Between the tajine and lemonade for lunch and the bacalhau and vino verde at dinner, there was a magical moment at rehearsal.
The magic happened like this: we were doing three-voice harmonics when the fourth voice appeared. Out of nowhere? No, out of the resonance produced by the three notes – along with the sound of the first, third and fifth, the combination produced the note in octave. We did warm-up for a good while, for the fun of hearing the octave pipe in. From where I stood, it seemed to come out of the wall behind the basso singers.
Another unexpected musical moment: over the bacalhau dinner and astounding information about the harshness of the punishment meted out for tagging buildings (including but not limited to a ten-year banishment out of French territory). The soundtrack behind the conversation consisted of a recorded performance of a moving, lyrical, soaring excerpt from a Mahler symphony, combined with… grace notes? from rubber duckies and giraffe. Off-putting? Not in the least. Something like adult conversation carried out in the presence of small children.
Most of the conversation at the table centered on old tannery buildings in this town. We were having dinner in one of them, now converted into a collective working and living space. One of the guests has photographed most of the old tanneries, both inside and out. I’ve visited quite a few and mentioned one aspect that intrigues the hell out of me: in building after building, even those where every scrap of machinery was sold and carted off to India or China, the office spaces are intact. Desks, chairs, filing cabinets, still in place. Acoustic phones on the desks, calendars, papers in the in/out bins (but the wall safes are open and empty). As if everyone had walked out on the eve of a holiday, and never come back.
The same holds true for several failed businesses around town. A small grocery store filled with rusty shelving and faded packages of produce, a shop that sold umbrellas, now filled with wild greens pressing against the plate glass as if attempting to escape.
Given this context, the ghostly octave is even more intriguing. Hark? Hallo? Esprit, es-tu là?