Wednesday, June 15, 2005


God likes me. I was wandering aimlessly through the streets of Manhattan, feeling like a kid in a candy shop every time I saw another breathtaking, neo-gothic cathedral. Did I mention that I love cathedrals? The first one I wandered into was St. Bart's (Romanesque, not neo-gothic) on Park Avenue. With holy apprehension, I shuffled into the nave and found a seat on the left side about ten rows from the front. Sitting there, enjoying the visual beauty, I was suddenly struck by a bolt of sound coming from the massive pipe organ. Mussorgsky. I never imagined this piece arranged for organ. Pictures at an Exhibition. The organist was apparently rehearsing -- but only the last two themes: The Hut on Hen's Legs (Baba Yaga), and The Great Gate of Kiev. Unimaginably powerful.

I sat there enthralled and enchanted, closing my eyes and imagining the images that inspired such music. Then my cell phone rang. Damn! I forgot to turn the stupid thing off. As if trying to answer the organ's challenge, my little phone chimed its own version Mussorgsky's theme. Yes, my ring tone is also Pictures at an Exhibition.

The strange juxtaposition of the colossal organ and the pitiful electro-muzak of my phone stirred something in my mind. Is it some kind of illustration of a cultural truism? What does it say about us as Americans and how we view music or technology?

What do you think?


Anonymous abe said...

i had a similar experience when visiting calvin's old church in geneva. not the cellphone ring, thankfully, but just stumbling in and hearing something that left me speechless. they don't make em like they used to.

1:03 PM  
Blogger chris said...

I realized as I looked at the photo, that there is a juxtaposition between the cathedral and the surrounding city-scape as well. Hmmm.

9:39 PM  

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