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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Music Binds Us All

I bang on the pot really hard in the kitchen aisle.

The salesman looks at me over the rims of his glasses and shakes his head.

Years ago I had this gig teaching music in a mission school in South Africa.

I was nervous my first day of teaching. How had I ended up here in Africa, so far from home, in world as alien as any I could ever imagine? What did I have for these children?

The kids watched enthusiastically as I took them through the rudiments of guitar. But the next day, when I walked into the classroom, I quickly became the student, and the students the teachers.

After school, the kids had crawled through a massive rubbish heap, scrounging for wire, tin cans, slat of wood, nails.

When I arrived at the school the next morning, they proudly displayed the musical instruments they’d assembled—olive oil cans, bicycle wheels, pots and pans turned into guitars, drums, a bass, a glorious sound.

Years later I’m asked to write a score for a kids train show, Chuggington. I think about the metallic sounds of the engine, the rhythms of pistons and rails. I head to the local kitchenware store to build my own found sound orchestra.

Long ago in Africa I learned music is the emotional language that binds us together, across borders and cultures. And an oven rack makes a really cool sound.


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