Marching Music

posted Feb 20, 2010, 8:52 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Feb 20, 2010, 9:11 AM ]
As we hiking through Henry Coe State Park last weekend,  I found myself humming Chopin's Funeral March as I trudged up the long, steep hills on the last day.  Admittedly, I was humming it a bit faster than the usual tempo, but still...A funeral march?    When I mentioned this to M, she shared her own song of the day--The Star Spangled Banner.  hmmmm.  Must be an Olympic thing.  It still seemed a better choice, but you can't always pick your tune!
At some point on every hike, I find myself marching to a tune in my head.  With luck, it's something I really like, and it can really shorten the day's hike if it is.  But M is more likely to find herself droning on to a song she actively dislikes, but unable to get the tune out of her head.  Poor M.  Her worst fear is a day full of bubble-gum pop music in the High SIerra..
I was trained as a classical musician, so I take this stuff pretty seriously.  In fact, I've been known to pre-select a tune for my hiking pleasure, just to make sure that I like what I'm hearing.  Think this is crazy?  The next time you get a song stuck in your head, stop the music.  Literally.  Stop thinking about that song, and insert another one, one that you like a lot more, in its place.  It works, but you have to pay attention!
Speaking of paying attention, I have even focused on a piece of music I am trying to learn, making sure I am getting the timing just right.  There is something about putting one foot in front of the other that really drives home the downbeat. And all those little grace notes and syncopated accents fall into place very clearly when you have to hit the next downbeat with your right foot!
(If you want a real challenge, forgo the typical 4/4 beat of the march, and tackle a piece in 3/4, 6/4 or 6/8 time.  That means that you wil be alternating the downbeat between right a left feet as you walk.  Don't try this while you are chewing gum!)  This has the added advantage of getting you to waltz up the Mist Trail with a pack on your back...something the other hikers will have never seen before, and will certainly share with their grandchildren!
So who needs an i-pod?  We carry this music right in our heads--and we can adjust not only the volume but even the rhythm of the song to match the pace we need:  slower inthe uphill sections, faster once we hit the open plains. 
From the Halls of Montezuma to I took my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, marching tunes are a part of our hikes every year. 
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda... go ahead.  Try to get that one out of your head!