Last night Buddy Wakefield, the president of the Newport News Harmonica Plus club, told me that he and some of his friends were going to teach 180 school kids how…

Last night Buddy Wakefield, the president of the Newport News Harmonica Plus club, told me that he and some of his friends were going to teach 180 school kids how to play the harp this morning, after which they were all going to walk around the hotel playing.

This morning around 11 AM I was having breakfast, and suddenly I heard the sound of 180 kids playing harmonica for the first time, together.  They were all playing a simple chorded melody. They weren’t very synchronized with each other, so some were breathing in while others were breathing out, meaning that the chords shifted not all at once, but in long waves.   The result was that the sounds of hundreds of harmonicas melded together into a shimmering, slowly shifting buzz of reeds.  It was an amazing and beautiful sound with the individual, loosely coordinated rhythms of 180 breaths in it.  It was like a Steve Reich piece written for 180 children who can’t read music, utterly and unexpectedly magical, simple and impossible to recreate.  

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