This an excerpt from “Tune in to your next trip,” my story about the power of music to transform our travels. It originally appeared in Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper:

II. Appassionato

If, as the Bard reminds us, all the world’s a stage, then I propose we photo-obsessed wayfarers might do well to lay aside our cameras and pay closer attention to the incidental music that punctuates the scenes and acts of our traveling days.

I am not talking here about the blue-chip performances that require advance tickets and balcony seating and fancy dress. I am speaking rather of those unplanned and unexpected gifts of music that tell us as surely as the food we are eating and the language we are speaking where we have landed on this planet.

When we come back from our travels, we are prepared for the usual questions: “Where did you go? What did you see? What did you do?” And even before you have boarded your return flight, you have likely prepared your stock responses. But how would you begin to answer if someone were to ask: “Tell me—what did you hear?”           

III. Dolce

I collected my first sound postcard when I was 14 years old and trapped in what seemed an interminable family vacation in the suburban barrens of Winnipeg. It was a hot July afternoon, and my younger brother and I, tired of running through my grandmother’s sprinkler, sat on the scorching cement steps leading to the never-used front door, stunned silent by the oppressive humidity.

Inside, my mother and her older sister, my aunt Donna, had claimed the below-ground basement, the only cool place in the little brick-and-stucco tract house. Both accomplished violinists, they enjoyed playing duets whenever they got together. The screen door was open, and my brother and I could hear them tuning up as we meticulously picked the bits of grass off our feet that so annoyed my granny when we tracked them into her obsessively tidy kitchen.

 It was the first time I ever heard Bach’s double violin concerto. We laid back on the front stoop and let the joyous optimism of the first movement wash over us, and indulged, I think, a secret pride that it was our family members making that glorious sound. Some neighborhood kids wandered into the yard and joined us on the steps to listen. Then more came and suddenly, as if lured by the Pied Piper himself, there were a dozen bored and sticky children gathered by the screen to enjoy that wafting musical breeze.

It seemed so risky at the time, but as a group we decided to descend to the basement, where we sat quietly on old couches and chairs to watch the performance. Neither player saw us enter: with their backs to the stairs, they were oblivious to anything but their instruments. I will never forget the look on their faces when the little audience jumped to its feet to applaud the final movement. I have no pictures from that long-ago summer, only the memory of that joyful noise—of family, and friends, and music shared without pretense.

[Read–and hear–the entire Globe & Mail story here.]