Harmony and discord

30 March 2011 § 10 Comments

News of the world

Eight voices
Reaching across five centuries;
An old motet,
Its golden notes as rich and clear
As honey in the comb,
Pouring from my radio
Over the kitchen counter
And the breakfast bowls;
Eight parts intertwining, rising
Bass to treble,
Earth to heaven:
Nesciens mater virgo virum
A purity unstained by pride,
A verity undimmed by time,
Whatever you believe.

Eight a.m.
Six pips count the seconds down
And my own century smashes in
With yet more news of war and cuts,
Protestors, rebels, innocents
Lands torn up by natural forces
Ideology and isotopes.
And Mouton’s melodies are blown away
Like dandelion seeds.
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis.

Like Charles, I’ve despaired of the news, which is why I’ve finally kicked the Radio 4 habit (and as any regular listener will tell you, that’s like converting to a different religion) and transferred my allegiance from The Today Programme to highbrow music station Radio 3 when I’m unloading the dishwasher and preparing breakfast. Even here, though, the BBC insists on providing an hourly news update, and this morning, I just wasn’t quick enough with the ‘off’ button.

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§ 10 Responses to Harmony and discord

  • slpmartin says:

    Ah…you just reminded me of Gregorian chants which always settles my mind…an excellent replacement for the evening news….loved the poem!

  • gonecycling says:

    Well, it was largely your post of a couple of days ago (Sorry The TV’s Off) that inspired me, so thank you! And I agree; Gregorian chant is far better for the soul than the news. I can also thoroughly recommend the motet (Nesciens Mater, by Mouton) I referred to in the poem, if you like your Renaissance music.

  • belfastdavid says:

    Ah Nick I lived without a television for a lot of years although I recently got one but only to watch football!!
    My weakness is a daily newspaper and I can choose which articles I want to read. Certainly I shout at it much less often than I used to do at the television!!!
    I have just been watching swallows outside my window as they go about their evening meal – why would I want to watch the television? 🙂

  • gonecycling says:

    I hardly watch television at all these days; I’ve never had a daily paper. Now that even Radio 4 annoys me beyond endurance, my media blackout is virtually complete – and I don’t feel the lack at all. When we go camping in France each summer, TV is the first thing I don’t miss, if you see what I mean! Many thanks for your comment, as always.

  • Brendan says:

    Your lucky you can still get classical programming on the radio. Our local National Public Radio affiliate went all-news, all-talk a few years ago, removing all trace of classical music on the airwaves. Your description of the motet is so fine — arch and aching, that sound of voices resounding off hallowed. And the contrast of that with the breaking sounds of the day was perfect, if terrible. Sympathies. Pretty noisy over in England these days, isn’t it? If our middle class loses much more (and they will), the rabble in Wisconsin will spread around the country. Our house has lost half its value in two years during the real estate recession. We’re not going anywhere for a long time. (Unless I lose my job, and then we’re headed nowhere …) Good thing I love our garden! — Brendan

  • gonecycling says:

    ‘Noisy’ is the right word, Brendan. A quarter of a million people took the streets of London at the weekend to protest against the government’s cuts. Then again, more than three times that number marched against the Iraq War in 2003, and look how much difference THAT made. After 12 years as a freelance, I’m used to things being kinda precarious, but the last 18 months/two years have been plain scary. Still, as the old saying goes: I started out with nothing, and I’ve still got almost all of it left. And I’d sooner live frugally on my wits, and stay true to my family/dog walking/bicycling/flute playing/writing etc than put on a suit and tie five days a week to get a pay cheque. Bad news re your local NPR; the Govt announced cuts runnign into hundreds of millions to arts funding today, so how long we’ll still have Radio 3 and its ilk is anyone’s guess. Can you get Radio 3 over the internet in US?

  • Ina says:

    Hi Nick,
    Good one on radio! I never listen but I do watch news and somehow it is awfull to just be a witness. At least we can’t say in future that we didn’t know what was going on, but sometimes I think: please can I have a coffee before…

  • gonecycling says:

    Thank you, Ina – coffee before, and something stronger after!

  • Narnie says:

    I have to admit, I lap up the news like it’s cream. I can’t help it. I watch Question Time, This Week, the 6 o’clock, the 10 o’clock and I have been known to scream and rant at the television when they are showing ppc speeches… and I don’t even know why. I am still narked about the way the battle of the beanfield was censored by the Tory government (I was very close to that story) and it made my political/media awareness almost an obsession. There is one thing that makes me stand up and turn it off – be it radio or tv… the royal wedding. It actually makes me feel nauseous just thinking about all the bile we’re going to have to endure over it. Sorry – digressing… the poem is genius. The pips over breakfast actually set up a visionary illusion of apple pips disappearing, blip blip, as I read the words. Seriously, the whole freshness of the lines and then this seeping in of the news irking you was extremely well done.

    • gonecycling says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Kiersty – just what I needed to brighten up my Monday morning! I absolutely agree about the royal wedding; makes my teeth itch just typing it. The media blackout will continue until the end of the month at least..!

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