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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Music (and then some) To My Ears

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | July 16, 2014

Last Thursday evening, I happened to be working late in the shop when I received a special dispatch from John, the facilities manager. A research group had taken a golf cart down to the marsh and had not yet returned, though it was nearing closing time. He had to head out, and I really had nowhere to be, so I took off down the trail in my own golf cart to investigate. Down at the marsh (three sides of which I visited trying to get as close to the researchers as possible), it turned out that they were just having a long day in the field and would be finished soon.

Good enough. Here's where the story begins.

On the way back up the beach trail, the light behind me in the east just beginning to fade, I saw a woman in a long blue dress and no shoes walking from the beach toward the campus. When she heard the golf cart approaching, she stopped and stuck her thumb out. Though the Reserve trails are often rife with trouble-making birders and mysterious Massachusetts visitors, I decided to take a chance and pick her up. Quite glad I did. It turned out that she was one of the members of the DaPonte String Quartet and that her name was Lydia.

She asked if I was going to the show, and I said I was thinking about it. She pushed and prodded. And I began to give. She was very persuasive. Eventually, I mentioned that tickets weren't written into the budget, especially before a weekend of travel. Only a little was I fishing for what came next, one of those "Just say you're with Lydia."


Little did I know that Nik had sent out an email that afternoon notifying all staff that any concert attendance was to be on the house. Thanks Nik, but in that moment, the invitation was irrelevant. In that moment, I was special.

I dropped her off at the barn, about 20 minutes before she was to appear before the esteemed denizens of Wells, and swung around to return the vehicle and finish up my work.

After closing up the shop (the golf cart had been returned safe and sound), I took a peek in the mirror, cleaning up where I could. Tuck the mullet behind the ear, straighten the flannel collar, brush the aluminum dust out of the frays in the pants aaaand& perfect. This was classical music for classy people at a classy establishment. And of course, we're all professionals here.

I took my place in the back, and got comfortable. For those not in attendace, the DaPonte String Quartet looks something like this.


Nik gave a few insightful words before the show, providing a bit of cultural context, but he couldn't resist opening with an entirely appropriate story (joke?). I haven't fact checked it, but I liked it, so I'll relate it here:

Leonard Bernstein once asked Maurice Ravel to mentor him.?Ravel responded, saying "Yes, but I wouldn't know what to charge you. How much do you make in a year?" Upon receiving Bernstein's response, Ravel asked if he could come study with Bernstein.

*appreciative chuckling*

Nik went on to speak about different pieces of American classical music, what makes them American, and how that same American element applies to our mission here, and the work we do with climate change.

The group took the stage.?Considering her recent beach jaunt, Lydia appeared quite undisheveled, her bow rosined and her violin well-tuned. Her companions looked equally masterful, poised and confident as they took their seats. Something about classical artists and their trade evokes a unique sense of pride and regality, as if our ancestors and their good rulers were gazing down upon the affair with a severe approval. Whatever it was, it subconsciously made me sit up straight in my chair, which is not insignificant.

There is another something about the moment immediately preceding the first notes of a piece of live classical music that is linguistically elusive. Palpable excitement in the crowd yes, and intense focus of the artist, but there is more than that. It's as if the universe is holding its breath, and the exhale, cued by the jerk of a bow, is a torrent of rich, enveloping wave-particle duality.

These pieces of live classical music were no different, and the sold-out barn was silent in its bated breath as the quartet opened.

People say that it is impossible to tire of watching a crackling fire and a man working (I think they generally mean manual labor). I'd like to add live classical music to that list. Just trying to wrap my head around the all and the nothing that was going through Lydia's or Dino's or Myles's or Kirsten Monke's mind will keep me pondering forever. The look of undivided concentration on their faces may have belied the weightlessness of gliding over notes that they had played a thousand times before, or betrayed the weight.

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