An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 10, 2013
Issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center
in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas,
on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

SLOPE BAROQUE

Through Juniper House's big windows there's a fine view of the surrounding forest and prairie patches on our limestone hill slope, and of hills on the other side of the Dry Frio Valley. Looking at it, the spirit clears and becomes receptive to music.

Often days pass here with nobody coming around and with not a single word said, so the rhythms and themes of the outside world on the radio -- its country, rock, and Mexican music -- don't feel right here. On the Internet, however, radio can be listened to from anywhere, and that's where I get my music.

Western music has evolved through stages: Medieval; Renaissance; Baroque; Classical; Romantic, Modern. Music from each era has its charm and I listen to them all, but at Juniper House certain music feels more at home than others.

Medieval music is too constrained by the Middle Age's severe religious attitudes and prohibitions. The forest makes no effort to harmonize with mankind's belief systems, so Medieval music feels out of place on this slope.

Renaissance music freed itself of the Inquisition's mood, but its courtliness and cuteness doesn't resonate at all with what we experience here of Nature's robust voluptuousness.

Skipping the Baroque and coming to the Classical Era, Mozart showed how beautifully melodies can dance with one another, and how artful accompaniment can enhance an already gorgeous melody. Much of Nature is like this and Mozart is welcome on this slope but, in the end, Nature is a web of interrelating and mutually dependent melodies, not just one or two, so eventually even Mozart grows a little thin among the Ashe Junipers and Liveoaks.

Bringing more expressive and emotional content to music, Beethoven and Schubert helped bring about the Romantic Era, paving the way for Rachmaninoff and Wagner, among others. Visualizing Nature blossoming from the Big Bang and evolving forth with such rambunctious, joyful energy, ornamenting Her themes with rainbows of orchids, woodwarblers, beetles and butterflies, fishes, microbes, big mammals of the Serengeti, and us, you can say that music of the Romantic Era is indeed like Nature in general. However, here on this slope we are not Nature in general. We are exactly what's appropriate for a limestone hill in arid country, so Rachmaninoff and Wagner, despite the deliciousness of their offerings, here, feel like French pastries when one's mood is for wholegrain.

Nor does modern music fit here, its dissonances, its trying-to-be-something-new, its heavy, mindless beats and electronic artificialities.

So, back to the Baroque, to Bach and Vivaldi. Counterpoint like yin and yang improvising dance through time, exactly as with Nature. You have a basic flow of emotion -- on the page of music it's the base notes written below the melody, the "figured bass" they call it -- and in Nature it's the base feeling of an oak-juniper scrub forest, or the riparian assemblage along the Dry Frio, ornamented with species, charmed and defined in terms of singing, flitting, photosynthesizing, flowering and fruiting.

You follow the dirt trail upslope with prairie grass along the side and as you approach Juniper House you might hear us before you see us, Bach filtering through the big windows, even as finches and titmice sing their own ways, and deer snort and stomp among the bushes

Moreover, there's a whole world beyond Western music. You might hear strains of the koto and sitar played here, too.

On this slope, it's all one, but certain manners of expressing the unity are more harmonious with how we are than others. Facebook Icon.