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Music on the Mountain

By Pat Banks, Phase I Fellow

Without a doubt, music has been the biggest influence on my life. It’s something that always has been and always will be there for me. It’s brought me joy in moments of celebration, lifted me up during times when I didn’t think I could stand, and, most importantly, it’s given me a voice when words seem hard to come by. The music in my life has been varied, ranging from the country and classical rock I grew up on, to the angsty punk of my teens, to finally finding my soul music: folk and bluegrass. But there is a different kind of music that exists up here on the mountain, one you won’t find inside your computer or at a local music shop; it’s the harmony of a living community amidst a beautiful, lush landscape.

Not only does nature provide us with our everyday needs such as food, shelter and water, it also provides us with a beautiful melody. As I sit here writing this, various crickets--bellowing back and forth at each other--drown out the music on my computer. This is what I get to fall asleep to every night. In the morning, I know the birds will greet me with their songs as they help sing the sunrise over our vast landscape. Nature’s morning greetings and evening farewells to help relax my mind before and after a long day’s work on the mountain.

While peace and quiet may seem in abundance living in such a secluded area, it is in fact quite the opposite up here on the mountain. There are so many different variations of noise in our community: It’s the frying of a hot skillet in preparation for one of our--almost now expected--gourmet meals. It’s the strumming of an instrument to a beautiful tune while sitting around a cracking campfire. It’s the sound of a passionate conversation cultivating a new idea, a new project, that is just beginning to form. There is always some sort of buzz on our campus, and it’s not just the bees.

Before coming to AMI, I could have guessed that I would hear the beautiful hums of nature and the constant clatter of community life, but there is one sound I never dreamed of falling in love with: the sound of fermentation. Microorganisms, yeast, bacteria and fungi team up to break down glucose and to provide us with longer lasting, better tasting, and overall healthier foods. These organisms can be heard as a daily opening of a sauerkraut jar , also known as burping, or the popping of a airlock on top of a carboy brewing beer, or an explosion of a bottle on an unsuccessful attempt. Its also the crack after opening a refreshing bottle of kombucha after a long hot day. These little microscopic bacteria may be small, but they sure give off plenty of sound.

As the first day of fall has come and gone, I’ve been reflecting on the beauty of the music our mountain has to offer. While I love songs and lyrics, I know they are easily accessible, unlike the sounds produced by our community. As our time here is inching closer and closer to concluding, I’m trying to cherish every beat and every melody that being here at Allegheny Mountain Institute has to offer.

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