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Classical Music

Outdoors: Spring awakenings


I love the sound of an orchestra warming up.

The cacophony is hardly musical, but if you listen, you can hear what’s coming.

Fragments of melody float from the din, with hints of the beauty that will soon begin.

Isn’t early spring much like pre-concert magic?

Fragments of birdsong float from the treetops; swelling buds and pastel twigs hint of the beauty that is to come.

A concert begins when the conductor mounts the podium, raises a baton and, with a downbeat, indicates that the musicians should begin.

So what gives the vernal downbeat to the trees and wildflowers?

The obvious answer is that buds burst and flowers bloom when melting snow and spring showers provide adequate moisture and when warmth returns to the soil.

But just as musicians practice and ensembles rehearse, plants prepare throughout winter.

Chemical breakdown occurs slowly, sort of like time-release medication, preparing a seed for germination or signaling that a plant break dormancy.

Waterproof seed coats are ruptured by the freeze/thaw cycles of late winter.

Steadily decreasing hours of darkness trigger growth in some species.

The buds are ready.

Like musicians who spend years in preparation for a performance, woodland wildflowers and trees have stored energy, literally for years, in preparation for nature’s downbeat.

And I think I hear them tuning now.