Rain, rain


Dear Readers,

I’m in Philadelphia at the moment to work on a new violin concerto by Jennifer Higdon; we’re running it through with the Curtis (my and Jennifer’s alma mater) Orchestra to make sure all of the notes are in the right places and it sounds like everyone has imagined it would. The premieres aren’t until the spring, so this will give us plenty of time to make adjustments – and for me to get the whole piece in my system – before the concerto reaches the public ear.

I woke up this morning to darkness. I assumed the curtains were simply effectively shutting out the daylight, but after an hour or so of phone meetings and computer work, I started to pay attention to the sounds of the city outside. And it was raining. My favorite weather! I opened the window to listen closer, and when I looked out, I was reminded of my student years in this city, during the autumn and spring showers and inclement winter weather. The glistening rooftops receding into the distance, reflecting the grey of the sky as a bright silver; the sound of midday traffic on the drenched pavement; the squeaks of bus brakes; the darkened tree trunks; the sirens faint in the background; the lack of footsteps or voices – it was all so familiar.

Suddenly, a clap of thunder rang out, and I was taken back to my first city thunderstorm: I was practicing in our tiny center-city Philadelphia junior-one-bedroom apartment that looked right into the windows of the brick high-rise across the alley, when thunder seemed to crack my room apart and then spill out, rushing up, through, and between all of the buildings on Rittenhouse Square as if the airshafts were canyons and the city a vast expanse of mountains.

I also remembered the umbrella I used to carry to school: a pretty Pooh-themed pastoral number, that seemed to illuminate like the sun was shining whenever I’d open it up. I almost wanted it to rain more often, so that I could walk under that umbrella every week.

From the time I was a little kid, I’ve liked the rain. Maybe because my awareness of sound is acute, I could listen to it all day: the way it mutes a city, the way it articulates every surface I’d otherwise take for granted. I like how rain smells and how it seems to give everything it falls on a new start. It makes the indoors cozy. The green colors outdoors become lively and beautiful. Sometimes, in the middle of a city of concrete, it is the only aural contact I have with nature – not even a chorus of singing birds could drown out human pollution so gracefully.

Hilary