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June 2012

A Skating Song

In this affecting skating song, the journey of life isn't so much "row, row, row your boat" as "skate, skate, skate your sled" across a frozen stream.  Touchingly, the song celebrates how a mother's pushing of the sled gives her child's journey momentum — a momentum that carries on even after the mother's own life journey is complete.


From Windsor magazine, 1898.

Listening to a Snowball

Intriguingly, freshly fallen snow can actually store sounds as well as project them with clarity.  A carefully gathered snowball is like a library of sounds stored on crystalline shelves.  When held to the ear like a seashell, it may whisper the secrets it has absorbed.  Ergo, composer and music theorist John Rahn describes "a little snowball of sounds” (Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics, 1995).  Snow expert Nancy Armstrong explains that "When snow is newly fallen, sound waves are absorbed into its soft surface.  Later, when the surface has hardened, sounds may travel further and sound clearer, because the snow reflects sound waves, sending them more quickly through the air” (Snowman in a Box, 2002).  Barbara Blair concurs: "snow is a wonderful substance to enhance awareness” (Communing with the Infinite, 2006).  [The preceding is an excerpt from the Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound.]       


Listening to a snowball, from Guernsey's magazine, 1882.