Time Among the Pirates


I don't remember the first time I had sushi, which is strange because as food goes, it's a long way from the solid Anglo fare I grew up with and yet now, years later, that vinegared rice under the right pieces of raw fish still rocks- or soothes- my world like none other...

I don't remember the first time I found myself at a site where there was music one could download either, and yet for someone of my aural sensibilities, it would prove to be a turning point of similar magnitude. When it comes to the sound of the world, the princess and the pea has got nothing on me.

I'm not sure where this sensitivity has come from, but I do know it's become more acute with every passing year. Perhaps it's the years of earning my daily bread as a professional listener, programming and presenting musicians. Perhaps it was trying to learn live sound engineering. Maybe it's a legacy of a life truly blessed in terms of the live performances I've been a part of or maybe it's part of what comes with being BiPolar 2.

Writing this tonight, beside a lake in Muskoka, I'm surrounded by the sounds of wind in the leaves of the birches and maples, the soft lap of little waves on the sandy shore while a couple of miles away an occasional car roars down the two lane highway. Further away, but much larger and basso profundo, a big train is moving through the night, maybe loaded with ore. A chorus of crickets drones on while out on the lake, two loons are calling... once in a while a duck wakes up and relocates and every once a while, a single mysterious sizable sploosh comes off the water.

In a place like this, listening can transfix me, stop me in my tracks, in space and time. Listening becomes sensual, a pleasure, delicious and soothing, almost erotic as the filters so vital for walking through more urban space slip away for a while...it is, I'm sure, why I can seem nocturnal to some. I like the balance between the visual and aural that comes with the night - here, a bonus round of pleasure; in the city, a neccessity.

Neccessary because sometimes sound makes me physical ill, rattle my nervous system like a rock in a tin can and make it all but impossible to think or act on anything except the wish to escape.

The thunking of an electric clock of the cheap clank of one of those wind-up alarms. I reference it against my heartbeat, and then both against my respiration rate. There's a slide show from all the many boneyards I wander in different places around the world. I consider myself as soil, and how sooner or later that change is coming...

The humming of the ballasts and tubes of that cheap flourescent light that illuminates contemporary office life sets off a discourse somewhere in the centre of my skull, like the tip of a Black and Decker drill heading south.

Music that doesn't agree with me is maybe the worst... live, it's something like being strapped into an electric chair during a brown-out. At the supermarket, airports, elevators, dentist offices, it does what music always does. It possesses me.

This sensitivity to sound is one of those double-edged blades, sometimes a gift and sometimes an affliction. One develops coping skills and strategies. Lives with it. Sucks up the snide remarks of "morning people", who never feel quite as close to god as when they're looking down on someone else.

If I sound a little snippy, write it off to decades of listening to the pious platitudes of people who confuse conformity with virtue. These days, my days and nights are my own again. Music no longer helps me earn my daily bread and while life is different when there's no paycheck month to month, there's something to be said for music being a pleasure and a blessing and a source of wonder again, and nothing more.

Given this feeling for sound, and the rebirth of an old love for music, even I find it odd that I don't remember the day I first fell down the rabbit hole and landed in a sonic wonderland... out among the pirates, on the frontiers of the Great Global Audio Archive.

- to be continued -

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