[Tweeters] Decomposing Composers

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Nov 12 09:23:53 PST 2014

I was reading a poem the other night and, as poetry sometimes does for me, with a line or three, my mind was set afire with connections. Too bad it was so late - I spent all night tending my little mental forest fire, and didn't get much sleep.
That poem, 'This Ground Made of Trees', by Alison Hawthorne Deming, a beautiful poem about a forest, got me with the first few lines :
"The giants have fallen,I think I can hear the echo of their slow compostition."
The poem continues on, in fine form, and got me thinking about forests in different ways.
Oh sure, you hear about those Decomposers all the time in ecology texts. Decomposers are wonderful and necessary but hey, without Composers we would have trillions of unemployed Decomposers.
Or, as the Monty Pythons sang...
"They're decomposing composersThere's nothing much anyone can doYou can still hear BeethovenBut Beethoven cannot hear you".
Well yesterday, the forest was composing quite well - even the dead composers could be heard clearly on a windy day in the tall trees of Fort Townsend State Park. The trees! The trees were making music! Even the skeletons.
I can add a few feathers at this point. This deep coniferous forest is not the birdiest habitat around,especially now, so seeing or hearing any birds at all is nice. Just out of my truck, I immediately met two bright male Golden-crowned Kinglets at eye-level in the Evergreen Huckleberry's - adding a bright touch of mustard and ketchup under the Douglas fir-burgers. Then several quoking Ravens were here and there, and two Pacific Wrens twitting about. That was my big bird count.
Although it was high noon on a sunny day, the forest interior was dark mostly, the sun pretty low now, and the trees are tall here. A Beethoven composition would've fit in quite nicely with the cold dark windy forest of musical trees. Maybe the 5th Symphony.
Down on the forest floor it was quite calm, as I'd hoped for on this windy day. I felt like a crab (not having a good morning) on the seafloor of a giant kelp forest; calm down in the gloom, with the tall tree tops catching the sunlight, and wind currents, above. The woodwind section of the orchestra - firs, cedar, hemlock, and some tall light-seeking madrones - was really hitting some strange notes; in one particular section of forest ,as the wind came up, sounds like screeching cats, creaks, groans, deep Beethoven'y thumps, big barking dogs, oboes - and for awhile, a tree ,or trees, that created a weird wonderful crying that sounded much like an Orca calling - adding to the sort of undersea feeling. It was great.Whole lot of composing goin' on.
Fort Townsend , especially after some good fall rains, might be labeled Fort Fungi, as the deep duff, and fallen logs of old composers of the past, is quite the den of decomposers . Recent rains have brought out the fruits of decompositon - mushrooms, toadstools, slug couches, etc. - surface evidence of the quiet everyday work done, mostly unseen, in the forest, by our fungus friends.
Hey, didn't ol' Thoreau (another decomposing composer) write something like " The mass of trees lead lives of quiet composition" ? Maybe I got that wrong. Anyway, I enjoy walks in old forests, like at Fort Townsend, wondering "how did all these plants come up with this arrangement?" - the forest isn't uniform - some plants are here, some there, some groves open, others 'doghair'. The puzzles of forest composition - kind of interesting.And beautiful.
I'm not too sure about those Pythons. Maybe Beethoven can hear even better now than when he was alive - there are mysterious ways of hearing, and of being. If a tree fell alone in the forest, could Beethoven hear it? If a mime falls down alone in the forest, does it make a sound? Are you ever really alone in a forest ? I'm not. And hey, try finding a forest without ears on this planet!
Jeff GibsonComposting Composer inPort Townsend Wa

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