A view seen through a window

15th October 2023 | Musings | 7 comments

We recently visited a lovely cafe situated on a cliff top near the sea in East Lothian. The walk to the cafe took us along the cliffs in splendid weather with seagulls wheeling around us, a brisk wind blowing (as usual) and the sea sparkling.

We went inside the cafe and were offered a table with a view of the sea. Instantly we began to exclaim, ‘What a view! How lucky to have a table with such a great view!’ Then we started to laugh at ourselves. The view was precisely the same view we had taken for granted as we walked along the cliff path –  same sea, same sky, same boats in the distance. But because the view was framed in the cafe window, it seemed twice as striking.

Once we had realised that, we listened for the reactions of other walkers entering the cafe. They all had the same response – ‘What a wonderful view!’

Was it that we were suddenly out of the wind, no longer striding along but sitting comfortably in a warm room with the smell of baking? Or was it the window which seemed to magnify the effect? We found it funny that we were more struck by the view when we were no longer out in it, if you know what I mean.

Thinking about it later, I reflected that ‘framing devices’ are very powerful. A window frames a view. A frame enhances a painting. One might say that a book is a way of framing a succession of scenes so that we (reading comfortably in our armchairs) can see them more vividly, or take them in more easily than we would if they were real-life scenes happening around us. The author has framed them for us.

And in the same way, perhaps a piece of music is a way of framing certain feelings and nuances we take for granted in everyday life, but which we can appreciate more intensely if captured on a page of music notation, or crystallised in a few minutes of evocative sound.


  1. Mary Cohen

    Brilliantly put!

  2. Jeremy

    I suggest there are other frames for music that you have eloquently talked about in your books, including the way in which a concert programme or recording has been put together and presented – concert hall, concert dress, CD booklet, liner notes – and even the setting and mood in which one is listening. All will affect the way a piece may be perceived.

    • Susan Tomes

      Very good point! Quite right. Thanks Jeremy.

  3. Eric Bridgstock

    I agree with Jeremy’s thoughts on the frames and cues, and would add listening to a vinyl LP while looking at the art and reading the words on the sleeve.
    And I cannot resist adding my own recent window experience – sitting in Le Ble independent bakery and coffee shop in Sheffield. The adjacent cathedral looks underwhelming from the pavement, yet magnificent from a seat with coffee and cake.
    And that is outdone by SOHO coffee shop at 10 St Paul’s Churchyard, London, which presents an awesome view of St Paul’s.

    • Susan Tomes

      Yes! Views of cathedrals and other ancient buildings through the window of a coffee shop … perfect.

  4. James

    Beautifully put!!
    You could explore this idea further in your next book 😀

  5. Judith Hooper

    Beautiful thought, and thought-provoking too. Would love to know where the cafe in East Lothian is…


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