Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Skull of the One
This might actually be it.
THE ONE. The maestro is in the news a couple of ways this week. First, it seems there's been a rediscovery of a lost manuscript: Predictably, it's being used to make lesser men feel less lesser:
What's fascinating about this sheet of manuscript is not what light it sheds on Mozart's existing masterpieces, but rather that it joins the hundred or so strong catalogue of unfinished drafts by Mozart. Unlike the legend, the real Wolfgang didn't always take musical dictation from God. Instead, he tried out ideas, rejecting some along the way, experimenting with his material until he found the right notes that would make the composition flow. Much of this working, there's no doubt, was done in his head or at the piano, so what makes this document so precious is that it is a physical reminder of Mozart's compositional humanity. What's more, it probably dates from Mozart's last years (the watermark suggests somewhere between 1787 and 1791, the year of his death).
They say it's definitely his handwriting. Human handwriting. Hah.
Nobody can play the music yet, because he left out information like the key and so forth that mere mortals have to have before they can orchestrate a deathless doodle.
Second, there's news about the long-disputed skull currently in the possession of an Austrian foundation. We may soon have a better idea about whether it belonged to Wolfgang or somebody else..
DNA Tests to Be Performed on Mozart Skull
VIENNA, Austria - DNA tests could soon solve a century-old mystery — whether a skull held by the International Mozarteum Foundation is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Archaeologists have opened a grave in Salzburg thought to contain the remains of Mozart's father and other relatives. Experts plan to compare the remains' genetic material with the foundation's skull to determine if it belonged to the famed Austrian composer. Mozart died in 1791 and was buried in a pauper's grave at Vienna's St. Marxer Cemetery. The location of the grave was initially unknown, but its likely location was determined in 1855. The grave on that spot is adorned by a column and a sad-looking angel.
The scuttlebutt has it that the gravedigger who buried Mozart subsequently stole his skull and sold it. Scientists have managed to procure the thighbone of an aunt to use it in DNA comparisons. We'll see.
Scientists are never satisfied, of course. Without their dumb tests, they're adrift. It doesn't matter that jettisoned body parts have served as soothsayers to millions over the years, capable of answering every "yes or no" question put to them.
Oh? You doubt it? Then give it a try. Frame your question and prepare to hear the voice of the greatest genius yet born in the -- what d'you call it? -- Common Era?