The farm is like a symphony of nature’s instruments. The cows moo, the cats meow, the chickens cluck, dogs bark, and all other passersby add their sound to the mix. These sounds, to a farmer, are music to his ears. Definitely, music to my ears. I sometimes stop in my tracks, raise my hands in the air, and soak in a plethora of sensation. I call it farm therapy and it helps me to keep my sanity in today’s demanding society. Lately, with winter encroaching on our warmth laden afternoon days, I’ve found myself scurrying to complete unfinished jobs that must be addressed before snowfall. Having handily prepared to complete these jobs, I’ve found a little down time to pursue a lifelong interest, learning how to play guitar. My ambition is simple: I want to learn how to play songs around the beach fire, learn some blues songs, and play some good ol’ gospel songs at church and with family.
In keeping with my philosophy on supporting local farmer’s and artisans, I jumped at an opportunity to take music lessons from a local music school in Dalhousie, N.B., named Musicpro Restigouche music school.
I feel it is vitally important that the arts, along with athletics, receive support within our communities. Musicpro Restigouche music school offers lessons in percussion, guitar, piano, and bass so I jumped at the chance to pluck some guitar strings. I didn’t know what to expect, having taken guitar lessons in Maine over a decade ago, so I went to my first lesson with an open mind and the intention of learning what I could. I came away from the lesson with a great amount of confidence and a determination to return the next week to further develop the calluses on my finger tips. A big shout out to Paul Jensen for his differentiated approach to guitar lessons.
My family is a very musical family in terms of appreciation of the art form and our memory capacity for songs on the radio, which allows us to sing along to every lyric of every song on the radio. Do some people get annoyed? Yes. Do we keep on singing away? Yes. (Insert laughter if you wish). We appreciate the universality of music and it’s threads into every aspect of our lives. Some farmers have even told me that playing certain genres of music in a cd player for their chickens helps to increase their laying rate. I haven’t empirically verified this report but I can say that animals are very much in tune with rhythm and melody. Often times, I’ve sat in the barn listening to the cows methodically chew their cud. Each of them chewing in unison. Then with an approaching ambulance or a whistling farmer, they stop, ears pointed towards the sound until they determine its relative importance. Then, as though they hadn’t stopped, they resume their rhythmic mastication. The same happens among the chickens when I share my “vocal” abilities with them. They stop in their tracks, turn their heads to the sound of my voice and patiently wait for the noise to cease before they resume their collective clucking and cock-a-doodle-dooing. It appears, in the name of common sense, that animals as well as human beings have an ear, or two, for music.
Last night, as I plucked clumsily at the strings of my wife’s guitar I found myself closing my eyes momentarily to try to make sense of the sound of the note, while other times I peered intensively at the neck of the guitar to find the exact location for my finger placement. My farmer hands and the small neck of the guitar didn’t mesh together at first. My instructor, Paul Jensen, remarked on the overwhelmingly physical nature of playing guitar. Building muscle memory through practice helps us develop our musical playing abilities into extensions of ourselves where we simply touch our fingers to the strings and strum away without a thinking about the next note to make. I’m a long way off from that level of mastery but I can say that by the end of a 1 hour lesson my confidence level had boosted. My memory and musical ear allowed me to play the notes of the new scales in my head while I plucked away at the strings. While I write this blog post, I am forever trying to connect this experience to that of farming but I think I should just let it stand alone. Perhaps, when I’ve written a song about the farmers blues or the fight for sustainability I can meld them together via a celebration of local farming in the form of a concert with food and drink at the farm? A couple of years ago, my brother suggested the idea. No doubt, it is an endeavour requiring a lot of planning but, I think it is a foreseeable opportunity to bring local music and food together. More on that in the spring.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide our readers and farm supporters with the contact information for the Musicpro Restigouche music school. They currently have openings for guitar, piano, bass, and percussion lessons. Lessons are provided on the second floor of the NBIP building on william st. You can contact Tim Harquail at 684-6472 or search their Facebook page on Facebook. I attempted to hyperlink the website in this post but it wouldn’t work. Thank you for your continued support of local entrepreneurs, farmers, and artisans.
In a side note, our eggs are now available at the Restigouche Farmer’s market. My pullets have come into their laying cycle and, despite the shortening daylight hours, they are laying very nicely. I will have approximately 8 – 12 dozen each saturday for the time being until we get more chickens. Enjoy!
MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced.