Ye Olde Englysshe Tradicion
This essay first appeared on the electronic mailing list Piporg-l
A curious incident happened today at the Oneskull Institute of Alternative Historiographical Research. I was seated at the work station working on email replies to the interminable private correspondence generated since Carlo Curley joined the list, when suddenly there was a loud crackling noise followed by the most extraordinary spectacle. What appeared like a bright blue fork of minature lightning danced and flickered for an instant or two over my scanner - and then, as soon as it had appeared, it vanished again.
I blinked a couple of times, made sure I wasn't touching anything, and stared at the monitor. I was not sure what I was expecting to find, but what I was NOT expecting - and this is what in fact HAD happened - was the appearance of a small icon on the screen bearing the legend 'stanley.sea'.
I spent much of the morning checking all the wiring, thanking luck more than judgment that I have recently done a complete backup of my hard drive, only to find, after much testing, that everything seemed to be in perfect order. Thus it was not until after lunch that I dared double-click on the intruder.
I am reporting this to you almost as quickly as I can. After reading the message and understanding its importance I have had to spend most of the rest of the day decoding it. It appears to be in something called 'Sir Isaac Newton' format, and though the self-expanding archive (or 'foldynge book-case' according to the rubric in the 'get info' box) contained several very odd looking helper applications, it took me quite a long time to realise that a working knowledge of Boethian philosophy was really the key ...
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I think I have managed to convert the main part of the thing as a text document - there is still some decoding to do, but I have completed a few test paragraphs and its rather surprising stuff ... but you'll see. There is another bit that appears to be some kind of a sound file, but I can't get at it - it refers to a translator called 'eares magick' which I don't seem to have been sent ...
I will send through bits of material as and when I manage to decode it.
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Here follows an account of the conversacion with John Stanley, Mr. of the King's Band of Musicians, Organist to the Temple, Bachelor of Music &c &c on the 30th of May 1744.
(the first section is a sound file; can't get my head round it yet, sorry.)
self: sir will you tell me something of how you play the organ?
JS: why, no sir, I will not, for when your father Sir Isaac used to visit me here he would ask no matter what kind of questions for he said he wished to remember me as much for the way I spoke to him as for the way I played for him, and he would sit there, on and on, and not say a word but fiddling with some bead or other which went click click click, just as you are doing of now, and since then, young man, I have always been somewhat suspicious of members of the Newton family coming to ask questions, for it seems to take up so much time! And nothing in the way of pleasant conversation mind you! Just long gloomy silences and click click click.
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4th June 1744
self: sir, forgive me
JS: why, who is that? Oh young Newton, I can tell, for you go click click click at me well I cannot talk to you just now as I am quite tired I have just performed a quite long voluntary and as you may imagine it takes a good deal of effort to compose, quite extempore, a fugue, in four parts, on a subject given not yesterday to me by Mr. Handel, which, I might add, he had the impudence to suggest, would sound at its best in the key of B flat minor, simply wishing to give Stanley - or so he was saying to his friends - the opportunity to 'excercise the atoms of dust gathered on the surface of the quarter-notes', which he has the most terrible front to say for he knows quite well that I ...
self: sir, what are quarter-notes?
JS: quarter-tones? Why, you know not what the quarter-notes are? Oh my goodness, a young master Newton must most certainly know what quarter-notes are. In fact you must touch them for yourself. Come, we will fetch Smith and the blowing man before they go and we will show the child of the great man that most sublime invention of the late Mr. Bernard Smith, late of Germany and the Low Countries, late the organ-maker to the King, late the most ingenious, perfect, and compleat artist who ever made an organ ... ah! here is Smith my ammaneuensis. Smith! At once! we have work to do! fetch Craddock he must blow!
Smith: sir you wish to play some more?
JS: why yes we are going to show this boy the quarter-notes for he doesn't know what a quarter-note is and if he doesn't know what a quarter-note is he will never grow up to be as ingenious as his father was though oh do stop fiddling boy all that click click click Smith! Is that Craddock? Will he blow? Give him a penny! Craddock here is a penny for you I will play your Trumpet piece for you! Come Smith; boy, take me back up to the keys, Smith! lead the way as is your custom!
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While I was decoding the Stanley stuff I though it would be a good idea to check web pages for Sir Isaac Newton, and I came across this - note the entry under 'In the back garrett'.
A true and perfect inventary of ... Sir Isaac Newton
[When he Newton died in 1727 he did not leave a will and this inventory was made to value his estate, including the contents of his house at 35 St. Martin's Street. It was duly archived by the church officials responsible and lay forgotten for two hundred years until the remarkable Richard de Villamil had the wherewithal to inquire if such a document existed.]
DOM ISAACI NEWTON, MIL.
EXTUM 5TH MAY, 1727
A true and perfect inventary of all and singular the Goods, Chattels and Credits of Sir Isaac Newton late of the parish of Saint Martin in the fields, in the county of Middlesex Knight deceased, taken and appraised on the 21st, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, days of April in the year of our Lord 1727 by Virtue of Commission of Appraisement issued under seal of the prerogative Court of Canterbury bearing date eighteenth day of April 1727 by Valens Comyn, Thomas Ward, Thomas Money, William Carr, and Fletcher Gyles, commissioners named in this said Commission.
In the fore Garret.
Imprimis, a parcel of Mathematical instruments and a parcel of Chymical glasses, some oak a chest of Drawers two writing desks some old iron and lumber ... L5.0.0
In the back Garret.
Item two old bedsteads and curtains two feather beds and bolsters three old blankets two Ruggs two tables six old chairs an old stove and lumber one picture and six prints ... L3.0.0
Item a wainscott box containing the 'engine for making accounts'..L33.6.8
Two pairs stairs backwards and closet.
Item a bedstead and cambric furniture lined with silk compleat a feather bed bolster and two pillows a mattress and quilt and four blankets three wainscott tables six matted chairs four stools with lace bottoms a stove grate compleat a glass in a black frame and two stands three pieces of tapestry hangings an old sattee two cushions a small skreen a feather bed bolster and two down pillows two holland quilts a callico quilt and eight ...
(Continuing my decoded version of the mysterious 'stanley.sea' file that appeared on my computer here at the Oneskull Institute of Alternative Historiographical Research. In the following extract the note 'eares magick' denotes the presence of a sound file that I have not been able to decode as yet.)
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js: and so I may play a Trumpet voluntary in D - Craddock! Blow! - for that is a key in which the trumpet plays and there are two sharps and all is well
js: and when I come to play in two parts in threes and sixes in the right hand, the intervals are quite perfectly in tune
js: and in the echo also, quite perfectly in tune
js: and should I want a third sharp note, the G sharp all is well still, and in tune
js: but should I modulate still farther round the circle and want for myself a D sharp, in most organs a D sharp there is not but an E flat and it sounds the wolf so, a most uncomely sound
js: but here at the Temple church, thanks to the invention of the late Mr. Bernard Smith, late of Germany and the Low Countries, late the organ-maker to the King, late the most ingenious, perfect, and compleat artist who ever made an organ, we have not just the E flat, but the D sharp also, on another key just above and beside it so I may play not just in A but in the key of E also and so on
js: and you will hear from that, that as I play, Craddock, who knows my playing quite well by now, he takes care to lift each bellows one at a time at the breaths in the music so that he does not shake the wind while the trumpet is sounding and when I come to my cadenza so
js: you hear? as I start my cadenza Craddock stops blowing altogether and he waits, and while I play I listen for the bellows falling and I make the end of my cadenza at just the moment that it will run out of wind, just as though it were a real trumpeter, and then Craddock fills them all up again - Craddock - and off we go and play the return in two parts to end with and now in the key of B
js: and with the quarter notes stop that clicking boy I can play most any modulations that are not in any other organ at all except the one in Durham, which has the quarter notes also, but it is played upon by James Heseltine who is more Scot than man - the people are quite barbarian up there, so they say - and I should be very much surprised if he could tell the difference between E flat and D sharp even if they were both played together, whereas here I make full use of them, and of G sharp and A flat also, for I have keys for these also, and one Sunday a few years ago Mr. Smith here - Mr. Smith my good friend and ammanuensis, are you not Smith? ...
smith: sir, you are too generous
js: Smith here told me that Mr. Handel himself was seated in the church and so for Mr. Handel as the middle voluntary I played on the diapasons in a most grand and serious and solemn and chromatic manner, quite lachrymose as in Purcell's day, and I modulated and I modulated and I went right over the top and came back again, making the most careful and particular use of the quarter notes, to which Handel, who came up to me afterwards in the yard after the service, said, why Mr. Stanley you made me dizzy with all your circles and your A flats and G sharps and E flats and D sharps I have never heard the like. Craddock on the other hand, and I whisper for he is behind the organ and he shall not hear, I had to give him an extra farthing for having to blow the diapasons in a slow four-part piece for nigh on seven minutes which is the most hungry way you can play an organ as far as the wind and the labours of the blowing-man go, so I imagine he was mopping his brow all the time and asking himself when I should finish this interminable piece. So as I was saying the quarter notes are the most sublime invention an organ can have except the swell. You know what the swell is do you not?
self: no I do not sir
js: but you heard did you not how in the echo to the trumpet it grew louder and softer?
self: yes I did sir and I took that to be an example of your skill in touching the instrument
js: why yes it was but not in touching the keys but in using my foot upon the pedal here which opens and closes the front on the swell box, in which are all the echo pipes. Before we had the swell, which was put in by Mr. Byfield a few years back, together with the very fine Trumpet which you have heard, we had just the echo and it was not in the upper part of the organ but here in front of me and covered only by the desk, and though it may have sounded very much like an echo to the people, who are seated some distance away, it did not most certainly sound like an echo to me for I was sitting straight in front of it and Mr. Byfield's Swell is quite superior in every respect, so that is my three sets of keys, compleat, from double F in the bass to c in altissimo, the swell at the top, the great in the middle, and the chair at the bottom, though here the chair organ is inside, not outside and behind my back as it is in the Colleges and Cathedrals. But the swell is indeed sublime for it can express, in degrees of forte and piano, passion of every kind, which the other keys cannot. For on the organ pipes without the swell all one can do is to vary the touch on the keys and this is a means of the most surprising expression even so, for if I draw the Cornet and play a Cornet voluntary - Craddock! - boy, do you know what the Cornet is?
self: it is like the Trumpet?
js: well in a way it is like the trumpet, for it is a solo stop; it is played without any other to join with it, and it has five rows of pipes to every note, and they are tuned together in different notes to make a sound like the old cornet which was an instrument capable of the most florid and singular decoracion and ornament, and when we play on the cornet we try to exhibit every skill in the art of touching the organ that the good Lord has bestowed on us, both quick and slow, one moment touching light and skippingly, then most solemn and dirge like, for in playing upon the cornet it is not mere speed which shows the skill of the player but variety of touch, for it is not difficult to play on the keys fast like some unregulated clockwork engine, but it shows so much more in the way of taste and wit and refinement to play with variety, dexterity, wit, polish and ornament and in joyous celebration of the many gifts bestowed upon us by the Almighty like so.
js: and now Smith and I must go and take luncheon and Smith must give Mr. Craddock what is due to him and Craddock must go to the ale house and have a considerable draught of porter after his exertions and you young Newton must stop clicking
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That, for the moment, is all I have managed to decode. I hardly dare suggest what I have disclosed - I think I had better leave it to my readers to be the judge of that - but I will continue to work on the remainder of the files as and when I have time, and if I manage to decode any more, of course piporg-l will be the first to know.