a guitar on a patio somewhere, picking out bits of a tune, singing a few measures now and then; to catch the gentle murmur of conversation, an occasional laugh in the middle distance.   It didn't happen.  But the finches sang, and the wind was more or less still, and the mourning doves called out their own version of the blues.

The mezzo piano version.


  1. Beautiful post - has me thinking about what tunes say "Spring in the garden" to me.

  2. When I was in high school living in the appalachian mountains in a tiny rural town (if you can even consider it a 'town') the old fellow who lived next door to me used to sit on his porch and strum old country tunes on his guitar. Every once and a while I'd walk over and play with him. Every once in a while on a quiet and warm evening I play some traditional songs on the patio--the neighbors seem to really appreciate it--so long as it's not too late.

    These are beautiful pictures. This is certainly a wonderful spring!! :D

  3. I used to live close to a high school and the marching band playing every Friday night was a comforting sounds at time, other a little annoying. Better than listening to a leaf blower though! I like the gentle sounds much better.

  4. beautiful photos, love those closed tubelets with green background leaves.

  5. I dunno why (I really don't), but I love the sound of a marching band. I didn't even go to high school, so it's not like I was in one or have memories of one... Maybe I like them because they remind me of what I didn't have? Then again, I don't like to see kids in their prom clothes, so that's prolly not it hahaha!

  6. Ginny, I usually think of spring as a bluegrass music season, but not until things have gotten much greener. :)

    FFD, thanks for visiting and for your comment! What a wonderful experience, to have someone to hang out on the porch and play tunes with. But you're right--it's all in the timing. :D

    Holley, marching bands are waaaay ahead of leaf blowers! I can see how they'd get a little old every Friday night, but also how it would be a nice home-y sound. I used to live close to a baseball diamond, and I loved hearing that crack of the bat in spring!

    Andrea, thank you!

    m3rma1d, isn't it odd how we can be nostalgic for things we've never experienced? How did you manage to avoid high school??