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Friday, March 05, 2010

For Whom the Knell Tolled

Please listen to the audio while you read this ...


I recall being in a tiny village one morning in France and seeing the most extraordinary thing - an old man hanging a huge basket of flowers in the town center. Nothing about the deliberate act seemed practical at all. It looked like a lot of work, the kind of beautification effort rarely seen in New York City.
In other medieval villages, there were old men playing boule and chatting. There were markets. And if I was lucky, there were church bells. There is nothing more evocative than being in a small town and hearing the peal of church bells. I am happy that I am not a devout atheist - it would be much more difficult to appreciate the great churches and temples of the world.

I met author Terry Miller once, at a signing for the release of his book Greenwich Village And How It Got That Way. In speaking to him, I made a remark regarding the over-commercialization of many areas of Greenwich Village. He was quite quick to retort, "Where else are you going to live - Europe?"

I have reflected on this for years. I don't dislike the United States - as I have met people from other countries over the years, I have gotten to appreciate this country more. But I do love Europe. And I do believe Greenwich Village has the closest thing in the United States to the ambiance of the older neighborhoods of cities and towns of Europe - the food, arts, culture, street life and architecture, with its hundreds of 19th century row houses.

As I walked through the South Village along Thompson Street recently, I heard the ringing of church bells coming from St. Anthony's Church (officially the Church of St. Anthony of Padua), which runs from Sullivan to Thompson Street along Houston Street. I ran hurriedly to record it, expecting only to get a few final rings for the 11th hour. The ringing, however, continued for quite some time. I discovered that there was a funeral being held, explaining the long ringing. I can not tell you for whom the death knell tolled, but it called to me and I went...

Photo Note: The tall slim tower in the left photo is the bell tower.

10 comments:

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René said...

Back when I was a kid in France, we used to rely on those church bells to give us the time of day whenever we were out fishing, swimming or roaming the countryside for whatever reason.

Annie said...

that was what I was wondering..was it just peeling the time of day?

And what happened to all the general hubbub of NY..traffic, sirens etc etc? Or isn't there any in Greenwich Village?

;-)

An Honest Man said...

Excellent misquote, pictures, audio and comment.

I love Italy, but Scotland is home for me.

Brian Dubé said...

René - sounds wonderful. I bet you would love it more now than then :)

Annie - It was about 11AM on a weekday. There was plenty of street noise - I tried to shied and direct my recorder as much as possible and I had to cut some of the audio recording to eliminate it. And you can still hear ambient sounds besides the bells if you listen closely.

An Honest Man - I have only been to Northern England and the many small villages there. You get no debate from me. It's amazing.

Macaulay Ayobami said...

Im sorry. i just keep admiring photography from other countries. they just seem so full of culture.
what do you think about photography from Nigeria?

hope n laughter said...

I even though I'm a city girl myself I do so appreciate small town ambiance. Especially one with ringing church bells, there is just something about ringing church bells that attract me.

llum said...

I live in Catalunya, Spain. There is a country full of churchs of all sizes and they have bells, but there are in danger of dissapear because there no more mans who play them. They die or stops working because they are very old. But I know there's a lot of young people who enjoy playing bells. I made a little video of this group in Cervera , Catalunya, Spain. If you want to see it , please go to:
http://mainoestard.blogspot.com/2010/03/el-llenguatge-de-les-campanes.html#links
Enjoy the sound of midleage bells ( there's one very heavy, lot of people for to play this one)
Thank you very much.
Greeting from Barcelona.

NYC Fan said...

We really enjoy visiting NYC on weekend trips. Do you take all the photos yourself or do people submit them to you? Going through the archives here is a good way to get ideas of what to see and where to go in NY City. Thanks for the entertainment.

JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome said...

That is a pretty striking photo. It really resonates with me. Bell towers ring so true.

Ok enough puns - great site you have here. Thanks so much for the entertainment.