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The Sound of Music

By Natalie Pax, Phase I Fellow

Creative expression, especially in the form of music and art, plays an invaluable role at many scales in society. From the individual being to the community as a whole, creative expression is a powerful connecting force.

After moving to Bear Mountain to participate in the AMI Fellowship, I spent a lot of time in the upper field that you pass on the way to the farm. It is a beautiful pasture with breathtaking views of the deep blue mountaintops and rolling hills on the horizon. Every time I’m up there, Julie Andrews inevitably pops into my head. I see her singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music” and spreading her arms wide as she frolics through the green pastures, just like in the acclaimed musical, The Sound of Music.

I recall watching this film with my sister many times as a child, enjoying the various scenes of the movie but never quite understanding what Julie Andrews intended with those famous and remembered lyrics. After all, if Andrews and the seven children she was looking after weren’t singing throughout the film, would there even be any music at all?

However, I’ve come to find a new appreciation for the lyrics in the famous film and the very idea that the hills could be alive with the sound of music (even without instruments or vocal accompaniment). Sitting in silence in that green pasture amongst the hills, I’ve come to notice and acknowledge the sounds of abundant life that surrounds—the wind through the trees, the birds chirping, the buzz of the bees, the rustle of grasses and wildflowers. The music of nature is all around, if one takes pause to listen.

While nature may be alive with its own sounds of music, I am equally appreciative of the many musical talents of the Fellows and the Highland community at large. Music and art are beautiful connecting forces between different people, and can be modes for which we celebrate life and each other. Whether one is creating music alone or with others, or even simply enjoying the music that others create, artistic expression has the ability to enhance a sense of community in unimaginable ways. While music is personal and intimate for the individual, it is also a social connecting force. Regardless of backgrounds and diverse histories, different people can come together through the simple immersion in (and enjoyment of) music.

There is also an inherent beauty in how diverse and fluid music can be. Whether it’s a practiced performance or a spontaneous jam, music allows people to escape from the mundane and sometimes trying aspects of life, and instead embrace and enjoy the present moment. There is beauty in all forms of musical creation, even in the natural sounds of the earth itself. Let us continue to celebrate life and each other through the creation of art and music, while also keeping in mind the wise words of Julie Andrews: The hills are alive with the sound of music.

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