Boom. Skitter. Ssshhh… The sounds coming from our garage: big, thunderous, rhythmic, crashing like the waves of an ocean. Huge noise. Then silence. A pause before it starts up again.
I’m sitting upstairs, the resonance from the floor below through my artificial legs is shaking me.
I don’t mind. In fact, the noise of my son Freddy hitting his new drum kit makes me happy. For one thing, I know that because it’s February and the garage is freezing, it won’t go on for too long. Also, I know this is something Freddy enjoys, something he wants to be good at – so my job is simply to facilitate it, encourage it, then stand back. He’s busy creating something big, bold and new: I’m really pleased about that, and a bit of noise never killed anybody.
Like so many teenagers, he dreams of being a musician, being in a band. In the car together, we listen to Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, and older bands, The Eagles, Morrissey, The Cure. Freddy knows all the lyrics, he connects with them. Sometimes we shout them out loud as we drive by the shore of the lake. It’s fun, it means we’re sharing a moment together – not fretting over the uncertainties of the future, but paying attention to now.
He’s improvising. Just like I used to do, in all those acting classes at drama school. Freddy’s trying things out, testing his skills, finding out what he can do well, what real rhythm sounds like, how that makes him feel inside. And it occurs to me, this is what musicians do – practising for hour upon hour, growing through the creativity of it, connecting with the kind of person they want to be. He’s following the beat, but he’s also thinking outside the box, looking forward to engaging with the rest of his band, with audiences, considering how they might react.
Music is part of our DNA. As human beings, we’re programmed to respond to sound, and to make it. We all carry inside us a kind of sound history, based on all the things we’ve heard and experienced: that’s why certain songs, certain accents and certain notes can trigger powerful responses. I only have to hear Edith Piaf to remember my mum, in all her confusion and sorrow. Or the sound of the sea, to think of all the happy times I’ve spent on the beach in Cornwall. Familiar sounds have been shown to provide therapeutic relief, for dementia patients. Simple, natural remedies like this can be instrumental in helping us to be resilient.
I’ve learned to love the intimate music of nature. Rain. Wind. Rushing water. Voices. Thunder. Birdsong. My prosthetic feet, crunching in snow. After my sepsis, I no longer have a sense of smell, but I listen as closely as I can to learn about the world around me, and the people in it. My body may be broken and imperfect now, but those who can make sense of it, through rhythm, sound and music, make me rich.
We’re all surrounded by so much free treasure.
That’s why I love the sound of those drums, coming from the garage. Boom, skitter, ssshhh…