Fungi are the evolutionary cardinals of the Earth — the first to conquer it and the last to inherit it, composing the living substratum beneath every forest and every field and every backyard ecosystem.
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“Whatever inspiration is,” the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska observed in her superb Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.
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Tucked into a corner of the Library of Congress is the Densmore Collection of cylinder phonographs — a bygone medium containing the living songs of an ancient culture. In the early twentieth century, the U.S.
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Aldous Huxley wrote of Beethoven’s Benedictus in his exquisite meditation on why music enchants us so. But he could have well been writing about Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827) himself — a creator suffused with darkness yet animated by the benediction of light.
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In a lifetime of living in this body, I have known no more powerful a homecoming than music — nothing roots us more firmly into the house of being, nothing levitates us more buoyantly to that transcendent place beyond marrow and mind.
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“Matter delights in music, and became Bach,” Ronald Johnson wrote in his stunning 1980 prose poem about music and the mind. This may be why music so moves and rearranges and harmonizes us, why in it we become most fully ourselves — “atoms with consciousness,” axons with feeling.
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All of our most inexpressible feelings — our loneliness and our longing, our grief and our famishing hunger for meaning — are scale models of our great cosmic loneliness, microcosms of the immense silence of spacetime itself.
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“Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader,” the teenage Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother upon the publication of her first tragic poem.
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It starts with a low hum that adheres itself to the underbelly of the hours like another dimension. Gradually, surreptitiously, the noise swells to a bellowing bass line, until it drowns out the symphony of life. It can last for days or months or entire seasons of being.
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In the high summer of 1977, 100 years after Thomas Edison devised the first technology for recording and reproducing sound, the Voyager reached the poetic gesture of its Golden Record into the cosmos, carrying the universal language of our species — a Navajo night chant and a Bach fugue, a millenn
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