My stepdaughter and I circle round and round. You see, I like the music loud, the speakers throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so each bass note is like a hand smacking the gut. But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four and likes the music decorous, pitched below her own voice-that tenuous projection of self. With music blasting, she feels she disappears, is lost within the blare, which in fact I like. But at four what she wants is self-location and uses her voice as a porpoise uses its sonar: to find herself in all this space. If she had a sort of box with a peephole and looked inside, what she'd like to see would be herself standing there in her red pants, jacket, yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject for serious study. But me, if I raised the same box to my eye, I would wish to find the ocean on one of those days when wind and thick cloud make the water gray and restless as if some creature brooded underneath, a rocky coast with a road along the shore where someone like me was walking and has gone. Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego, leaving turbulent water and winding road, a landscape stripped of people and language- how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.
BY STEPHEN DOBYNS