Sunday, 26 September 2010

Musical rides

This week I did something that I had never done before: I was able to ride my bicycle to and from the office for 5 days in a row, Monday to Friday. Not only do we seldom enjoy such a fine weather for such a long time, it is also very rare for me to get over my weaker self and not to fall victim to any of the numerous excuses at my disposal. I am really proud, I must say.

My ride to the office runs along the Salzach river. For most of the trip I use the bike path, which is a reconverted tow-path, used hundreds of years ago by horses and oxen for towing upstream the boats that, after reaching the salt-mines in Hallein, would be loaded with salt and driven downstream again, to give Salzburg its name (“salt castle”) and to make its prince archbishops awfully rich.

The ride is some 17km long (one-way) and I spend a little less than an hour on it —I am not at all fast! The first two days, especially Tuesday, were quite hard because I got headwind and I was still tired after a hike on Sunday. I got a little obsessed with the cycle computer as well, trying not to do too bad for the statistics. But from Wednesday on, I tried to ignore the computer and simply enjoy the ride.

I realized that there is a kind of physical “in-the-zone” feeling, a delicate and wonderful equilibrium between the force you exert on the pedals and the resistance from wind, road and gravity (slope). That means, there is always a minimum amount of force you have to use in order to maintain a certain pace. The trick is to use just this minimum force, but not more. If you try to keep the pace uninterrupted, by switching gears accordingly, you may be able to run and run with minimal effort and without even realizing the distance.

Bicycle Ride

The funny part is that this kind of being “in-the-zone” happens in your mind as well. At least, once I've achieved this equilibrium of forces, my mind seems to become hypnotized by the rhythmic movement and I stop thinking about riding at all and my awareness wanders to other places.

And in this state, invariably, music comes to my mind. I guess it's because the pedalling pace is kind of a metronome that you cannot miss. It's not that I think: Let's sing “Mary had a little lamb”! Songs and melodies simply pop up in my mind. They come and go, without warning, at times switching from one to the other in colourfully wild arrangements that I would certainly not be able to make myself.

This is a selection of some of the melodies that came into my mind during this week's bicycle rides. Interestingly enough, Johann Sebastian Bach seems to have got a stronghold in my brain:

  • Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007, by J. S. Bach

  • Variation 1 a 1 Clav., Goldberg Variations BWV 988, by J. S. Bach

  • Sinfonia No. 2, BWV 788, by J. S. Bach (listen here)

  • Gabriel's Oboe, “The Mission” original soundtrack, by E. Morricone

  • Another composition for two violins by J. S. Bach (I think!) which I can sing but I still haven't found out what it is 2nd movement (Largo) from the Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in D Minor, BWV 1043, by J. S. Bach (listen here)

But, without a doubt, this week's winner has been the Prelude from J. S. Bach's Lute Suite No. 4, BWV 1006. Enjoy!

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