La Symphonie Naturale

As daylight fades, an unnamed conductor assumes her position on a darkened outdoor stage.  Unlike the bright stars above, she is invisible to the human eye. But we must believe; that she exists, prefers night to day, whispers to animals – and hears them too. How else to explain the nightly wonders, those entrancingly (un-) orchestrated but exquisitely interwoven patches of sound?

Beasts, birds, cicadas and other critters let loose when the sun goes down; belting out their most authentic tunes in the middle of the night – once all the cars and people have gone to bed.

A full range of creatures participates in this nightly chorus; The-Dog-Who-Is-Losing-His-Voice, but makes a feeble attempt nonetheless to be heard amidst the other barking beasts; the talking gecko perfectly mimicking the squeaking sound produced when releasing one’s grip from a plastic baby’s toy; cats meowing at the barely-existent moon; frogs croaking one after another in quick succession; birds all aflutter, chirping in chords high and low; roosters crowing with such gusto, outmuscling them all. Are they on steroids? Has the acid – from days of monsoon-like showers – affected their behavior?

Atonal sounds predominate, but every so often, an unorthodox yet harmonious pairing of animal voices rings in such unmistakably clear tones through the night; a duet of frog and rooster; of dog and distant bird.

The walls of my room are made from slats of woven bamboo, which allows sounds and smells to easily permeate into (and out of) this space. Which also means that treated to the full treatment of super-sonic, Dolby surround-sound.

I try to identify an instrument that most closely resembles the sounds emanating from the wide range of singers, so I play Name that Instrument: this one’s a piccolo, they could be playing a xylophone, even a few notes from a screeching, out-of-tune violin. There is method to this cacophonic madness: Crescendos, staccatos, and in the end…a reluctant diminuendo.

Shortly after 6 am, as dawn breaks, the sounds from the animal kingdom strain to be heard amidst the growing street-noise of cars, motorbikes and human voices. Final whistles and cries, crowing of remote roosters, unconvincing barks, fading croaks, twittering from a nestful of wakened birds. The last gasps of a nocturnal opera courtesy of my green surroundings; unscripted, without notation, all-natural. Still, the animals are no match for the machines; competition fizzles, critter sounds drowned out by man-made music.

After a diminishing series of encores, the conductor lays down her baton, steps aside, bows and heads for the wings. We are blessed by her presence and her silent gift to the night; infusing nature’s music into our dormant souls. Our hope is that she returns to the stage tonight, tomorrow, and for a long time indeed.

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