What we hear.

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.

 

Norton Juster

 The Phantom Tollbooth

Music that moves me to stillness: Nina Simone

I only discovered Nina Simone in 2002 when her glorious live rendition of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” was featured on the soundtrack of The Dancer Upstairs, an excellent movie (John Malkovich’s directoral debut) starring Javier Bardem. She died a year later from breast cancer. The “High Priestess of Soul” was a Civil Rights Movement icon whose music spanned classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop genres. Ms. Simone was inducted posthumously, last month, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So many of Nina Simone’s most well know songs like “To Be Young Gifted and Black” and “Mississippi Goddamn” are larger than life, high energy anthems.

But amoung my favorites are her quieter pieces, like this rendition of “Little Girl Blue,” where the deep ache in her voice offers your heart the chance to come undone.

She is the only performer, no longer with us, I wish I had had the chance to see perform live.

Nights that we carry with us.

The deepest, stillest night sky that I have ever experience happened in 2001 on the side of the highway in Argentina that connects the colonial era city of Salta to Buenos Aires. At some point on our drive, my friend Daryl, one half of the couple that I was traveling with, pulled our rental car to the side of the road.

We turned off the engine.

 

Away from any man made lights,

We looked up

Into layer upon layer of stars

In a sky of black and midnight blue.