In the midst of life …

Mount Merapi, November 1, 2010, from NASA's Terra satellite

The Mountain of Fire (Merapi in Central Java, Indonesia) is an active volcano that frequently erupts and just as frequently kills many who live in the paths of its pyroclastic flows. But tens of thousands keep coming back because the lava enriches the soil with potassium and calcium. The gamble is to exploit the rich farming and hope to get out of the way of the next flow. On October 26 it erupted again, killing 44 and displacing 75,000. But they will be back; the gamble is at the heart of the human condition.

One of part of the requiem of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer says: “In the midst of life, we are in death.” Henry Purcell set all the funeral sentences to music for the funeral of Mary II. The music applies as poignantly to those Indonesians who starkly point out our lot. This is the brass canzona that went with those funeral sentences (Z.  860 (1695)), performed by the Baroque Brass of London:

Further information on the photo can be found on NASA’s Earth Observatory site.

A painfully stark and stunningly gorgeous setting of Purcell’s funeral sentences is performed by the Clare College singers of Cambridge:

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