The Second Coming by Harry Anderson is a beautiful, inspiring depiction of the return of Christ in the Last Days. He is shown in strength and majesty with arms outstretched, and surrounded by concourses of beautiful maiden angels that are triumphantly heralding his return to Earth. This picture can be found in hundreds of thousands of meeting houses, church art packets, temples, and homes all around the world. And, one must certainly give credit to Mr. Harry Anderson, who rendered an awe-inspiring portrayal of the day that all Christians long for.
Most people would look at a painting like this and be inspired, and they should be inspired. It is a beautifully rendered image. However, if you are like me (which I hope is not the case), you start to note little details that ruin the picture for you. Well, I’ve pondered the matter quite a bit, and for those of you who have moved past the initial awe of this painting and are currently confounded by this painting, I have attempted to answer some of your questions, with some help from friends.
Who are the concourses surrounding Christ?Are they angels?
This is pre-resurrection, right? So I am guessing that these angels depicted are non-corporeal angels that will be selected to herald in Christ’s return. If this is the case, there probably is some sort of very challenging audition for those who will be selected for the ‘heralding in’. Sounding a trump without a physical body is likely a challenging feat. And they probably will have to be pretty stellar musicians. However, they’ve had billions and billions of years to practice, so they can’t be that bad. Maybe they have to audition for a panel that included King David, J.S. Bach, and Leonard Bernstein. Oh, and that Randy Jackson guy for comic relief.
Or they are angels that were never born, and specifically designated to herald in this great moment? Musicians on earth have always gotten the shaft.
Why do all of them look like teenage blonde women?
Good question. You know, maybe they aren’t women. Maybe gender is less pronounced in spirit form. Some look a little like Mia Maids, others look like Joni Mitchell clones.
What is Christ riding on?
They appear to be clouds. My extensive cloud knowledge tells me that these are cumulus (or very possibly cumulus congestus) cloud formations. They are low-medium level clouds, so Christ would likely be somewhere around 2000 metres in altitude at the time of the picture. We know that Christ can walk on water and can control the waters, so it is not an absurd notion that he could stand on and command cloud formations, which are just clusters of water droplets. However, I have not ruled out the Dragonball Z Hypothesis, in which a cloud formation becomes a solid object, depicted graphically in the picture below.
How far back do the angelic concourses go?
We know that Heaven is not anywhere in the atmosphere, so this angelic glory train would have to be traveling through some sort of trans-dimensional portal/wormhole, in which case we can’t be sure of a length, or would have to be a cloud-based spacecraft. I tend towards the first. Judging by the picture, I would estimate the angelic train to be about 1 or 2 kilometers.
What instrument are they playing?
Although it could very well be some angelic form of the Vuvuzela, The Herald Trumpet is my best guess for the instruments in use in this picture. Some have valves and can produce a variety of pitches. These appear to have no valves, and they are therefore limited in pitch. Which means, if the angels are skilled players, they could probably produce a handful of notes. Sort of like this video here.
What song are they playing?
Either ‘The Spirit of God’ or ‘Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)’ by Bill Conti. You’re just going to have to wait and find out!
What kind of sound would this angelic concourse produce?
In order to really get an idea of how this cluster of noise would sound, we have to do a quick review of the Doppler Effect. From HyperPhysics at Georgia State University:
“When a vehicle with a siren passes you, a noticeable drop in the pitch of the sound of the siren will be observed as the vehicle passes. This is an example of the Doppler effect. An approaching source moves closer during period of the sound wave so the effective wavelength is shortened, giving a higher pitch since the velocity of the wave is unchanged. Similarly the pitch of a receding sound source will be lowered. “
So, we know these angels are trumpeting away at full volumes. There are a few possibilities: 1.)They could either be creating a random set of pitches, or 2.) playing in unison. We are making the assumption that they are bodiless angels, so their concept of timing may be perfected, but if they are coming into our physical plane and abiding by our laws, there would most definitely be a noticeable sonic drag from the front of the group to the back.
If my estimation is correct, those who were present for Christ’s descent would hear the Doppler effect in play. Lets assume they are all attempting to play similar notes. Think about how that would sound to someone on the ground! If they are able to match pitches, it would still sound like an air raid siren, a la the intro of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, which would just be too ironic.
However, if the angels don’t match pitch, the resulting sound would probably be sonically similar to:
- A swarm of gigantic mutant bees flying through an empty metal silo
- A fleet of a thousand ambulances falling off a cliff
- A Flaming Lips concert
Wow, that sounds intense. How can I prepare myself musically for the Second Coming?
If all my assumptions are correct, and the artists depiction is somewhat accurate, the descent will definitely be absolutely great and terrifying. If you want to prepare yourself for it, listen to some atonal contemporary experimental composers like Schoenberg and Charles Ives. That way you can both be accustomed to the cacophony of sound, and pass off as an insufferable, pretentious music snob too.