Monday, March 12, 2018

Manic Mondays: Lost Media


When the Library of Alexandria burned down, we lost so. God. Damn. Much. Information. Who knows what kind of secrets are gone forever, or what kind of steps forward were immeasurably delayed because of that lost info.

If you're like me, that kind of thing gives you hives. But I recently had a new hive-inducing realization thrust upon me. I was looking into music that, at one time or another, was considered nigh-impossible, or even entirely impossible, to play. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was actually considered an impossible piece when it was released…which is now played by high school students. Not because we've evolved into master musicians, but because it's been around for decades upon decades and all of us music people have had time to wrap our heads around those changing time signatures and meters and weird tone structures.

I'm going to write about that all at some point, but I ran across Paganini's 24 Caprices, which was so difficult that people thought no one but Paganini could ever perform it. Why? Because Niccolo Paganini was a true virtuoso on the violin. That included some pretty amazing tricks in songs like Duetto Amoroso, which replicated the sounds of a couple having sex, and Il Fandango Spanolo, in which his violin imitated farm animals.

There is one manuscript left of Duetto Amoroso, thankfully…and we have zero manuscripts remaining of Il Fandango Spanolo. We only know it existed because it was on concert posters and word of mouth.

One: yes, back then virtuoso musicians had concert posters like Van Halen or Black Sabbath. Two: OH MY GOD, THE WORLD IS ON FIRE. A piece of music from a premier violinist is just…gone.

See, we don't have quite the same thing with books. Yes, there are an innumerable number of lost manuscripts, or nearly lost manuscripts, like the works of Henry Darger. But those manuscripts are complete. There's nothing else out there. A book is a book is a book, and if you have a book you have it. If you don't, you don't.

Performance arts feel more tragic to me because someone heard these. In some way, they were real off the page. The written music carried a weight to it because of that. Il Fandango Spanolo was something that people heard, and everyone that heard it became one of the last people to ever hear it, because that piece is gone.

The same thing could be said of lost plays or lost choreography or or or…but I don't need to think about those things.

I do, however, need a drink. Because lost media gives me hives, and I'm pretty sure vodka is good for hives.

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