A clash of cultures: monks on MSNBC

October 18, 2012

A few of the Benedictine monks from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert were on an MSNBC programme called The Today Show, and, appropriately enough, I believe they were on today.

I actually recognize a few of the monks from a retreat I took at their monastery several years ago. It is a wonderful place, hidden deep in the New Mexico desert, surrounded by awe-inspiring red cliffs. At night the darkness and the silence are profound. The doors of the guests’ cells open separately on the top and bottom, so that the top can be opened to permit a breeze while the bottom is closed to prevent snakes from making an unwelcome visit. The monks I met there remain close to my heart, though I’ve not spoken to any of them for years. I would love to go back someday.

They were on The Today Show┬áto sing some chant: Alleluia, Iustus Germinabit, to be specific. I cannot figure out how to embed the clip of their singing, so you’ll have to go here.

They sing well, and I love them for it, but it is obvious that this music does not belong in this context. The contrast between the solemnity and dignity of the music and the amazing ditziness of the hosts is jarring. The music is meant to resound through a large space; here each of the voices is miked separately, and in consequence the engineers have had to apply some annoying processing to blend the voices. I hope these brothers have a good trip home, where they can once again sing this beautiful music in a place, and for a purpose, for which it is intended.

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2 Responses to “A clash of cultures: monks on MSNBC”


  1. “amazing ditziness” is a good description of those newsy-talky shows (not to mention 90% of what’s on tv). I suppose the brothers were thinking that this would be good exposure for their music, but I suspect those efforts don’t really come to much. As you say, it’s just too out of place and just becomes one more bit of ditzy trivia.

  2. cburrell Says:

    On one hand I am inclined to say that this music, and the way of life to which it is allied, should get an airing anywhere and everywhere possible. Salt and light, and so on. On the other hand, cases like this come perilously close to casting pearls before swine.


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