Monday, November 08, 2004


My passions are the window to my soul. Among these are archaeology, history, comparitive religion, ancient cultures, antiquities and the classical arts. Music, sculpture and painting.

If granted a wish from the Genie it would not be for money, fame, or immortality. No, it would be to travel back in time for a few brief minutes look at some of the places, people and times that most fascinate me. Ancient Rome, 19th Century London, Feudal Japan, The Ancient Holy Land.
Now, I'm not expecting a genie any time soon, so I am left to other devices for time travel.

On Sunday afternoon I went to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (something I do once per month) up the road from my apartment in the now thoroughly isolated, despondent and no longer loved by all Americans city of New York.

I went to see the Dresden Philharmonic play an all Brahms set. On my way there I thought about how the spirit and reality of The Phoenix is always around us and how important it is. Dresden, once of old Europe's most beautiful, cultured, and historic cities was utterly flattened by Allied bombing in WWII (largely in retribution for the Blitz of London). And from those ashes sprang to life once again, the beauty, the art and the best of human nature in the form of a Symphony Orchestra.

What does any of this have to do with time travel you may be wondering? Simply this.

Using my imagination and my ability to quiet my mind and close it to everything while sitting in that concert hall, I was able to travel back to 1875.

Live classical music allows time travel. Every note and movement is played as it was written and performed 125 years ago. The musicians are all wearing black and white, the conductors baton the same, the music the same. No light show, no amplification, no dancing or tc monitors and video screens. As I closed my eyes I was in Vienna 1875.

One fascinating feature of a classical concert is that when the music stops between movements, there is no applause, only the sound of 2,000 people coughing. On cue, every time. Music, pause, 2,000 coughs, music. As if after the movement everything that the enormity of the music surpressed in everyone come bolting out from the back of the collective throat.

As I traveled back in time to the genius of Brahms and the accompanying cacophony of coughs, I felt myself falling into a sort of a fit. As I fell into a trance and
the music entered my soul and washed all of the nerve endings in my brain, I became unable to speak, or think clearly and was momentarily overcome.

I knew the symptoms as I had them before. It seemed like a mild but not complete case of Stendhal Syndrome.

Stendhal syndrome (sten.DAWLZ sin.drum, -drohm) n. Dizziness, panic, paranoia, or madness caused by viewing certain artistic or historical artifacts or by trying to see too many such artifacts in too short a time. Also: Stendhal syndrome.

In Tuscany they have a term for it. They call it "Stendhal's syndrome" because the 19th-century French novelist is said to have been the first to write about the dizzying disorientation some tourists experience when they encounter masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

I do know for sure that all my my passions gel into one glorious feeling of euphoria when I do these trips. Art, architecture, antiquities, archaelolgy, music, history all become one and for a brief period, I am allowed to travel back in time. No Genie needed.

I am heading to Italy on November 18. I am going to Rome, Florence, Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum. I know for sure I will be traveling back in time, I know there will be many coughs. I wonder though, will I be overcome by an full frontal case of Stendhal Syndrome?