The theme of “Night Music” sets off a train of thought in my weary mind. A night train, of course, with its lonely, lingering wail. There are other sounds of night, too, that are music to a listener in the right mood. A skein of wild geese honking as their flight crosses between us and a full moon in early evening; coyotes (or wolves) howling at the blood red moon during an eclipse, or any time at all for their own reasons; even the rhythmic counterpoint of katydids calling back and forth in the late summer, or owls calling to their mates.
Music framed by night has a special beauty, an intensity diluted by daylight. At night sound rules over sight; even when manufactured light tries to dispel the darkness we are still aware of the night on a deep level shared with our ancestors around a fire pit in a cave.
The true lights of night, the stars and moon, owe their bright display to the contrast of their setting. The presence of moon and stars in the night sky strikes a chord in the human heart, inspiring poetry and song. The moon is frequent theme in music, and not simply because it rhymes with June. The poet Sappho, as far as scholars can tell, was the first to refer to a silver moon in her verses; the term may seem clichéd, and of course it is now, but no less effective for that. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is probably familiar to thousands who don’t know its name or composer but have heard it, especially if they’re fans of figure skating competitions.
The thought of night music stirs memories of other personal connections with music. My family was musical in the church choir/community theatrical sense, and while church choirs did usually sing in the morning, special concerts at night seemed more significant, and local productions of, say, The Music Man
or Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were definitely in the night-out category. What occurred to me first, though, was the unusual pleasure and sense of sophistication when, in my late teens, we would go to professional productions under a vast tent in Framingham, MA, at a time when those things were in vogue. Are summer musical theaters in tents still a thing? I don’t even know. But we saw John Raitt in Carousel
(long before his daughter Bonnie became even more famous,) and Gordon McCrae in, I think, Kiss Me Kate
and West Side Story
where Russ Tamblyn as Riff (which he played in the movie as well) impressed me so much that I don’t at all recall who played the main male lead. Being in a tent felt almost like being outside, under the night sky. Music and night. I loved it.
One more memory, to suit the season. Christmas caroling with the church youth group after dark, singing to the elderly or disabled, sometimes invited inside for cookies or candy, but at our best out in the cold night air. I know when my folks had become the elderly the carolers came to sing to them, too, and I had a rush of envy for the singers and the fun of caroling at night. Maybe this Christmas I can at least persuade my family to sing a few carols after dinner; we do sing a bit from time to time, but, as always, my brothers will launch into the harmonies and I’ll have to carry the main tune to help out the not-so-musical members of the gathering. And we won’t be outside under the night sky; too cold for my almost centenarian father, who would sing harmony too if he could hear much at all. Ah well, memories must do.
Oh, I forgot something, and remembered by the cold light of day, which does have its advantages. I'd meant to add an excerpt to pay tribute to the night music of sex in all, or at least some, of its many-splendored glories. So I'm editing here to add some. Yes, I've written the occasional straight story, and even, this time, a shifter one.
The Wildest Spirit
Coyotes howled at the cold white eye of the moon, igniting a deeper howl low in the man's throat. He fought it down, resisted the damp autumn earth tugging at his feet, the maze of scents coiling from the shadows.
"I promised you they'd sing.” She stood silhouetted in the doorway, her blanket spread wide so that its shadow reached out across him like great wings while her warm, demanding scent enfolded him.
Impossible to guess how much she understood. If she knew... He had killed for that. But not this time.
The thought of flesh on flesh, of smooth arms and slim, strong legs, drew him toward her. Even now, with the moon and the cool, dark forest calling to him like a home he’d never known, her human body kept him still in man-form.
Then, at another point in the story:
He kicked the door shut and fumbled at his boots. By the time he got to the bedroom door she was kneeling naked on the bed, loosened hair streaming down around her face.
He knelt behind her and she pressed back, guiding him, drawing him into her own hunger, her own rhythm. The only sound was her quickening breathing, and his, and the brush of hair across her shoulders as her head twisted from side to side until at last a cry burst from her so keen and piercing that he never knew whether his own cries came in the man's voice or the wolf's.
They slept, and woke, and she leaned above him with a wildness beyond beauty, rousing him to new dimensions of the human body’s joys, then to pleasures a dream-like step beyond. There came a timeless moment when, her body riding his, her head thrown back in that shrill, triumphant cry, the solid earth dropped away and they plummeted together through space. Falling, falling, cold air ripping past, battering them, forcing the ecstasy deeper and deeper, holding it there, unending... Until at last a great sweep of wings brought darkness, and oblivion.
He did not go into the forest that night.
So there you go. Now I must get back to baking Christmas cookies, and maybe humming a carol or two.