New York’s Sound Journey

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There are many things happening in New York–the city never sleeps, people say. Actually, everybody is running, drinking coffee in the streets from big, tall thermic cups, walking with ear-buds plugged into their ears; they’re constantly on the go, always rushing, up and down the stairs, running on escalators even when the train is not yet there. … Penn Station, Subway, Lincoln Center, the red line, the # 1 line which stretches north along the Hudson River, towards the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and further up…“Uptown”

105th Street West is not a trendy area. Bankers and investment people don’t live here, and you won’t find the chic boutiques you see on Madison or Fifth Avenue, nor will you see shiny black limos. But everybody else lives here, a great mix: Columbia professors, artists, common ordinary people, intellectuals, retired old ladies with their purplish hair, store owners and their Cuban or Mexican employees, Irish clerks. And then, there are the special persons …
A very special encounter.
The meditation session starts at 6:30 PM.
“Please be punctual. Once the meditation begins, nobody will be allowed in.” That I knew.
I arrive early, so I take a stroll around the block, then return.
A big pre-war building from the 20s.
The elevator lifts, squeaking its way up, slowly.
At 6:20, I walk in. “Sit where you like, pick your favorite spot.”
A white sofa, comfortable. I’m the second one in. There is a man sitting in an armchair with his eyes half-closed.

6:21, :22, :23, :25, :27, :29 … By now, everyone has arrived.
There are 9 of us.
A few hints of greetings. A clear curtain keeps away the slowly setting sun, a bookshelf, many pillows, soft lights, a few plants—and a low table of dark wood. It stands right in the middle of everything. It is the main protagonist.
On the table, all kinds of Tibetan singing bowls of every size. Around the room, all sorts of instruments, even a large gong in a corner, right next to where I’m sitting.

The sound-maker, The Master, The Guide, I don’t know what to call him, is not Tibetan, doesn’t have a long beard, is not wearing a long orange tunic, nor a white one, doesn’t have his head shaven.

He is a normal man, his name is Beppe, he is Italian, he lives here in New York, I don’t know for how long, but a long time. I don’t know him. I ended up here by chance, as happens in NY, through friends, friends of friends, by word of mouth. It’s a wonderful experience, you’ll see, the way things happen here …

That’s right, a lots of things happen in people’s homes, very interesting things. Out there, everybody keeps running around, but inside the homes, many think, create, feel, live.

I’m fundamentally curious. A brief welcome to the participants. He has a calm voice, an aqua green shirt. People around me are of all different ages. It would be difficult to create, with only nine people, a more complete, varied spectrum, but I don’t want to talk about them.

We are strangers embarked on a ship about to sail and we don’t know where we’ll go, especially me. I love this kind of trip, into the unknown.

I’m curious, as I’ve already said. I’d like to watch, but Beppe suggests that we just let go, make ourselves comfortable in our places, and close our eyes and listen to the sounds that are beginning softly, but carrying us far away.

Then he says something: “For those who are new to this experience, the sounds will be new; for those who have already experienced this, the sounds will be more or less the same, but they will be different ….”

These words stick in my mind as if they were marked with a fluorescent yellow highlighter.

Same sounds become different.

Everything is in those words. In that sentence lays the concept of time that is not made of distinct moments, rather moments following one another. Bergson comes to my mind, space and time, matter and memory, and then there is the diversity of the same thing. It seems absurd, but it’s exactly what I’m also looking for, because that sound, that sequence of sounds, will be perceived by different individuals, each one with a different disposition of mind towards that same perception, in that specific moment of their lives, in that specific fragment of their day.

Drifts, liquid geographic drifts, or rather psycho-geographic drifts, borderless.
I don’t want to insist, or to remark, I’m aiming towards lightness.
The sounds fill the room like waves, they lap gently on the sandy shore or crash and sweep away.

Sensations, a real experience, some sort of space journey, into the Earth’s depths, into the abysses of a total Ocean.

I heard all the sounds of the world, I saw all the places where I have been … and more wonderful things yet to be seen.

I heard the Tibetan rolling prayer drums, I saw the Dervishes spiraling down into the earth and spiraling up to graze the sky. I heard the cicadas singing under the sun in the Jew’s harp of a Sicilian peasant, I heard a pebble running over the stones of an Irish bridge reverberating xylophone notes. Even the Chinese gong latched on to a dream’s liane to hide in the shades of an Amazonian jungle.

Then that magic ship took me back to the departure port.  I was still the same, but the space around me was bigger. Perhaps I didn’t quite end up in that New York house by chance.

– What kind of music do you listen to, Beppe?

– Lately, a song by Malika Ayan has    gotten into my head. It’s titled “Perfetta.” I listen to it very often, I even use it to teach in my Italian classes … it’s full of imperative forms: Give me the sky, Transform me, Shape me, Construct me … until I’ll be as perfect as you want me to be… That’s what the song says. But at the end, at the very end, the girl says she might have lost sky and perfection, but she chose freedom, for both …”

– … very interesting, Beppe.  I believe you also in this meditation suggested freedom, rather than imposing or explaining … Thank     you.

It has been a great experience …

– Ciao.

– Ciao.

– One last thing, Beppe … you brought to my mind a sentence that I have always liked a lot, I can’t remember anymore who said it:

“ Occasionally a boomerang doesn’t come back, it chooses its freedom.”

(Stanislaw Lec said that)


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