Stanford X-Rays Bring a 200-Year-Old Opera Back to Life
“When, 216 years ago, someone mysteriously blacked out pages from the French opera Médée with charcoal, the music was lost to history. Now, scientists at Stanford University’s National Accelerator Laboratory have brought those long-lost notes back to life.”
If crooks are in charge, should we let them pick our pockets? If we don’t want trouble, should we not try to stop it? We could just sink into the quicksand slavery we’re born in But fighting endless wars for greedy liars is getting pretty boring They think they got us trained, so we’ll think we’re living free If we got time and money for junk food and TV But it’s plain honest people never stand a chance of winning elections They just let us pick which liars take our rights away for our own protection
The corporate propaganda paralyzes us with fear Destroying our ability to trust Fear keeps us fighting with each other over scraps Starving to death in the dust Organized religion really helps you submit But the meek are inheriting the short end of the stick Think twice (think twice) we’re awaking from the dream Think twice (think twice) we don’t like what we see
Fear surrounds compassion like a layer of mold And weakens our defenses so we’re too weak to be bold Life could be heaven, but this corrupted system Takes away our rights, expects us not to miss them The middle class is shrinking while the lower class grows If we don’t wake up soon, we’ll have no class left to lose But at least we’re getting by, and there’s heaven when we die It’s hard for honest people to recognize a lie
It’s an American dream, there’s no pie in the sky We’re running out of credit, we can’t afford to buy it If it weren’t so sad, it’d be a goddamn riot
Think twice, the change that we need can be found Think twice, just don’t expect to get it handed down Think twice, right now it’s up to you and me Our hearts guide our minds to make greed obsolete Don’t run in circles all your life just hoping To grab a horse on a debt carousel
The curving flourishes of music notation have always been something a mystery to me, although every day I, like many people, use other arcane symbols without thinking twice about it. The at (@) sign, the dollar sign ($) and the ampersand (&), for example, all function like ligatures or some sort of shorthand. They’ve been demystified by popular use in email, clues on “Wheel of Fortune,” and their inclusion on computer keyboards. But music notation is a semantic system that is entirely different from the written word; a non-spoken alphabet of pitch and rhythm. So, with apologies to the more musically inclined reader, I looked into the origin of the treble clef and the answer was quite simple. The treble clef, the top symbol you see in the photo above, is also known as the G-clef, which gives you the first clue to its origin.
So for my own edification, if nothing else, let’s start with the basics. A clef is a sign placed on a music staff that indicates what pitch is represented by each line and space on the staff. The history of Western musical notation describes an effort toward the development a simple, symbolic representations of pitch and rhythm. It begins near the end of the 9th century when notation for the Plainsong of the Western Church, better known as Gregorian Chant, was first recorded with “neumes”. These were simple dashes or dots above lyrics that indicated a relative change in pitch. At the end of the 10th century, musical scribes increased the precision of his early notation by introducing a horizontal line to indicate a base pitch (see above image). The pitch of this line was indicated by a letter at its start – typically F or C and, as higher range songs become more common, G. Neumes were no longer relative only to one another, but to a standard. This was the beginning of the musical staff.
Mozart, Il re pastore (1775), Act I, No. 7 Duet: “Vanne a regnar ben mio”
Elisa - Eva Mei Aminta - Ann Murray
Concentus Musicus Wien • Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1996)
ELISA Vanne a regnar ben mio, Ma fido a chi t’adora Serba se puoi quel cor. AMINTA Se ho da regnar ben mio, Sarò sul trono ancora Il fido tuo pastor. ELISA Ah che il mio re tu sei! AMINTA Ah che crudel timor! ELISA/AMINTA Ah proteggete o Dei, Questo innocente amor.