Jul 152017

Danny and his pregnant mother in the Alps. 1982.

Taken from the book, The Noon Bell

“I hear an Alpine symphony of raw noise. How aesthetic natural sound can be! – Every little vibration entirely uncultivated and wild. I hear the flap of several bird wings disperse like an ocean spray as a distant train from a small mountain station startles them. I hear a faint running stream accompany the tones of the bell – barely audible, distinguished only because of its sharper frequency. Unlike the evenly spaced notes of manmade compositions, the music of the wind has a rich chromaticism, swirling thinly like a whispering choir. The bird song too is far from human melody – it is a highly dissonant, arpeggiated cluster, screeching with little dynamic variety. The overall combinations of these sounds create a harmonic suspension – a relentless musical tension exposing my ears to a series of prolonged unfinished cadences with no resolution. If an undesirable sound should pass, such as a car racing by, I shall recover my tranquility by living the metaphors of the Alps: a car becomes a roll of thunder, or a hasty forest breeze.”

Danny and his father in an Alpine forest. 1987.

“My ears blend with my nose as the bell harmonizes with the smells of Switzerland. Like the refining quality of dimness and quietness, even foul odours of farm animals possess a sweet almond aroma when thinned at the right degree by a gentle wind. The air of the region is perfumed by fragrances, enchanting me with a thousand smells given off by the indifferent wisdom of the mountains and their secret life. Passing through my nostrils – invisible and superabundant – the atmosphere holds in suspension a great reservoir of poetry. There! I smell the pine needles again – they have an odour of truth and innocence reminding me of my pure self again. They have brought me back to childhood; my pine needles – my petites madeleines. This cherished pine exhales a perfume of earth that has in some sense absorbed, fixated, the particular sort of joy I felt as a boy – a fresh, carefree life, uncontaminated by responsibilities.

Ringing as far as the mountain station of Prui, the bell spreads its echo, travelling with my thoughts as far as infancy.

I was born at sea level, but now that I’ve revisited this old alpine family retreat thousands of feet above, my childhood lies not only far behind, it lies fathoms deep beneath me.”

© Danny Hahn. Copyright. 2017


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