It’s both superbly useful and highly irritating to be able to contact and be contactable up a mountain or deep in a forest via a tiny device that slips into your pocket. But for me, since the age of 12, the year I got my first portable music player, the idea of taking music with you as you walked through a city, travelled across the sky, lay in bed or wandered into the wild has created some of my deepest engagements with music.
Sure, it’s a personal and potentially ignorant bubble, a solo trip sound-tracked by whatever exacting requirements you set out. The way that the music somehow meshes with the journey, the new track beginning as you reach the summit or enter the underpass. Of course, it flies in the face a little of my nature embracing angle – I’m creating a barrier between myself and the environment, the sound of traffic, weather and great outdoors.
In recent years, working from home, I’ve started swimming regularly at a local pool a few days a week. The walk I take is a huge detour over the nearby hill, through a patch of woodland and several fields rather than the way more normal (sensible?) direct route. As well as fresh air and exercise, the space to engage with nature and a space for uncluttered listening is proving deeply powerful.
As Scotland dipped towards winter recently on such a walk the whole thing crystallised in one of the most powerful listening experiences I’ve ever had. A treat of knotted cloudscapes, orange-etched Pentland hills and the distant Edinburgh skyline mixed with darkening hedgerows and animals preparing for the long night ahead.
In the zone where dusk gives way to night, I stopped in my tracks as Blues Alif Lam Mim In the Mode of Rag Infinity/Rag Cosmosis opened up and flooded my brain. A tiny pocket of trees called Masterton Wood silhouetted in glowing red in a moment of infinite connections.
I am informed that alif lam lim are seen as hugely significant words within the Koran. They appear more than any other words and are seen as hugely significant, forming the basis of several theories. Whatever the meaning, the actual sound of the words, even at the basic sonic level to my non-Muslim ears is completely wonderful.
I’m pretty sure a fairly unremarkable hillside in Midlothian isn’t a place often cited as being of hugely spiritual significance. But that night, that thick 80-minute drone soundtrack to my walk proves there is a universal inherent magic and connection in these sounds when they flutter around stillness – wherever you choose to listen to them.
Beautifully mind expanding…
“Blues Alif Lam Mim In the Mode of Rag Infinity/Rag Cosmosis” by Catherine Christer Hennix is available here
Read our review of “Selected Early Keyboard Works” by Catherine Christer Hennix here