Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Musical Philadelphia
Quakers never cared much for music, but the city has nonetheless musically flourished into international fame. At the same time, quarrels and internal battles have also been world class.

Quakers: The Society of Friends
According to an old Quaker joke, the Holy Trinity consists of the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Mississippi Carillons

{Mississippi River}
Mississippi River

The Mississippi River runs over a fifty-foot ledge in the city of Minneapolis, its waterfalls providing power to mill flour, but definitively ending northward navigation on the river. In the eddies and side streams around the rapids, great swarms of Canada geese paddle about, quacking, right in the center of the city. A church with a carillon of shiny bells stands on the bank above this scene, its many bells ringing at once in clashing sounds quite evocative of the gaggles of geese on the river below. Likely, the effect is intentional, although at first encounter it strikes many as dissonance. Acknowledged to be artistic, it is still not music. But others think it is.

At the far opposite end of the Mississippi, in New Orleans, jazz was born. A group of musicians plays together in an aimless way, until one soloist strikes up a melody, with variations. In time, another musician and then still another, take up the melody, playing different variations on different instruments. Sometimes the whole group joins together in a minor patch of a symphony. In time, one musician wanders off on another theme, or the whole group seems to agree on when to stop.

There's a small Quaker meeting in Minneapolis, but most of the Quakerdom branches off to the west of St. Louis up the Missouri River, or to the east of St. Louis up Ohio. There's less overt religious music in the Quaker meetings up Ohio, but there is some. Either way, there is usually a sense of timing and harmony in the verbal messages. Some congregations are like a Belgian carillon, interweaving themes as exquisitely as Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Others interact directly like a game of volleyball. Only a few seem to find pleasure in independent vocal ruminations resembling a jazz performance, and those are usually meetings too small to organize a carillon effect. Three hundred years ago, it was an important question for Quakers whether to worship together in a group. No minister, no ceremony, no sacred music; just sitting silently together in a gathered meeting. Naturally, the question arises, if you intend to sit quietly in a chair, why not do it at home, alone. Robert Barclay seems to have settled the issue; the purpose of a gathered meeting is to discover and maintain consensus. Robert Barclay had no thought of composing jazz music, and often it does not emerge. But sometimes, and in some places, that's what it resembles.

Originally published: Tuesday, October 21, 2008; most-recently modified: Friday, May 24, 2019

make the pick bigger so people can actually see it oh I almost forgot yall suck
Posted by: zaxs   |   Sep 11, 2018 10:32 PM
make the pick bigger so people can actually see it oh i almost forgot yall suck
Posted by: zaxs   |   Sep 11, 2018 10:32 PM