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.