Photo by Andy Flynn.
continued My second favorite track on the CD is “Birch Are Soprano.” It takes me back to the time I worked for the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb. I was the PR guy. It was the best place to work, surrounded by woods and water, with live animals, not the ones you see locked up in zoos or stuffed in natural history museums. While in Paul Smiths, I could literally see those “Geese Over St. Regis,” an instrumental from Dan’s 1989 “Mountain Air” CD. So this poem, “Birch Are Soprano,” set to a waltz, took me back to the forest, a place I find peace in this crazy world. Here’s the first stanza:
"Birch are soprano
Balsam are alto
Cedar sing tenor
With white pine on bass"
Anyone who receives Dan’s email newsletters, many times including poetry, would appreciate this song.
“Birch Are Soprano” is just one instance that takes me back to the radio production classroom with Dan. He encouraged us to walk around and listen, tuning our senses to sound rather than sight.
“Back in Audio 1, when I would invite students to take a listening walk, for years I made the comment about, ‘The wind makes no sound,’” Dan said in a phone interview. “And then asked, after some thought, people in the classroom for people to agree or disagree with that. And eventually we came to the realization that the wind itself doesn’t make a sound; it vibrates other things. And that you can tell the difference between the wind vibrating the needles in a white pine versus vibrating the leaves in a maple.”
One summer Dan was listening to the wind blowing through the trees on the side of a mountain and decided to put those observations down on paper in a poem. That poem became “Birch Are Sopranos,” and it was placed in a drawer until this past winter when he was working on the “Tongues in Trees” album.