Whole Notes

Whole Surroundings

Where to do you read your books?

Does a particular type of book require a particular type of place?

I wondered this on a cold blustery Sunday afternoon when I decided to pick up Ed Ayres’ book, Whole Notes: Life Lessons Though Music, after it sat abandoned for too long at my bedside.

Daytime book reading is such a novelty. Where Shall I Sit?

The loungeroom is too cold in winter. I’m not going to heat the room for a few random moments.

The bedroom has a chair (actually it’s a piece of outdoor cane furniture). The afternoon will soon be evening, which means the bedroom heater will soon be on anyway.

I settle into my outdoor/indoor furniture and find my place within the pages. The chair is comfortable, more comfortable than the surroundings. The bed is not made. There are clothes slung over the ironing board. Everything feels askew; an antithesis of whole … of sorts?

I continue anyway, but feel the experience is less than it could be.

Usually, I’m curled up in bed, with limited periphery, reading before slumber.


Apparently, according to Ed, my musical education stalled because I have no curiosity about music.


I am curious about this new word – koan – ?

Online definition: A paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment.


Ed is now writing about anniversary songs. I don’t have any anniversary songs, aside from Happy Birthday. I’m starting to feel like my life is less than whole.

I do have repeating songs that I can track back through the years. Publicly, there’s the Last Post which requires stillness. And Christmas carols that are usually too hard to sing and I must mouth the words.

Privately, there’s Tour of Duty for the housework, Gregorian Chants for studying, Gypsy Kings if I need to type particularly fast (alas, that cassette tape is long gone) and the Vikings Soundtrack if I want to drown out everything and focus on the computer screen in front of me.

And ABC’s Cardio Classics for walking. Let’s Build That Barn.

I start to feel my world expanding again.


Page 68

On Page 68, I discover the reason why I didn’t develop that curiosity for playing music. Apparently, learning music by starting with the black dots on the page is the WRONG way to learn music.

There was a piano at my Gran’s house. I must have been old enough to count because Gran wrote numbers on the sheet music, and I would use these numbers to orientate my fingers on the keys.

I can read music now, without the numbers, slowly, but perhaps that is why I don’t see music when I look at those five parallel lines. I just see process.

I’ve been curious about process for as long as I can remember.


Page 151

This has been an insightful book. Now I also have an explanation for why I’ve never been a professional at anything except typing.

I type for a living. The steps are the same. Twenty-six letters in the alphabet always in the same spot. I don’t need to do scales or warm ups or spend hours and hours repeating the same piece.

The topics I type are wide ranging, and that’s significant.

In contrast, repetition is required master an instrument, a dance, or anything that requires memorisation. Not enough novelty.

It’s a comfort to finally understand. I feel less than whole but not inadequate.


A book is a comfort, a physical book, particularly one that is the right size for the moment.

After flitting and scrolling through my phone’s tiny screen, I can feel my eyes now resting upon a full page of text, resting gently, wandering past each word, drawing each word in to sit a while and ponder.


Reference: Whole Notes: Life Lessons Through Music by Ed Ayres, published by HarperCollinsPublishers in 2021.

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