Being awakened by an incredibly loud fire alarm mere minutes after dozing off in a large Scottish hotel.
Day three of a UK tour. Day three typically being the hardest day of jet lag effects for this traveler. So very very tired.
Traipsing down carpeted hallways and staircases and vaguely registering an old building’s musty odor mixed with what I can only describe as unfamiliar and un-American-smelling cleaning solutions.
Finding my band mates and crew mates milling amongst the other guests in the “car park”.
Too tired to talk.
Becoming slightly worried about, and a bit envious of, the members of our entourage who had apparently been able to sleep through the Scottish alarm’s incessant nagging metallic pulse.
All clear, we’re told. Go back to your rooms. Only a test. At 2am! A test.
Long line at the lone refrigerator-sized elevator taking two to three people (max) at a time back to their floors.
Giving up and climbing the four flights back to my room.
Alarm still going. Painfully loud.
Trying to sleep. So tired. Trying to ignore the seemingly broken alarm. Thinking maybe this is my life now. Squeezing my eyes shut. Holding pillows over my ears.
Something whispers in my ear: “surrender”.
I sit up on the edge of the bed and focus my attention on the sound, assuming it’s the only thing there is to surrender to. Instead of struggling to NOT hear what is so inescapably there, I start to listen with intention.
What was once brutal, piercing and painful, slowly begins to reveal layers of tones and overtones. The chaos and noise reorders itself into something mesmerizing, beautiful and complex.
I turn my head and swirls of harmonic nuance dance off of different surfaces in the room.
I turn my head again and swear I can hear the mirror on the closet adding a shimmering, clear top note.
I stand up and move around the room and what was once a dull monotonous throbbing beat begins to reveal polyrhythms. I suppose thanks to a combination of the perception altering-duration and the very subtle reflections I’m beginning to grasp.
Now I’m wide awake. I’m inspired.
I can’t believe everything I’m hearing is real. I’m hallucinating grand soaring melodies now.
The hair on my arms begins to stand on end.
It’s over. The alarm has stopped. It’s silent.
I immediately feel a sense of mourning. I miss the sound. I begin to cry. I feel abandoned.
I sit back down on the edge of the bed.
Now I’m trying to hang on to the sound. I find myself trying to conjure a lingering ghost. I want to keep it with me always now.
The way one glimpse of a smile can carve a deep, indelible impression of a loved one’s face to retrieve with the minds eye — that’s how I wish to be able to hear with my “mind’s ear(s)” this transcendent aural gift again.
A gift I guess I gave myself by saying yes and surrendering.
The way one might say yes and surrender to the unimaginable power of the ocean. When the waves are crashing in and the only way to not be violently knocked over is to lay down and become a part of the ocean — part of the wave.
At this point in my life I had already developed a piqued interest in John Cage, noise art, conceptual music… I had always been pretty curious when it comes to people making sounds. But I missed emotion and longed for sentiment in music I considered academic. I could not perceive a soul. Only a consciousness. Which, like I said, was exciting enough at that time in my life so full of discovery and revelations.
Honestly though, I didn’t get it. Most experimental music was hard to feel any connection to.
Until the Scottish alarm explained it to me relentlessly.
The soul I perceived to be missing? My own.