What's Wrong With This Picture?

“Listen” to the pictures by clicking on the arrows below them

Some years ago I was digging around at a local flea market in southern Austria, and happened to come across a postcard of Iasi, Romania created around the beginning of the 20th Century. I bought the postcard and kept it in a notebook at home, sometimes looking at it and thinking that this was the Iasi that Goldfaden lived and worked in when so many Jewish artists were gathering to take part in his daily productions of Yiddish theater. This was also the same Iasi that housed so many klezmorim in the late 19th century that they had their own synagogue on Pantilemon Street, not far from the square that was pictured on my postcard.

    Well, when I last went to Romania, I decided for some odd reason to take that postcard with me. Since many of the early European 78 discs were recorded in hotels, when I looked at that postcard I sometimes imagined klezmorim recording at that particular hotel. I figured if it was important enough to make a postcard from, maybe this was where some musicians gathered to make klezmer 78s. I actually had no idea that I would be staying at the same hotel at some point and didn't even realize it until it fell out of my backpack when I opened it and saw the name of the hotel. It was like the purloined letter, which you don't see anymore because it's too obvious; besides, I had already decided not to stay there any longer than necessary - there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms, the plumbing didn't work and the sheets had grease stains on them. I could hear a Securitat (Romania's not-so-secret police) screaming at a prostitute in the room across from mine with the door open and her on the floor in her underwear.

When I walked out of the hotel to get a beer across the street, I compared the postcard with the actual square and was amazed that it was exactly the same place. I ran back and yanked my camera out of my backpack, went out into the street and spent a fair amount of time trying to find the exact position where the photographer almost 100 years before me stood to take this picture:

    I did get a picture and was able to match up the two so that you can see exactly how that square and that hotel have changed since the first photo was taken:

But there was more to just taking that picture than just the fun of the exercise: There is an implicit analogy to the world of sound there. If you heard the music of the cafe across the street from the Hotel Continental 100 years ago, and compared it to the music you hear there today, you can hear the same changes that you can see in the picture. You could build a strong case proving that what this century has gained in technology it has lost in decoration, but that’s beside the point. If you look closely enough, you could probably detect a lot of subtlety in the modern changes, though you do have to look harder. The craftsmanship of the old square is self-evident. The craftsmanship of the new square in hidden. Take a look for yourselves and play the game of "what's wrong with this picture"...and add the soundtrack when you do....