Voices: Like a Thelonious Monk, I Travel in Peace

by Ryan Morris '08

December 13, 2007

The afternoons in Arles are sunny, humid, and hot. The cool breezes have passed and you awake tangled in the moisture of the warm, moist air and creamy skies?of this Provencal city.

Last week, we celebrated the Fete de la Musique (National Music Festival). The festival began at noon, and the streets were immediately closed. EVERYONE took part in this festival. Strolling up and down the steep avenues, we encountered rock bands, acoustic guitarists, and musicians from all over the world. There was also a group of French autistic children, who had formed a band of drummers. They walked up and down the streets of Arles with gentle smiles as they blessed us with their own awe-inspiring arrangements of Brazilian samba and percussion.

As the sun began to set, we walked along the river and encountered a Moroccan restaurant. Approaching the doors, we were immersed in the veil of spicy aromas, marinated meats, incense, and the smell of fresh bread. We all sat down, and slowly enjoyed the texture and beauty of Moroccan wine, bread, and the rich tastes of North African tajine and pastilla.

As the sun disappeared beneath the Rhone, a group of French rastafarians laid beautiful rugs on the floor, and began to play their instruments, which appeared to be homemade. The sounds of the African drums echoed off of the walls surrounding the river, and the sounds of the soft flute serenaded the steam that rose from our exotic and inviting cuisine.

Later, as we walked around the city, we encountered a band from the Comoros Islands (East Africa, Indian Ocean next to Mozambique) playing in a narrow alley. I’ve never seen so many people appear to be so free and liberated. People of all races attempted to imitate the musicians on stage, with eyes closed and gigantic smiles. Naturally, we joined in…

Ryan Morris ’08 studied in Arles, France, last summer as winner of the first scholarship from the Kenneth Rhys Rudolph Memorial Fund for European Summer Study Abroad. The Fund memorializes Ken Rudolph ’05, religion major and editor of the student conservative journal, The Wabash Commentary, who enriched his own education studying abroad during the summer of his junior year.


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