In da house

We weren't the only ones in da house when we recently sang for supper at a house concert in the home of friends in Cooroy.

It was a fantastic evening - dinner and a show, as they say. Over drinks and nibbles on the back deck, we discussed all manner of topics on art, life, the universe and everything, and the problem of the angry bees who had taken up residence in the space between the floor and the insulation beneath.

Then we moved into the living room to perform. It is a lovely space, with beautiful acoustics, almost as good as our own front room but a little smaller. Our hosts and their guests lounged back as we played the first set. So good to have the time to tell all the edges of the stories that feed the songs. I find it so much better to play unplugged. It is much more like a conversation, a personal interaction that I just can't have when playing to a microphone. It is a delight to be able to hear the beautiful ringing quality of my dulcimer, feel the cello bounce out to the edge of the room and be able to hear where it all actually sits in the mix and not have to rely on a sound guy you've never met before who has no idea how you want to sound.

Then dinner, wine, excellent wide-ranging conversation, more wine, and on to the second set. There was one sad note to the evening - our hosts would soon be packing up to leave. It had been Shirl's house (of Skyhooks Fame) and I can't help but think he'd made it his with sound in mind. They were't the only ones having to pack up. The following day, the bee hive that had grown under the floor boards also had to go. When our hostess, Tanya Overton (a writer), sent me the pictures of their eviction, they came with some beautiful description of the sound of their removal:

I have this lovely image of us eating and drinking and carousing over a labyrinth of bee life – strata on strata of complexity. After you’d gone I put my ear to the floor and the sound was like a far-off slow volcano (I believe that this is the sound Ridley Scott used behind Alien – fitting!). Yesterday it was like a distant forest fire – no buzzing, just hums and crackles. 

And on the morning of their eviction:
I lay ear to floor again and could hear the contented throng below, if honey had a sound this was it. Couldn’t help thinking of Geoffrey’s “Aristotle says the bees have no ears and they cannot learn the song of spring, but I’ve heard them sing it in the summertime.” As soon as Phil started to cut off the insulation the sound changed – the mass murmur stopped and a plaintive series of high pitched vibrations, like the top storeys of a viola plucking an SOS, trembled through the wood. Swear to God I felt frightened. Not for me – for them. That was a sad and solitary sound. Most of them were silent, listening to the news that their comfortable existence was about to end. Then the tumult started. Wagnerian, it was.

Then, after their swarming fury at the humans responsible for their eventual forced resettlement into conventional hives:

They’re down there now, humming dusk in, still suspicious of the hives... still circling over honeycomb debris. Kevin and I are using red wine for pain relief tonight and life’s good. Or, at least, amazing.

But I'm just loving this part of her letter the most:
Thank you for a magic evening. If you’ve ever wondered how bees enjoy your sounds, now you know – a slow volcano of applause. And that’s about right too.

This is without doubt, the best way to play music to people - between consenting adults in private.  An unforgettable evening. Thanks to Tanya and Kevin and I hope the swelling from the stings has gone down.

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