The other day while walking down the slope of Ninth Street between 8th and 7th Avenues, gazing as usual at the rhythmic flow of brownstones and the variety of ornamental ironwork balustrades and gates, I imagined I heard them singing. Maybe it was because I’d left my ear buds at home that day. Listening to music made walks so much more pleasant, especially on these hot summer days. Perhaps without it, I was automatically tuning into the music of my surroundings. It made me think of the woman in the nursery rhyme with “rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,” who had “music wherever she goes.”
I wasn’t wearing any rings. My toes were bare too. But what are fingers and toes but extremities, our farthest points. Our feelers. Perhaps our first responders when it comes to picking up vibrations. I pictured my fingers and toes ringing with the sound of patterned ironwork as if it was a kind of sheet music.
How strange sheet music must look to the untrained eye. Yet musicians have no trouble playing the symbols, or composers in making up new patterns. They may fill up the page with odd symbols, but it’s music they hear in the mind.
I photographed the ironwork where I was standing when I saw its music. Then, as often happens, when I got down to the business of drawing, the execution fell short. It didn’t have quite the same ring to it as when I was walking down the slope feeling the breeze on my face and the movement around me. Perhaps it was something felt more than seen. I had to try and capture it anyway. That moment when patterned ironwork sang to me.
(My fascination with ironwork fences isn’t new. Here’s a blog with more drawings I posted two years ago: https://nancywait.com/2015/09/27/flowing-fences/ )