Time Traveling Through Music

Most people at one time or other have imagined themselves time traveling in a telephone booth or bath tub. Let’s face it, real life technology hasn’t caught up with Sci-Fi movies yet but……… Music can take us on partial trips.

Let me explain. You hear a song and it might take you back to the darkest time in your life when your first true love dumped you. You might hate that song now but you still get that feeling of pain you have successfully repressed in the archive of your brain but never completely deleted. Another song could remind you of that moment when the guy or girl of your dreams waltzed into your life and is still your better half today. Of course this is time travel based on your own past personal experiences. You have gone back in time internally in your mind.

There are existing venues where it feels like you enter a time warp, regardless of your own memories.

The first example is those renaissance fairs. Everyone is dressed in authentic attire including knights in full armor, kings and queens in crowns and appropriate period garments, not to mention the juggling court jesters that look like they might have modeled for the jokers in our modern day deck of cards, and oh yes, the food and the honey mead alcoholic beverages, plus the jousters, tho’ they don’t knock each other off their horses. The thirteenth century structures almost complete the scene.

With all that in place, if you entered the grounds, you would quickly realize something was missing. The very thing that pulls all the elements together is the strolling troubadours playing their string lyres, lutes, and flutes that truly brings it to life. It’s the music that permeates the air that sets the mood for everything else.

I’ll just briefly mention a 19th century seaport museum village in Portsmouth, New Hampshire called Strawbery Banke at which a friend and I played a “fife and drum” duo dressed in full garb from tri-corn hats to straight last, buckle shoes. Again we brought it to life and when we would take a break, the silence was deafening. Our absence could be felt through out the area.

The real modern day time machines are cathedrals found throughout the world. The ninety foot high stone walls create a resonance for the pipe organs, the vocal choirs, and even the sound of a single voice of a priest giving his sermon to two or three hundred parishioners. Add the incense and we are well on our way. All this is not an attempt to recreate the past,….. just continue the tradition from centuries ago.

A Few years ago I performed some J. S. Bach pieces on flute accompanied by a pipe organ for an Easter service in one such church. It was then that I realized that we were hearing, seeing, and smelling the exact things that people experienced four hundred years earlier during Bach’s time, the Baroque period. I, for one, felt the effect of time travel. Bingo! …… Our church was a time machine.

In another instance, I was visiting Florence Italy. There we were sitting in one of those many European ninety foot high cathedrals. I looked around and only saw about a hundred people on that Easter Sunday. The choir was singing Gregorian chants followed by a priest giving mass. As I sat there, I wondered if he realized the significance of his role in the Italian culture and history. Bishops, cardinals, and maybe even a pope or two stood in that exact spot and said Mass. I also contemplated if that hundred people felt everything maybe a thousand people experienced previously in early history, or were they just sitting there fulfilling their Easter obligations. I was soaking it all in. The music definitively completed the connection.

Next time you are in church, stop, focus on where you are, close your eyes, let the music transport you, and feel what others felt centuries ago. You might get what I am talking about. Happy time traveling.