Without doubt or speculation at other options, the busiest place on the small liberal arts campus I used to call home is an L-shaped space nestled between the academic life of the library and the spiritual quiet of the chapel. Despite being crafted of illustrious, sturdy limestone, the whole place pulses and sways with the rhythm set by some great unknown Conductor. It is a kind of living symphony, changing each day into something new, breathing like so many musicians taking a rest; it rushes, it beats, it slows.
As the day peers over the edge of the trees, between old structures carrying hundreds of students preparing for the daily concert, tinkles of backpacked notes, decorated with tousled hair and swishing dresses, scatter out of the great piano of our symphony and find their way, through the doors, up the stairs, or to the smell of coffee. They begin the piece, trembling in its first few notes—but these are joined soon by the blare of the brass; the coffee is ground as the clock shivers closer to the time of the first class, and the solitary piano has been filled out.
The staff-like corridors of the commons stream thicker with these elements of the symphony as the aged string notes stride regally onto the scene, bespectacled with leather briefcases in tow, displaying their expertise and experience above the young and foolish brass. They are slower, for now neglecting their tremolo and pizzicato, pulling their lush notes across the strings with the patience their time has pushed upon them. For now, it is enough to settle into a silent chair, unbuttoning the sport jacket from around the full, whole-note middle, tonguing a hot beverage as one will who has experienced many burns; they are Pachelbel’s steadfast cello at the moment, but with a mention of their subject the tremolo is tempted to emerge and at once the patience is replaced with a youthful excitement akin to the energy surrounding their part.
As the clock continues its journey around its own center, the ebb and flow of each motif is exposed. The piano’s foray into Comptine d’un autre été: l'après-midi has been crushed over by the gaudy Nutcracker Suite, but its subtle current seems to lie under the rush until the excitement must tumble on to class and only a few keystrokes, forming a crystalline arpeggio, traipse across the stone to their respective destinations. The strangest part is that even these, these mallet-struck vibrations, buzz as furiously at their core as their boisterous counterparts. The humming pinks their cheeks and pumps their hearts, each pulsing note as significant as any other, down to the sinew of the calf muscle, the caramel-brown wisp of hair brushed out of a batted eye. And everybody dances together--overlapping, touching, trying to remember their parts and figure whether or not their stem should point towards the Heavens or towards the Earth, tripping and stumbling, and clashing their minor seconds until they smooth into hours. Of course, there are accidentals, but they only add to the uniqueness, the artistic quality of each note; they make broken hearts and bodies, but over time, they are mended by the rest of the melodies and become something of an attribute, an experience that cannot be replicated.