The same song echoes in a new room. The acoustics are different, the walls are a brighter blue, and though there are familiar faces in the lopsided pictures hanging between windows and corners, the faces belonging to those who are tangibly here are new additions.
I can breathe easier here. The windows aren’t stuck and I don’t feel claustrophobic. With all these changes, it’s easy to think that the music filling my ears is different too. And in some ways, it is. A couple new stringed instruments are in the group, adding a richness that wasn’t there before, and the new vocalist is bringing something to my words that wasn’t there before.
There’s more experimentation, more stamina, more fullness, but the longer I listen, the more the novelty fades and I understand what a new environment can and cannot do.
It can expel the stale air, it can brighten the eyes, it can quicken the hands.
But it cannot sustain forever that freshness, that brightness, that quickness.
There is a long-awaited quality to conversations, a relief in going there with kindred spirits, and I’m physically shaking, sometimes, when I talk of the shapes I’m uncovering − those things I’ve felt around for in the dark and am finally starting to lay my hands on, finally allowing myself to speak of. Right now, there is movement in the talking. I know that eventually, though, if I stop feeling around, if I content myself with that low light on the other side of the room, I will start sounding like a broken record … even if only to myself.
The same old defense mechanisms and habits easily resurface when normalcy returns, like the emergence of ants when spring comes in earnest.
There is risk in the movement, and awkwardness, and uncertainty. For all its faults, for all the ways it hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain, that one song and I have developed an understanding over the years. The thought of changing it − of adding a bridge, maybe, or a bold trumpet − let alone replacing it, scares the hell out of me sometimes. Other times, it doesn’t even seem possible.
But it is possible, not just for the venue to change, but for the music also to be reborn.