"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something." - Frank Zappa

12/18/18, 11:10 AM

By: Julie Rockefeller

Winter is here, the solstice just a few days from now, and though I am not one who despises winter, I do find my thoughts sometimes drifting to summer, to warm golden light and green fields all round. 

This morning I am listening to a recording by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, which has summoned a treasured memory from a few summers past, when my husband and I attended the 4th Annual Summer Hoot at The Ashokan Center.

the hoot.jpgMost of that day we spent settled comfortably in lawn chairs, we two among the hundreds gathered on Hoot Hill. Listening and watching, eating and drinking: rejuvenating.

I knit a hat and a half there in the dappled shade of old trees, my foot swinging or tapping in time with the performers on stage, and it was heavenly. 

The hats I worked on that day were not for me to wear, though I wish it were otherwise. I wish that I could have a garment made from the elements of the Summer Hoot. Surely the garment would have absorbed some of the goodness that was all around me while I was knitting. And surely that goodness would offer me strength in times of trouble, faith in times of fear. I would like to wrap myself in that goodness, to carry it with me every day. I will have to content myself with the knowledge that whoever wears the hats will be receiving the blessing by proxy, unaware. 

But what does Goodness feel like, you may wonder. How did I recognize it?

It was like this: 

Children ran up and down the hill, threading their way nimbly through a maze of chairs and blankets, umbrellas and tents. They ate ice cream and twirled hula hoops and did not wear shoes. Mothers nursed their babies and grandfathers gave piggy-back rides. Lovers held hands and cousins played Freeze Tag. 

Everywhere there was music. A hundred hundred fiddles and guitars and banjos. Mandolins and saxophones and organs. Voices raised in song the whole day long --  old songs and new songs -- sweet, sultry, silly, soulful, and sad songs. Musicians gathered in circles and squares. Melodies floated up into rafters, across the field, and over the hills. 

When evening came, the crickets wanted to compete but fell silent, listening, too. Jugglers tossed wands of fire. We drew closer as darkness fell. 

Memories floated in the air above us then, shades of people and places gone away now, but never forgotten.
Performers and audience and nature combined to create something one-of-a-kind, something that can never be remade. No other Saturday night --  not even on Hoot Hill the next August -- could be exactly the same.That particular past and that particular present were entwined in perfect harmony.

But ephemeral and eternal are synonymous, do you know that? 

‚ÄčI didn't understand this before, but I saw it that night. 

Because the future was there with us, too, running on quick, bare feet.