Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Midnight Rain of Green Wrens at the World's Tallest Building

At the dig site, the architects squinted at blueprints and checked them with the drawings their eyes made on the air before them. The engineers peered and craned their necks and discussed the foundations, for the few hours they spent away from their desks and slide rules and reference books. The surveyors measured and checked and checked and measured.

Everyone concerned - except perhaps for the workers themselves, for they were lazy and short-sighted and could think of nothing but their immediate work, their upcoming lunch, and the bottles that lay waiting for them to come home - could see the finished structures in their minds. They thought of the day that they would bring their families to stand on an observation deck, when they would bask in the adoration of lower-city dwellers who finally understood what space meant. "I made this," they would say, and it would be true.

And the men with the heavy equipment and the bottles waiting for them at home, they knew there would be work beyond this building. They weren't much impressed that the building they were assembling from the bottom up would be the world's tallest, but they were pleased that there would be work for years to come. And then they would move on to a new building, and children would grow around them like trees to build new buildings and turn more wilderness into civilization and survey and engineer and architect.

The first one fell at eleven-thirty. Most of the men had gone home, and I and Riley were getting ready to. Riley was trouble, gentlemen, and he was proud of it. When that feathered lump dropped out of the sky, I thought he was somehow to blame. My back had been turned, after all. He might be hiding a slingshot in his overalls. I thought suspiciously about him as we talked idly about girls we'd known.

But another fell not five minutes later, in front of the both of us, and Riley hadn't moved. And another. We looked up into the sky. Like a rain starting, they drizzled down, and then the downpour came. My mind was having a difficult time making sense of what I saw before me, but more than anything the sound impressed itself on me: tens of thousands of feathers, rippling limp in the air, and then the small thump of impact. By the time it stopped, fully seventy-five hundred little green birds were strewn before us.

For the rest of the month, I stayed indoors, safe at my desk with my reference books and slide rule.
A melody-free exploration of modal development. It sounds very ancient - Greek in some spots, Baroque in others. One of the most normal and conventionally listenable pieces in the box set.

1 comment:

ZephyrJW said...

For you to say that this is "one of the most normal and conventionally listenable pieces in the box set" shows just how deeply you've been drawn into the wonderful world of this music. These CD's are so radical that still they sound, 40 years on, like they were recorded this morning by someone dreaming the music of the future.
Ah, I love the irony of it - all these years later, Phillip Glass scores car commercials and sells credit cards, Cale remains obscure, and yet he's got THIS kind of brilliance to spare! And I'd wager his archives are far from empty...
And, for what it's worth, I think this piece is so lovely its almost unbearable. Every moaning second, every note curving, falling into the one it's becoming next. Like the rain of the wrens - they fall but they fly away. Nothing strikes the ground.