restricted access Chanter and Drone
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33 Chanter and Drone My neighbor plays bagpipes expansively. His melodies shambolic, exploratory, no two notes in harmony, no phrase repeated. He feels there is no room for regret—that every note should be addressed as an agent of possibility. Because a daily practice, if worthwhile at all, must be punctual, at sunset or afternoon on sunless days he offers up an algorithm of tones, feet set wide for balance on the alp of his houseboat roof. He wears traditional dress— white t-shirt and jeans split at the seat. The western wind catches, sets frayed threads of notes over water. With the drone’s tortured onset, Portage Bay rowers turn in carbon-fiber racers tugged by current, their ears cupped for the source of sound. 34 Dogs snivel, paw at garden dirt. Gulls fluster and groan. Garden cabbages shudder, their fat leaves trembling in vibrating air. Humming to myself won’t cover this tuneless ritual. My neighbor’s felt lung can’t be punctured by radio static. The kitchen fan only dulls the ear. It’s cunning, this sound, pulling its thread through such a snug weave. It’s a puzzle that one of us neighbors has not yet pulled useless plugs from ears, called the police, complained of ruined digestion, disturbance of the peace. That not one of us shakes a fist from an open window, throws a too-soft tomato from the garden when there’s a clear shot. That even on those hot nights when we linger barefoot on porches despite dishes in the sink, we go silent, listening hard for music. ...

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