I took to the road this weekend. Most of it was spent in the mountains. Above five thousand feet the leaves are almost gone, but in the valleys of the Nantahala and Chattohoochee forests are still filled with leaves of grand color.
While near the Pisgah National Forest, I stopped in to see the harper whose work we looked at last week. She turns out to be a perfectly delightful young lady named Sarah Marie Mullen, who was thrilled to have one of her original compositions requested.
She proves to have degrees in Anthropology and Biology as well as music. She tells me that different regions have different ways of tuning a harp to make the characteristic sounds of the region's music. As harpers tend to learn from each other, however, these different ways meld a bit over time, so that characteristic cultural sounds tend to borrow from those others who are closest to them. As a result, it is possible to start in Ireland and work your way to Eastern Europe song by song, retuning the harp just a little bit at a time as you pass through each culture. So you can play an Irish or Scottish song and quickly then play a French one, and then quickly a Spanish; but to go from even Eastern Europe to China would require taking a long time to retune each string on the harp.
At one point she was playing a Spanish tune, a flamenco, and at the end of it she said to the audience, "Excuse me." She unplugged the harp from the amplifier, and while we sat there she quietly replayed the piece from the beginning. "I made a mistake," she said, "but it sounded great, and I wanted to be sure I would remember how to do it again!" I thought that showed a fine dedication, but it also suggests a link between music and biology. You might say it is an instance of a random mutation, but one that proves to have advantages: and so it will survive and, perhaps, come to be reproduced by others who encounter it. There is a sense of unity between the arts and the sciences, which is right as the True and the Beautiful are at last only parts of the Good.
Her website is here: let me recommend her work for any of you thinking of musical gifts this year.
Aside from the stop to hear some beautiful music, the trails and the forests offer their usual refuge. Camping in the national forests is lawful in a dispersed fashion, and free.
A trail through mountain laurel.
A ridge west of Asheville.
The bluffs on the border region of Georgia and the Carolinas.
I trust you all had a fine weekend as well.