Ireland, 2001; the Soft Music of Angels

In 2001, for our honeymoon, my new wife and I flew first into London. There we rented a car and drove West, to the small town of Box, Wiltshire, where I’d lived for most of a year some short time before, and then went on to the ancient city of Bath, where I’d also stayed for a time. We continued through Wales, caught a ferry across the water, and spent the remaining week or so driving through the Irish countryside, more or less without aim, stopping when we felt like we’d found someplace we wanted to stay. It was in some small town along a bay, I forget the name of it now, where we held up for a night, and where I heard, in the sound of the tolling of the churchbell that next day, the angel chorus.

We’d walked the streets of the village that morning before we left. So many of the particulars of that place are now lost to me – what the room was like where we slept, or if we made love, or if our breakfast, or the meal of the night before, was any good – but I do remember clearly how with every great peal of the massive bell of the stone church nearby behind us as we walked the cobbled streets, soon to leave, how in its reverberant, hanging notes, I could just barely detect, and if I listened carefully, very closely, thought that I could tell, voice from voice, note from note, each singly, an impossibly sweet harmony sustained between them of human voices, or of nearly human voices, of perfect pitch, of perfect and unearthly chorus, quiet, as though revealed by, yet somehow also held within the solid sound of heavy-struck and old, odd metal. And I knew also that I’d heard this sort of thing before, once, or something like it before, once when I was younger, not exact in its qualities but like it – a sound likewise concealed within a sound, a song not exactly there: I’d listened once when I was young to an unlikely music I’d found by accident one night inside of a wall beside my head where I slept, and in the wall was I think the noise of a pipe, or some such noise, and somehow my mind had parsed the sound, had taken it apart – a white sound, an even and full-spectrum sound – and piece by piece arrayed it into the music, so-called, like an organ of sorts that played, endlessly, slow cycles of notes in sparse and obsessive repetition, the same thing I’m certain Philip Glass had once heard but never written nor played it himself. I’d listened then to the music for an hour, or maybe longer than an hour, until I realized that I’d not heard it at all.

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