It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon as I was taking a walk back to Parke Calderon from both the Flower Market at the San Francisco Square in front of the San Francisco Church, and from another open market nearby the square. I was walking along the side of the New Cathedral, which was built in the 1800’s and which is the largest church in Cuenca. Along the walkway, I saw some flute players, who I assume where taking a break. I immediately thought back to Chicago, when beginning back in the 1990’s we would hear what started out as Peruvian flute players, who played street music to the passersby who strolled through Grant Park along Lake Shore Drive.
I approached a young man who stood at the forefront of the four instrumentalists. He obviously handled the marketing and selling of the C.D.’s. The young man, possibly in his late teens, was perfect for the job, with a respectful attitude so common in Ecuador, and with a winning smile, and charm. I asked him if the players standing behind him were from Peru. He stated that only one of the musicians was from Peru. As he pointed to the musician, the musician waved back at me and extended a greeting, and then each of the other three musicians did likewise. The young man and I stood by an instrumental lectern which allowed him to place four different recordings before me. As I prepared myself for the upcoming sales pitch, the players picked up their instruments and began playing. I had no intention of buying any of the C.D.’s. I had bought one from the flute players in Grant Park many years ago. I no longer wanted more of what I thought would be the same type of Andean flute composition.
Much to my surprise, these Andean flute players began playing Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Sound of Silence”, one of my all time favorite soundtracks from one of my all time favorite movies, “The Graduate”. I could not believe that they were playing “Sounds of Silence” in that place, at that time, while I was standing there. As the musicians played, my mind went back to the memories I associated with 1967 and the things I was doing when that soundtrack was constantly being played.
Meanwhile, a nun wearing a short veil and a habit that covered her knees came up next to me, and began to look at the C.D.’s as well. I noticed that the four C.D.’s laid out before me and the sister were all flute compositions of contemporary music. The young man was not about to let this moment pass without opening a large plastic bag filled with many C.D.’s of their music, some of which were more traditional compositions of Andean flute music. About this time as a larger crowd began to gather around the playing musicians, it began to sprinkle. I opened my umbrella, and held it over the young man, the gray-haired sister, and myself. The sister said to me “gracias”, and although I did not understand the Spanish discussion going on before me; it was obvious sister had no intentions of being fleeced by the young man. I saw him open the C.D. cover, take out the C.D. and show the nun that there was no scratches on the under surface of the C.D. I waited to see what the sister was going to be charged, and then I would know exactly what it would cost me for the two C.D.’s I now intended to buy.
I saw sister open up her small change-purse, as she then clutched the top of each side of the tiny purse. Inside her purse, as I continued to hold the umbrella over our heads, she had a carefully folded-in-four parts, solitary bill of five dollars. She extracted the five dollar bill and meticulously unfolded the bill before handing it over to the young man. He thanked the sister, placed the C.D. in a small plastic bag and handed it to her. She looked up at me, and extended another “gracias” before she went about her business.
I then concluded my purchase with the young man by giving him the ten dollars for two of the C.D.’s, “Only Melody” and the “Melodies of the Soul”. Now I listen to beautiful flute renditions of “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hotel California”, “Color of the Wind”, “The Power of Goodbye”, “Let it be”, ”Imagine”, “The House of the Rising Sun”, some of the compositions may also be from South American pop music, and of course, “Sound of Silence”. I proceeded on my way around to the front of the Cathedral and across the street to Parke Calderon. I heard the flutes for another fifteen minutes before the playing stopped again.
Three people who had never met each other before, who may never meet each other again; and yet for a brief encounter they were brought to that place at that time. They shared what they had to share in the way that they shared it, and then went about their business. A mundane event, in an ordinary day, repeated an inordinate number of times throughout the day by countless numbers of people throughout the world--an event, which is soon forgotten, if not already out of mind as soon as the transaction is completed. Yet, the most ordinary can be extraordinary when consciously lived. It only appears ordinary, when we fail to heed the sound of silence--the sound of conscious awareness.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share