Now that I’m temping — and a great thanks to ChaliceChick for her kind and thoughtful gift; I may have more to say about that later — I have a solid fifteen minutes on the subway, plus another half hour walking to and fro’ the stations. I rely on my MP3 player to use the time well: podcasts and music.
When I’m feeling low, need to measure about fifteen minutes without a watch or want to replace a worship service (like a chalky canned drink replaces a meal) I listen to one of my favorite works of music, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture. (Opus 36) According to the overture’s Wikipedia article, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote of the work in his autobiography, “he is eager to reproduce”
the legendary and heathen aspect of the holiday, and the transition from the solemnity and mystery of the evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious celebrations of Easter Sunday morning.
I’ll buy that. The climax, about eleven minutes into the work, is a sudden, stirring, horn-filled announcement that Christ has just now returned in glory. I imagine that one the Last Day this will be the opening theme to Nightly News with Our Lord and Savior, Son of God, The First-fruits of Them that Sleep, and Judge of the Quick and the Dead.Â
Here’s the funny thing. I was first exposed to a fragment of the Overture on the soundtrack of the 1980 television series, Cosmos co-written and hosted by Carl Sagan, well known for his principled skepticism. I must have watched it several times and had the book and LP.
I respected and do respect Sagan for the clear way he expresses the wonder of natural phenomena, the scientific method, a fluent imagination and reasoned discourse. There’s something tender, quirky, humble and inviting about him (in his public life anyway) that I was drawn to, and I miss his presence. So, yeah, I think about the scientist too when I hear those horns.