Why we live here

By PORTLAND PHOENIX STAFF  |  April 22, 2009


At 4:30 am the eastern horizon is a searing white arc fringed by two complementary gradients. The glare is fantastic, but the building morning chorus is really the appeal at this hour. Seabirds have just begun to cackle in their dinosaur tongue; chickadees and thrushes throb in stereo phase. Each day is an aural spectacle before the ugly, flat sound of ten thousand cars wrings out its delicacy. It is really just the hours between midnight and 5 am that are available to the ear craving some good details. Days in Portland are battered with the percussive and graceless noises of industry, but at night our little city sinks back into rich acoustic intricacies.

Stand on the Eastern Prom on a foggy evening. Listen to how the lighthouses create a perfect fifth with their warm, placid hooting. The hiss of traffic from Tukey's Bridge is a sustained D flat, and it forms a tense but beautiful chord with these horns of Spring Point (G) and Bug Light (D). Keep wandering and find the working waterfront brimming with musique concrète, the AC motors of chum factories and the electric generators of vacant fishing boats loosing their major thirds into Portland's empty night. The ocean is incredibly talented at carrying sound — listen to each ferry boat as it blasts its requisite launch signal, the noise fanning out across the bay and rolls into the distant Atlantic, or getting tangled up in the filthy mouth of the Fore River.

Portland, for its puny size, is rife with artists and musicians who proudly call it home. The blasted cold of its winters, its saturated summer heat, its waddling tourists, and its laughable job market do nothing to deter us. It hums in weird ways and in this manner serves to soothe our bitterness with its faults. Its vacant storefronts and dank apartments beg to be fed with new energy and innovation. It is at once safe, clueless, and incandescent. I live here because this city is song.
_Andrew Frederick

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