miðvikudagur, febrúar 01, 2006


First of the month, and they test the sirens. First the announcement that this is only a test, then electronic bleeps and boops, then the gnawing whine of the sirens. It is impossible not to think of air raids. Blessedly, it does not go on long.

Later, I am downtown, not thinking about the Battle of Britain but about to vanish into the underground on business of my own, and I catch the edge of a pipe tune. Someone is playing bagpipes. The skirl of it ricochets off the buildings and I smile to hear it. I cannot see the piper.

I like the sound of highland pipes very much and stubbornly, which is to say that I will argue with people who do not like them rather than retreat and concede that, well, it perhaps isn’t for everyone. I like the wail of pipe music, and if I am honest about it I would probably say that the muscular historical background of the pipes only increases the appeal for me. Weren’t they a martial instrument? (Weren’t most instruments once martial - brass bands, fifes, drums, even the tinkling Glockenspiel borrowed from Turkish military bands centuries ago?) I heard somewhere that the English Parliament had once classified highland pipes as a weapon.

But that was a long time ago. That particular Border is quiet. Where we do fight now, we do not fight with the same weapons as we did then, and we are free to appreciate once-military music for its more æsthetic qualities. On the train, rushing though tunnels below ground, I have to wonder if anyone will ever listen to those sirens purely for pleasure, with some romantic notion of an earlier time half in mind.

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