The walls play music, too

Music does not come from us alone. To say that it does is hubristic and false. Music comes not only from our bodies and our instruments, but also from the air that surrounds us, and all of the features of the landscape that take our sound and work on it.

There are so many different spaces in which we might play music, participate in the transmission of sound and feeling: a tree-filled forest, a closet packed with thick winter clothes, an unfurnished room with great acoustics, a recording studio, a shower, on a rooftop, by a roaring ocean. In each place, the setting does not merely manipulate the sound — it is the sound itself. Any lovely music that we might create is a collaborative effort, involving anything that we might bring into the process, as well as everything that surrounds us and informs us as we move through the piece.

When I sing in different spaces, I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as a single voice. Sometimes the sound is beautiful, and other times it is terribly embarrassing. In certain contexts, it makes sense for musicians to take the credit or the blame for the quality of their sound. But I also can’t help but wonder if, in a cosmic sense, the real musician is not the person who sings at all… rather, it is the whole constellation of circumstances that surround the person that give the music real dimension.

I suppose what I mean to say is that our ‘productions’ and even our ‘creations’ have mysterious origins. And I, for one, love the lived experience of practicing music because it serves as a constant reminder of the fact that we are open systems, and that our goals and our merits and our shortcomings are not sealed within us — that they are as much a reflection of the wider world as they are of our small, frightened, and ephemeral mortal selves. For me, the practice of music allows me to hear the link between the specificities of this life, and the beautiful universe of which we are a part — and always will be. The sky, and the leaves, and the water, and even the walls … they all play music too :).

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Priya Parrotta

Priya Parrotta

Author, climate activist, singer & Founder/Director of Music & the Earth International (musicandtheearth.org)

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