First, a shout-out to Lithuania’s entry to the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest:
In honor of the 100th independence anniversary, the Lithuanian NGO Music Export Fund has compiled a Spotify playlist of 100 songs from 1918 to the present, from the classical work of M. K. Čiurlonis to the 2016 smash hit, “Lithuanian History Rap.”
In my own way, I’ve decided to celebrate Lithuania 100 by taking a soundchronicity walk with that playlist.
Gareth E. Rees coined the term “soundchronicity walk” in Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares On the Edge of London (reviewed here). In his Appendix, Rees describes his space-time-sound experiments, in which he uses music “as a tool of engagement with [the] landscape,” the sounds of his playlist blending with the sounds of the city and the marshes. Rees recommends using ambient, experimental, basically wordless music “that has space between the beats and melodies,” and the Lithuania 100 playlist certainly has a few of those, but I’m also game for trying to experience nature against a backdrop of the classical, pop and rock songs in the playlist.
For my landscape, I’ve chosen to walk part of Fort Wayne’s River Greenway paths, starting at Swinney Park in the west and walking south along the St. Mary’s river. I set my playlist on shuffle and begin.
Magic on the River St. Mary
Walking under the Jefferson St. bridge in Swinney Park, gazing at the splashy graffiti and wondering if the gathering gloom overhead is going to erupt in rain showers soon, I listen to the electronic strains of “Have You Ever Had a Dream.” The pounding heartbeat (drums), the shrill sound like a dial tone, and the digitized chanting blend with the wind-like rush of cars over the bridge, the dull roar of machinery from the old buildings across the river, and the flow of the river itself.
It all feels more epic with the electronica in the background, like I’m walking through a video game, like the river and the trees and the wooden walkways are all a simulated landscape leading me to some boss battle with the semis rumbling overhead.
I leave the Greenway path for a bit, exploring the neighborhood around Brooklyn Ave. as the bouzouki-like strings that open Virgis Stakėnas’ “Kelelis Tolimas” (A Distant Road/Those Were the Days) transport me now to old Europe.
As I pass by churches and gas stations, I am simultaneously walking through an old Lithuanian village, taking a long road through the country, stopping to share some wine with a friendly officer, passing by gypsy caravans, the days flowing by like rivers, trusting my steed to carry me home.
Stakėnas’ voice also takes me back to those long-ago car trips with my family, traveling from Wisconsin to Ohio to visit my grandparents, listening to cassettes of the very-similarly-voiced Vytautas Kernagis and his subversive anti-Soviet songs disguised as humorous tunes about potato beetles. Those were the days, indeed!
The grey sky remains dry for now, and I find my way back to the river trail as the hesitant, staccato sounds of “Commentum for Violoncello and Piano” dance around police sirens and bird calls, and my journey feels more eerie now, taking me through a lonely wood, past a fallen bone-white tree sinking into the river, the wooden walkway creaking like old bones under my feet. I pass by an odd statement…
…that oddly fits the plocky piano notes. What do you think it means?
The trail then loops around the Foster Park Golf Course as distant thunder begins to rumble and a distant chainsaw roars to life, blending with the digital percussion and warped, zipper sounds and sitar strains of “Glasswalk,” which transition to the after-school calls of teenagers walking home through the nearby neighborhood, punctuating the staircase-climbing notes and chants of Damn, what’s this? in “Signature V5.”
Finally, I pass through a memorial garden as I loop back northward, wind-rustled cherry blossoms and clouds of tiny moths like sea mist matching the many moods of the ocean as portrayed by Čiurlonis in “Jūra (The Sea).”
The piece moves through quiet, contemplative moments, swelling to majestic cymbals crashing like waves against the Baltic shore, storm clouds gathering and tossing ships like toys in the Curonian Lagoon. Overhead, my own sky has finally released a light rain, and the pattering of drops on my umbrella, and the rushing river of cars on the road, lead my mind to the coast, the Midwestern St. Mary’s river somehow emptying out into the distant sea.
I make my way back under the Jefferson St. bridge, and back into Swinney Park, vowing to try another soundchronicity walk in the future, maybe this time by bike, and without the constant stops to make note of the song titles.
I’ll leave you with another shout-out, this time to the greatest Eurovision entry ever, from 2006. 😆