We can acknowledge that food and wine are a textbook pairing, the features of each enhancing the the other. Sounds like a healthy relationship to me.
Recently I tapped into the pairing of nature and wine while hiking, helping people see the connection between the Niagara Escarpment and the wine that they are tasting from that area. Another match made in heaven. I also encourage you to think about a different type of pairing — the relationship between nature and music.
Being outdoors stimulates our senses. When we suddenly step out of our daily routine and into a natural setting, the floodgates open for new thoughts and sensations to come our way. That’s because our eyes and ears are re-calibrating, telling the brain to chill out and focus on what’s in front of us.
I feel this is where a lot of my own musical ideas stem from, so perhaps it’s not a coincidence that lots of music pairs really well with the outdoors. I remember the year of my life I will always refer to as “Radiohead and Rainforest,” where I discovered both at the same time — my favourite band and my favourite ecosystem.
What that band and the rainforest taught me was the undeniable bond between nature and music. Until then I didn’t know a band could sound so darn good. I also never experienced an environment that could be so beautifully complex. The vibes and powerful originality of Radiohead’s music was about to drill into my brain at the same time I was visiting a tropical rainforest.
A tropical rainforest, the most species-rich type of environment on land, is a playground for exploring. When I first visited the Amazon in Ecuador, the music and ecological madness hit with a one-two punch that forever changed me.
If music and nature were nutritious, I had the healthiest meal I’ve ever had on that trip to Ecuador. On a rattling bus full of Canadian students, we were driving from Quito down deeper into the Amazon. As we descended lower from the mountain highlands, the rainforest started to present itself around every corner in dramatic ways. Waterfalls cascading over the roads, jungle clinging to the cliff faces, and land slides everywhere.
With my headphones on, Radiohead was pouring their calculated and potent musical feelings into my ears. My jaw was simultaneously dropping at the preciousness outside the bus window — the overbearing feeling of this crazy deep rainforest.
That trip opened my mind to the fact that there are certain types of music that can enhance our time in nature, and vice versa. I enjoy hiking with headphones nearly as much as I do without them. I just can’t get enough of that pairing.
The music I create for my Hidden Corners nature documentaries seems to be a reflection of that time and place when the film was created. The type of environment I spend days and nights filming sets the mood for the film, as well as the mood within me I try to convey.
We all know a certain song or album that instantly reminds us of someone. The same can happen with music and nature. I hope everyone at some point experiences that moment where the natural scenery is so epic, and the right song just happens to be playing, and your hair can stand on end as the two experiences collide.
There are songs that sound like trees growing, or the arrival of spring after a long winter. There are songs you feel the urge to put on when it’s a cold, rainy fall day. I have seen both the beauty and intensity of nature in great doses, and I think the range of music on my iPod would be a reflection of that.
When outdoors, you can find yourself in places were the music sounds like the place looks like. That’s when you know you’ve got yourself a nice pairing, so enjoy.