Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Early morning songs

Stately (photo by the author)

I awake at 5am to the calls of minions of birds, each one distinct, but together creating a unity. The constant stream changes in slow blues, greens and deep reds. As the neighborhood awaits, a utility truck disturbs the morning meditation, but then the birds persist. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. The songs inspire me in a way that oceans and deserts cannot.  The miracle of song bursts louder surrounded by the stillness  of the early morning air.  Soon the neighborhood awakes with blared strokes and work tones as the birds will move elsewhere.  I am strangely awake on this early spring morning, the cool air refreshes my lungs pumping energy throughout my body. My morning coffee is perfect for this moment which I live out in its entirety.

The symphony seems to get louder spreading 360 degrees from my studio window. The neighborhood slowly awakes.  I am thankful for this morning’s morning as I finally see the sky brightening from jet black to a pregnant blue grey tinge.  I am calmed by the breezes and though I feel coolness on my bare hands my bundled robe gives me an inner aura of king-ness, though I am the same sentient being totally at peace in my favorite mornings.

I have withdrawn from mundane machinations and have dropped the habit of early morning news.  The birds have far more important declarations which I am desperately trying to translate. It means so much more that poli-speak echoing the machinations of what seem to me futile attempts to form a government.  Besides, the birds have theirs etched deeply into their psyches.  Why they sing so incessantly, so long, so beautifully is still a mystery.  There seems to be no other purpose that to color the morning and simply say “We are here”, though I suspect there is much more to this book than its cover.

The blue grey sky’s tinge now grows brighter and in the the distance trucks beginning the slow morning day dirge even though it is the Passover week.  During this time however there is another sensibility, for people take to the hills to discover the beauty of nature when, if fact, it is spread daily before their feet.  It’s like going swimming at a calm tropical beach with the gentle waves stroking one’s toenails energizing the entire body as the sun slowly rises in the distance.

Tropical morning (photo by the author)

Funny how the birds’ personalities project.  Or perhaps they have none. Perhaps they are pure being. Perhaps they simply need to ignore us. Sometimes there are spaces between cries which lead me to believe that may be a metalanguage at work, something many ornithologists know far more in depth than I ever did, or care to know.

The day is breaking. My eyes are fully open.  The birds are fading in the distance. I am both happy and sad to think what lies ahead of me in the coming years.  The pain around me is too much to bare.  I float in my own breath and imagine I am a voyager knowing what I feels to travel without limits of speed, circumference and trajectory.

Single birds in the distance. Crow cries. Massive slices of goo. Morning cacophony of working souls now awakes dancing with tinseled morning cries.  A peaceful awakening.  Clear tones. Rough tones. High tones. Low drones. A lone pigeon lands on my sill, looks me in the eye and quickly flies away.  Rooftop life now begins, the searching, the building of nests, the feeding of young-in’s and the search for new homes.

The sky’s color is a pale blue turning yellow around the edges.  The nearby palm tree is thick with old brown palm branches where the birds hide from each other.  Their morning game of hide-and-seek is humorous and the tree they use becomes a hurdy-gurdy without handles. From time to time their heads peak out of the riff-raff, while seeming to nod to each other, “How do you do?”.  Of course there is no answer. “They are pure being” as a close friend said to me yesterday.  They can’t possibly know how beautiful their songs are and how much they improve us mortal’s quality of morning life.

It is truly morning. Soon the 7am news will blare through the house. I will not listen as I have learned that there is “nothing new under the sun”, with one “blah” turning into a string of “blahs”, slowly receding to the horizon to disappear from my psyche. A poet once celebrated the glowing grace of laundry hung to dry in the shifting winds. This morning I celebrate the birds for their grace, something that I will try not to forget while the morning’s machinations slowly draw me into a daylight slumber.

Morning’s Symphony

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA) and recently a Mifhal HaPais prize to produce a new album “Sounds of Siday: Side B” (orchestra).. Horenstein's teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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