18 November 2010

On Song, Breath, and Wallace Stevens

A couple of days ago I heard a story on the radio about human responses to regional accents.  The story mentioned that songbirds also have regional "accents" and that, like humans, birds recognize these differences.  Curious, I searched a bit more for discussions of birdsong and accents, and I found another story suggesting that speech and language have their origins in song.  Then, like a good yogi, I started thinking about the role of sound in yoga practice, how chanting and bells and the sounds of the natural world help us find our way to our essential being...and then, of course, I thought about breath, how it sounds inside and outside the body.  And I realized that, while breath and sound are both rather magical things, the space between them, that stillness between the inhalation and exhalation, that silence before and after the tone, are just as magical.  So, of course, that all made me think about this verse from Wallace Stevens' famous "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird":

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendo,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.