Postcard from Switzerland

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Romainmotier, Improv #1

My friends had gone ahead and were sitting in the distant shadows, somewhere down this gently sloping main aisle, a path barely discernible to me as my eyes valiantly tried to adjust to the gloom. It was this central, downward slope that left a lingering impression perhaps even more than the incredible acoustics, as I found its incline pulled me inexorably from the world, drawing me down and away into the depths of time.

Having arrived late in the day as the afternoon light was fading, it turned out we had the place to ourselves, such a remarkable gift to find ourselves alone and undisturbed; after all, we weren’t sure if the 1,500 year old abbey would even be open when we set out by car a couple of hours earlier.

Tucked in a quiet vale of the Swiss countryside north of Lac Leman, Romainmotier is extraordinary in so many ways…and our Time Travel, as we later observed, was about to begin!

Entering the atmospheric abbey space, I was immediately enveloped by darkness, save the oddly comforting glow of the large stained glass window hovering before me and the steadfast presence of a single, unwavering candle in the middle-distance. The high, vaulted ceiling soared far above, to the point of invisibility.

I remained toward the back, deftly assembled my silver flute, and sounded some notes, tentatively at first, exploring the living echoes and history of the cavernous space. Reaching out with the sound of my flute, I awakened the centuries-old mystery of the place. At times I tried closing my eyes as I played; however even with eyes wide open I could see only dim shapes.. such a strange sensation!

Improvising as I peered into the inky depths, I allowed myself to be guided by sound alone like dancing with ones eyes closed as described in the movie Pina. A dialogue gently emerged with the overlapping notes, a conversation with the invisible generations who remained in the dark, pressing in and reverberating all about me, ineffably beyond the grasp of my physical senses.

Mystery and gloom prevailed.

As we drove away into the twilight, we were left in a profoundly contemplative state, long after getting busted by the nun who came to check on the place as we were hanging out, lost in our time travel reveries!

Here’s a quaint, pre-wikipedia link that describes Romainmotier and provides a little more background info.