The Woods Are Lovely, Dark, Musical

All right, KCET, listen up.

I've gone along with you for years, sending in my checks, laughing at Monty Python, frowning over politics, beaming at British dramas, furrowing my brow over science programs, sitting agog over your nature programs--well now, that's what I'm writing you about, you nature programs.

I used to be silent as a river reed from the beginning to the end of those nature programs, enjoying being back in the woods, strolling by a river, stalking over the veld, out there listening to the birds, the water sounds, the silence. Oh, it was lovely, those half+hours.

No more. Yes, the birds, the bees, the animals are there, but so is the music. It was bad enough having your outdoor reverie broken into from time to time by the voice, however unctuously moderated, of the alligator's sleeping in the sun or the great blue heron is resting on his nest, we can't listen to the wind in the grass or feel the silence at the bottom of the coral reef--no, we have to have music, idiotic music. The hawk cannot fly without flutes flying with him; the trudge of the turtle over the sand bank has to be accompanied by a bumbling of bassoons; the South American hummingbirds must drink to the best of marimbas and xylophones.

What's the point? What's the point of being outdoors vicariously if we have to drag along the studio orchestra? Do you assume we won't pay attention if something is not incessantly assaulting our ears? Must we be outfitted with Sony Walkmans before we venture into the wilderness? Is not the sound of nature part of nature anymore?

It's like the camera work--it's becoming the same as instant food. In the fast-food chains we get our hamburger, fries and Coke plopped on the counter before we get our billfold out. You're using the same approach to nature. We will be in trackless Canadian snow lands and there is the great bear asleep in the cave, then bearing her young, cuffing her cubs, climbing a tree and swatting salmon out of a stream all within four minutes.

I am convinced the current generation of kids think all this happens in the same amount of time you see it on the screen. Can't we ever have even half a minute of winter solitude, some indication of the days and weeks the cameramen have had to trek in, to wait, to shoot film, to move on and wait again? Why are we denied three seconds of feeling cold moonlight on silent fields of snow before the bear must plunge into action? Half the mystery of that world that has nothing to do with us, that world of wild creatures and forests, is embodied in its waiting silence.

All right, all right, I give up on that--if we must condense the whole life of a bear into 28 minutes, so be it, we cannot afford to contemplate the silver of ice-coated weeds.

But I'm not giving up on the music. As it is, we can hardly hear the words of the actors in television dramas for the traffic noises, clash of restaurant dishes, the street sounds current directors love to boost up to deafening levels. But let them leave those cacophonous clarinets, those wailing woodwinds to the world we've brought them into; when I'm in the woods I'd like to hear the wind.

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