Thursday, November 15, 2007
Not just a painter -- da Vinci wrote dance hits, too.
MORE CODE CONSPIRACIES. It's not enough that he invented tanks and helicopters 400 years in advance. Or that in forging the Shroud of Turin, he might have invented photography half a millennium early. Despite his long deceasement, da Vinci is still cutting edge. Stung by the notion that Leonardo might have had seditious notions about Christianity (The Gospel According to Tom Hanks), an Italian musician named Giovanni Maria Pala has now discovered that the Last Supper fresco is also the first multimedia production in the history of art.
Pala, a 45-year-old musician who lives near the southern Italian city of Lecce, began studying Leonardo's painting in 2003, after hearing on a news program that researchers believed the artist and inventor had hidden a musical composition in the work.Truthfully, we suspected as much in our own treatment of the da Vinci code controversy a year-and-a-half ago. Now that we've been proven right, we can't help but crow a little.
"Afterward, I didn't hear anything more about it," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "As a musician, I wanted to dig deeper."
In a book released Friday in Italy, Pala explains how he took elements of the painting that have symbolic value in Christian theology and interpreted them as musical clues.
Pala first saw that by drawing the five lines of a musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread on the table as well as the hands of Jesus and the Apostles could each represent a musical note.
This fit the relation in Christian symbolism between the bread, representing the body of Christ, and the hands, which are used to bless the food, he said. But the notes made no sense musically until Pala realized that the score had to be read from right to left, following Leonardo's particular writing style.
In his book - "La Musica Celata" ("The Hidden Music") - Pala also describes how he found what he says are other clues in the painting that reveal the slow rhythm of the composition and the duration of each note.
The result is a 40-second "hymn to God" that Pala said sounds best on a pipe organ, the instrument most commonly used in Leonardo's time for spiritual music....
"A new figure emerges - he wasn't a heretic like some believe," Pala said. "What emerges is a man who believes, a man who really believes in God."
On the other hand, if you look up the history of music, it seems that Leonardo's first music video hit the bricks in a near but losing dead heat with contemporary conventions for musical notation. Or did he sort of invent those from before-the-fact too?
The modern 5-line staff was first adopted in France, and became almost universal by the 16th century (although the use of staffs with other numbers of lines was still widespread well into the 17th century).
Because the neum system arose from the need to notate songs, exact timing was initially not a particular issue as the music would generally follow the natural rhythms of the Latin language. However, by the 10th century a system of representing up to four note lengths had been developed. These lengths were relative rather than absolute, and depended on the duration of the neighbouring notes. It was not until the 14th century that something like the present system of fixed note lengths arose. Starting in the 15th century, vertical bar lines were used to divide the staff into sections. These did not initially divide the music into measures (bars) of equal length (as most music then featured far fewer regular rhythmic patterns than in later periods), but appear to have been introduced as an aid to the eye for "lining up" notes on different staves that were to be played or sung at the same time. The use of regular measures (bars) became commonplace by the end of the 17th century.
When they get the writers' strike settled, we think it's time for a hilarious sitcom about how Leonardo invented absolutely everything, only nobody would listen. And he was gay, wasn't he? Perfect. For a title we're thinking "Hip Hop Wop." Unless that's not politically correct enough. And you'd need a co-star with blonde hair and big boobs. Maybe Jessica Some Body.
That's as far as we've got. But you probably have ideas of your own. What stumps us is who to cast as Leo. Forward your suggestions.