In St. Plechelmus Basilica in the old Hanseatic city of Oldenzaal under the aspectless autumn sky there was a Gregorian chant concert. Four choral groups under the 12th century round Romanesque arches taking turns in the ancient plainchant of darker ages. Smoothed wooden benches infused with years of incense from waving brass thuribles and the stations of the cross. We sat next to Jesus’ second fall. The greysmooth stones radiated cold, a religious cellar, with high-up lights only dimly penetrating the density and in corners here and there reliquaries of old st. bones shone like campfires. We entered and left quickly as we could find no bathroom for Amber’s punching-bag bladder. We returned from a nearby snackshop and sat behind a massive pillar unable to see the source of chants that seemed anyway to not have a source but rather to be like the hum of wings surrounding.
Dark earth, cold soil, a subterranean pull, the monophone notes of a language scraped to its bones. Old Latin, the tongue of bearded father gods now sung in baritone ohms and oooms, a worship above nodding gray heads soon to be bones. Domini….audi nos. Heer onze God…The carnival lights one town over now a world away. Places for the sacred and profane, how we truck nimbly from each to each. Remembrances of gray snow Minnesota the sirens of Canadian geese gleaning whiteyellow fields of corn stubble. Old monks in brown robes working out the human condition with pitiful, raw hands.
At one point a solo-voice spiraled upward, audible incense, faintly Arabic, a scimitar thrust into gray clouds. We are essentially religious animals...that thought lasting only as long as the chant. It is too much energy, after all, to be forever enthralled.
And then the massive organ from high and behind begassing deranged mineral tonics, buzzing from squint-lipped pipes, crawling with buzzylegs across the stonegray stones. Nearly non-musical in its reverberations. The church, a pair of fossil lungs breathing an objectless regret, a nostalgia, a sorrow for murdered gods. A pair of fossil lungs heaving under a stony chest (the pigeons outside must have taken flight) now the epicenter of every deed. Every thought in a single tone. Where did it all go wrong?