Sunday, 29 January 2012

Would you believe it, Lisa?

Lisa Gerhardini could have had no idea, when she sat for Leonardo that, 500 years later, her face would end up staring out of a jigsaw on a polished table in an English living-room, at a farmer and his wife assembling it by electric light.

Whoever it was first played GF#GGGDCBDGF#G and thought it might make a merry tune to dance to could not have conceived that hundreds of years later people would still whistle the tune and associate it with the sea.



Archimedes, if he ever did jump into the bath and cry eureka! may have thought he had discovered something people would think about for a long time afterwards but was unlikely to have realised he had given rise to the expression "eureka moment".

Delibes could have had no idea that his Flower Duet from Lakme would be disseminated to the masses via digital media to advertise flying machines, or Bach (here I show my age) that the Air from his 3rd Orchestral Suite would be used to advertise cigars.

In one way, the most interesting of these examples, because its creator is the least famous, is that of the Hornpipe. We have no idea who thought it up, anymore than he or she  had that we would still be whistling it. I'm thinking, I suppose, of the "butterfly effect". We usually think of it in relation to time travel - to going back in time and changing history. I'm thinking though, of the butterfly effects that have happened in the past and happen in the present, without the help of time machines, how what we say or do effects not only the moment in which we say or do it but the future as well.

Whistle a new tune and if it's catchy you might have invented a cultural virus that'll knock around for centuries.

Or - I have heard it said that a joke told in a playground in London will be told within 40 minutes in Newcastle. Try and think up as good a joke as you can. Tell it to someone. 40 years from now it might still be being told. Come to think of it, it doesn't have to be a joke - just a novel expression or use of a word. Even better.

Or don't. As Lisa Gerhardini would know, were she still alive, sometimes all you need to do is to sit still.



 The whole of the Sailor's Hornpipe, with guitar tab, can be found here, on my other blog.


8 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Good photograph of that jigsaw Dom. I suppose the interesting thing is that we have no idea what from our generation will survive and be used in the future.

The Solitary Walker said...

Great post, Dominic. And to think that when those earliest of poets — Zoroaster, Virgil, the anonymous composer of the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example — scrawled their first lines, they had little idea such tentative, ground-breaking efforts would ripple out over the centuries and lead inexorably to the soul-baring outpourings of our very own Margery Clute! In fact I think they would have scoffed at the very notion.

Loren said...

I enjoyed seeing the your mother's puzzle. We do those on family get-togethers, though I don't think I've ever had the patience, or the compulsion, to do one by itself.

I'd like to think what you say here is true. I certainly hope it is.

George said...

I'm reminded of Prufrock's question: "Dare I disturb the universe." Each of the people mentioned by you have disturbed the universe in his or her own way, and so it continues—with your next blog, you next music, your next word.

Gwil W said...

A voice came to Caedmon in a dream and said: Caedmon sing me a song. And so today the cowherd Caedmon is remembered as the first Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poet.

GOAT said...

Yes, fascinating ideas here, Dominic. I was thinking along similar but less developed lines when I read in the Guardian online about the Roman whorehouse token someone found recently in London. Imagining its last owner dropping it, it sinks into the mud...and several centuries later it's there in close-up on thousands of computer screens...

The Solitary Walker said...

Is it still valid, Goat? I'm going to London next week, and I'm on a budget.

GOAT said...

Ha, I think you'll find its value has skyrocketed! Look out, Londinium!