MP3 player moment: a free-thinker who helps my Christian faith

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. 

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.

4 Replies to “MP3 player moment: a free-thinker who helps my Christian faith”

  1. Love that Russian Easter Festival Overture! I also two thirty-minute commutes each day, and tend to alternate between podcasts (NPR’s “On Point” program and Slate’s “Daily Podcast” most often), pop music, and, when I need a commuter’s retreat, a recording from Taize. I haven’t found a way to listen to classical music on a subway yet. Do you have good earphones?

  2. I have Hubby’s iPod earbuds; he got himself proper headphones, but I try not to keep the volume too loud or the outside world too blocked out. And iPod earbuds will become the new emblem of the officeproletariat, so I might well have them.

    On my SanDisk digital audio player — which has a voice recorder, FM radio and works well with Linux, though I understand there’s an iPod interface now — I have a lot more pop, too. Between the Morrissey, Erasure, Carpenters, B-52s, R.E.M. and the later Olivia Newton-John corpus. . . well, anyone who found my MP3 player would know I’m a gay Georgian 30-something.

    But I tend to drop in incidental music from television or film, when I can find it. Somehow, it makes the world seem like one big sit-com or suspense thriller or sci-fi action adventure. Bernard Herrmann is especially good, but right now I have a lot of MP3s from Space: 1999. It’s the only sci-fi program I know that made extensive use of subways (or people-movers, properly speaking) and that just seems so right on the Blue Line.

    As for classical music, I don’t listen to much anyway, but apart from the Rimsky-Korsakov, I find Holst’s more robust Planets (Mars and Jupiter) do well in transit.

  3. Scott,

    Yes. Gustav Holst’s the Planets, particularly Jupiter. Last time I heard this during a commute, however, I hit someone’s rear bumper at the bottom of an exit ramp. Ever since I’ve reserved this as an intro for my astronomy lecture on… you guessed it. Jupiter. (Thanks Carl S. wherever you are!)

  4. No! Please no MP3-ing for drivers! I have a hard enough time playing dodge-car, especially with out-of-DC maniacs who want to see if a SUV can fly . . . .

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