Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Rome Journal: The Sirens

Odysseus and Sirens (photograph: Jastrow 2006)
If you remember Odysseus has himself tied to the mast of his boat and tells his men to fill their ears with bees wax so he can hear what the Sirens are saying while avoiding their lure. In Rome there are always sirens of another kind whose pitch descends as the vehicles from which they emanate disappear into the distance. Is the Doppler Effect enhanced by antiquity? Then there's tintinnabulation. The classic ringing of bells at lunch time is like a vine of grapes that becomes more fulsome in Rome’s fertile archeological crescent. Sounds reverberate in Rome in a way that’s a function of the striations of civilization. Part of Fellini’s Roma (1972) was shot during a pause in the excavation of the Metro's A line to deal with a vein of archeological discoveries. Imagine the same terrain two millennium earlier when the sounds of ambulances, fire engines and police car were replaced with the roar of spectators watching gladiators locked in combat at the Colosseum. Bells from church spires would also be absent in the pre-Christian era. There have been many soundtracks accompanying the spectacle of the Eternal City depending on the era, but there's always a particular brand of silence only interrupted by the timeless honking of gulls that derives from the imminence of the past.

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