Tuning in to Cuenca’s unique sound of music

Nov 1, 2020 | 3 comments

My long-ago girlfriend, Sherry, finally won me over.

I remember distant times when I could hardly wait for her to get home so I could re-play the latest singer-songwriter composition I heard that moved me nearly to tears. She was always patient, and always sweet.

“That was nice,” she would say.  But, when I asked her if she wanted me to re-play it — say a dozen or so more times — she would demurely decline. “I’d love to sit here with you, Dear Heart,  but  I suddenly realized that I really need to find those lost Q-Tips and, now that I think of it, the chickens need some attention, too.”

I’ve always been obsessed with the written word in all its inventive forms. From my earliest years, I sought solace in the lessons learned through poets, novelists, songwriters, and storytelling. I needed to make sense of the world I was subjected to and charted the musings of others more talented and insightful for guidance.

And so, as one might well imagine, it came as somewhat of a surprise to me to awake to the gradual profundity of change in my musical listening habits these days; I am less sensitized listening to the 3,000 or so albums of blues, folk, and rock and roll that I downloaded and carried on the plane with me to Ecuador.

Instead, I am listening to my new collection of classical and “world music”, voices whose words I do not know but whose intense devotion to expressing their message is crystal clear. I am listening to the music of Cuenca.

I am also attracted to the single-note song, “Gas!”,  that Alan cries out as he pushes his cart of canisters through my neighborhood, bearing the heat that will cook our breakfast and wash our clothes.

My apartment looks over a pitched orchestra of tiled roofs tumbling towards the spires of San Sebastian Church and the Museum of Modern Art. The audience is a grove of date palms with wind chime fronds swaying in the wind. High in the rafters is the trio of clouds, mountains, and sky. Their afternoon performance will surely be rewarded with thunderous applause.

I’ll confess that in the past I all too often tuned my radio to the heartbreaking lament of a country far far away as I brewed coffee and poached eggs for breakfast.

But, all that is behind me now. I exchanged the requiem of a distant country for pan pipes and an acoustic guitar, a solo piano, and some cool jazz to serenade the church steeples reflecting the first light of day.

I still draw inspiration from the music of John Prine, Mississippi John Hurt, and countless others, but the lyrical beauty of a Cuenca sunrise and the murmur of bees in the ever-flowering landscape now take precedence.

Thank you, Sherry. I, at last, understand your patience and the importance of music beyond the plaintive cry of the forlorn.

I too prefer the symphony of our awakening world.

Robert Bradley

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