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Here is the next installment of Beatrice Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:

“Unexpected sounds come blowing in my open windows at times. This morning a lively summer wind rising and falling in long streamers carried an intermittent spray of cello notes into the house. They were coming from the Boynton cottage which I hear has been rented to a doctor from St. Louis. I wonder which member of the household plays the cello. Whoever it is has a lovely tone. Not being used to hearing a cello play without accompaniment, and with the wind governing the crescendos and diminuendos and whisking some of the notes out of ear reach, not to mention my musical ignorance, I was not always certain whether he was playing a composition or doing a technical exercise.

At one point it sounds as if he – or the music – were running lightly up a spiral staircase, not all at once but running up several steps, dropping back a few, running up a little higher the next time, dropping back again and so on until he finally reached the top. There was a moment’s pause before he – or it – slid all the way to the bottom on a glissando, if that’s the word. And started over again. It was all done with such ease and buoyancy that I felt as if I, too, were running up and down a spiral staircase on winged feet, and sliding down on an invisible banister.

That was not my only musical experience today. Later, while I was sitting on the porch reading, I heard a chickadee whistle its typical two-note song: a high, clear eighth note followed by a quarter note one tone lower in the scale. He repeated it several times and then suddenly there followed two more notes precisely like the first two except for dropping lower in the scale. Together they fell into the exact rhythm and melody of the first four notes, after the introduction, of Mendelssohn’s Venetian Boat-Song #1, which in times past I used in dance class for body swings.

He sang it over and over and I couldn’t help but feel he was astonished and delighted to hear himself. Then something happened: he somehow lost the knack and could sing only the first pair of notes, which he did repeatedly as if he were trying and hoping to slip into the whole measure again. He never made it and finally he uttered what I interpreted as a twitter of frustration and flew away.

Later the thought occurred to me that perhaps it was not just one bird but two, singing antiphonally. I had never heard of this but searching through the bird books I found one that mentioned the antiphonal singing of chickadees. Odd that I’ve never noticed it before.”

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