Dig the New Breed

I didn’t move to Maine for the music. Musically, I spent too many long nights in the company of the late John Peel to ever have someone label me a hipster. My music collection ranges from the dregs of the musical barrel to libations of the finest kind. In a note, I have diverse tastes. If my listening experience could be sketched, it would be a very modern bridge arched with ribbed spandrels but still in command of a classical style. So I’m not knocking the Maine music scene. I’m just not that interested unless something like a stray glockenspiel finds its way into the mix or some balladeer sings to me in the syntax of debauch — sans culottes.

The music I find here is silence. What musicians hear between the notes — that perfect space. Well, maybe not perfect, but honest. It’s not easy to locate, though. And it’s damned impossible to duplicate. It requires a studied idleness and a preoccupation with the fleeting now. Yes, sure, the future promises not only the art of noise but it also lures with a painless hook of silence. Even the past can offer the same, only its silence is more that of the mausoleum. The silence of the moment is alive. And sometimes it’s less the absence of sound than an acute concentration. In music it would that strange quiver in ambient music. Or the short, hot spat of punk guitar before it turned into the pantomime it is today. Or even the stylish verve of glam rock. Or the Paleolithic beat of drum machines in electronica.

It could easily be present in the chirrups of crickets in late August, though. Or the soft whoosh of a flame slowly turning to ash yesterday’s newspapers. It could be the loon’s doleful cry as if he were alone with the night on the River Styx and not Penobscot Bay. It could even be the way the wind soughs as if each tree were the quavering bars of a master’s requiem.

Maine offers silence. It’s like the molecular has room to roam here. The silent activity of atoms we know to exist but which we cannot see with the naked eye. That’s what Maine can offer in a heartbeat or a protracted stay. Although I do believe that it is harder to connect to if you only sojourn here. True you can get your earful of loons and water lapping under moonlight, the immense quiet and cool of a dark wood with a summer sun blazing at its zenith above, or the vast blue of the sea stretching on like another soul.

Memorable moments. But for the Maine silence to actually penetrate and sink in, you’ve got to listen to it for much longer. Hell, I’m not hearing half as I imagine I can of the strange peacefulness most of us rarely encounter except at a wake. But I’m also sure that a certain amount of creativity and even luck and most definitely a good hunger for loafing can cure you of the long haul to wisdom. Because even a longtime resident can be deaf to that silence. You can’t take it for granted. It must be sought. Orchestrated out of the big audio dynamite that is modern living.

And then there are moments of silence that are like fossils, impressions that mold us. An audio tree bifurcating in the mind and hung with crystal-clear memories of each and every moment spent with silence. For me, it’s a time around twilight. My daughter and I wandering a pebbly beach. The only sounds the slow roll of surf and the harried cry of gulls. Behind the dark pines, the sun’s vermillion halo. We are wadding in the water, following the antics of two hermit crabs, a domineering mother and her enfant terrible struggling in the tide. We are not saying anything to each other. Just observing.

It’s a rare silence, that, diamond sharp and yet mellow, too. And I am not even aware of the tranquility until I am scrambling back up the beach, my daughter’s hand in mine, the twilight dwindling with each step, the starfish littering this quiet stretch of shoreline like fallen stars. But the frangible tension is shattered as voices, cars, TVs, and all the other intrusions wash over us. And only then do I stare back to the place where we were and wonder if I imagined it all. Look back like Orpheus to make absolutely sure. Then it’s gone.

So that’s the music of Maine. Not trendy, not current, not hyped, not all the rage, vogue, or trendsetting. Simply and honestly ephemeral. And it will make you feel like you are digging the new breed well before the hipsters have even heard a single note.

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