Monday, April 30, 2012

Trust your ears

Musicians, trust your ears!

Just two things I observed this past little while.  First, I attended our local music festival.  Some of the young violinists played out of tune.   Let me change that.  Many of the young violinists played out of tune.  Why?  It wasn't just that they were missing shifts.  They put their fingers down where they thought the right note was, and just left them there - no adjustments.  They weren't LISTENING!  They were trusting their eyes instead of their ears - their fingers were on the tapes.  Unfortunately, the finger can be "on the tape" and still not in the right spot.  We have to use our ears for tiny little adjustments - after, of course, training our ears to hear what "in tune" is.

We have lived with trains across the street from us for almost 19 years.  For the most part, we just don't notice them.  Sometimes the rails are noisier than other times - a little more clickety-clack.  And then either the weather changes or they come and do maintenance or repairs.  But the last few days it was more than a little more - it caught my attention.  I used "Kadack -adack" earlier today in describing the sound.  But I saw workers in the area, so I thought they would know if it meant any trouble.  Granted, I didn't see them out of their truck, but I really just wasn't paying them a lot of attention. 

Don noticed the noise last night.  Maybe it had gotten even worse?  Or maybe he hadn't heard it before as he's not home as much (or when he is here ... well, it's playoff season!).  He had a thought that maybe he should take a flashlight and see if he could see a problem with the rails.  His dad had been known to do that, having been a former (train) conductor.  (Have to make that distinction when blog posts are usually about music here.)  But ... he didn't.  And he didn't say anything to me, and I didn't say anything to him.

Trains now have sensors to detect track problems - I don't know much about them, but in this day and age everything is so electronic.  They used to have manned cabooses, they used to get off the train to throw manual switches, they used to have people living all along the line to walk the rails regularly to check for problems. No radios even - they swung lanterns, held messages on a pole at the side of the track for the engineer to grab as he rode by!  Anyway, technology is good and probably more fail-safe in many ways, but do the current employees know how to listen?  Even though I heard something, I was pretty much trusting all their instruments - that they would know if that clackety-clack was a problem that needed attention or not.  Don was somewhat dismissing his ear and instinct, too, for the same reason.  I told him today, "We're musicians! We should trust our ears!"

Now I can't say for sure it was what we were hearing that caused it, but a loaded coal train derailed in front of our house early this morning.  When the CP police came to ask if I'd noticed anything lately I told him what we had heard.  He asked how long we had lived here.  He was wanting to know how conditioned our ears were to normal vs not normal.  Another case in point - I woke hearing the racket of the wheels over the (possibly broken or loose?) rail around 5:30.  Then a bang, groan, rumble, etc., and no more wheel racket.  Dead quiet.  Sometimes emergency stops the trains make (someone looking like they're not stopping at the crossing, etc.) make me jump - the couplers pulling apart all at once or in very quick succession sound like an explosion, the wheels grind and groan.  But I've heard them enough now that they don't usually send a rush of adrenaline any more.  So this loud noise didn't make me jump.  But again, this sounded a little different.  Even though I was still half asleep, it sounded like something to get up and check.  Don didn't know what woke him, but he looked at the clock and said, "The power's out."  That just made me think all the more that what I had heard was not the sound that USED to make me think there had been an accident, but that this was the real thing.

Trusting one's ear after the fact, unfortunately, doesn't really do a lot of good.  Musicians!  Develop your ears, then trust them!  Who knows, it could prevent a train accident. Or maybe, at least, prevent a "train wreck" of a performance!


  1. Well Said! Love the "train wreck" analogy : )


  2. Wonderful account! Thanks, Barb.