Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The 500 Year-old Butt Song From Hell
February 13, 2014 9:58 AM   Subscribe

"[We] were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era." via Dangerous Minds
posted by carsonb (98 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
That doesn't really sound like any of the songs my butt is known for.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:59 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


That's probably good, because it means your butt is likely not from, nor destined for, Hell.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I wonder if the notes' letter-names spell out some sort of phrase?
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the notes' letter-names spell out some sort of phrase?

Yes, but sadly it turns out to just be the Latin for "Eat at Joe's"
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:05 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


that's all this song is? Just some plunkety-plunk high notes that sound like a nursery rhyme? that's what all this fuss is about?


oh shit
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:06 AM on February 13


Hark to the music of the spheres buns.
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Just some plunkety-plunk high notes that sound like a nursery rhyme?

I had fun imagining a choir of demons chanting/wailing it.
posted by carsonb at 10:07 AM on February 13


Guys guys guys I have a great idea for a new hellraiser movie
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Also, it seems rather apropos to have a shitty piece of music adorn the ass of a denizen of Hell, you know?
posted by carsonb at 10:08 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


You can find it here recorded in choral form.
posted by yoink at 10:11 AM on February 13 [33 favorites]


I lifted this post myself from DM this morning, formatting it for Mefi and everything. Then, before I could hit 'post', I realized I was late for my bus and so it sits, idle on my laptop at home, ready for its eventual deletion this evening. If there's a greater metaphor for hell, I don't want to know it.
posted by item at 10:13 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Looking at it on the painting, I notice the butt is in close proximity to a music book. I wonder if the implication is that the butt has been pressed so hard on the music book that the notation got printed there? If so, the music would be in reverse. Still, my best guess is that there's a cryptographic meaning in there and that the notes spell out someone's name or some such.
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Nominee for "Best Post Title", 2014 MeFi Choice Awards.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:15 AM on February 13 [19 favorites]


I wonder if the notes' letter-names spell out some sort of phrase?

Yes, but sadly it turns out to just be the Latin for "Eat at Joe's"


No, no, it's "beans, beans, the musical fruit."
posted by duffell at 10:15 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


The problem of course is that chant wasn't done with every note of equal stress and weight, as it's played here; it would have been done much more lyrically, more of what we would call a rubato or quasi recitativo style in contemporary notation. I'm fighting laryngitis or else I'd record my interpretation of it.
posted by KathrynT at 10:16 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Aw, item! Copy/paste it here, I wanna see it!
posted by carsonb at 10:17 AM on February 13


Cool.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:18 AM on February 13


If this book from a related AskMe gets made into a movie it will have a soundtrack now!
posted by ian1977 at 10:18 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


it would have been done much more lyrically, more of what we would call a rubato or quasi recitativo style in contemporary notation

The sung version I linked to above gives a good sense of what you mean, I think.
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on February 13


Hellbutt music is to be played only on a Boîte Diabolique.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


"Where's the music, again?"

"Why, it's Hier-on-anus, Bosch!"
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 10:25 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


yoink, that's not actually sung -- it's midi from an instrument library that includes a chorus type instrument. You can tell by the way each note has an accented entrance; chant wouldn't be sung that way. And it still has each note of equal length. I'mma see if I can retranscribe it off the recording and do something with it.
posted by KathrynT at 10:27 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Hellbutt music is to be played only on a Boîte Diabolique yt .

I'd have thought best played on a sackbut. Of course, you tend to hit a lot of bum notes...but that's just, er, gravy.
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Is it really possible this was not discovered until now?
posted by Nelson at 10:29 AM on February 13


I think it was already known, it just hadn't been on the Blue before and many people hadn't yet heard of it.
posted by Sleeper at 10:31 AM on February 13


Maybe its a Renaissance version of The Brown Note.
posted by ian1977 at 10:32 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm struggling against the impulse to make a dubstep version of this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:33 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'm struggling against the impulse to make a dubstep version of this.

With hellbutt music, you really don't enjoy waiting for the drop.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


With hellbutt music, you really don't enjoy waiting for the dropSIES.
posted by ian1977 at 10:37 AM on February 13


It was intended to be played on the trumpet.
posted by popcassady at 10:39 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Is it really possible this was not discovered until now?

Can't find anyone else who has "played" it but it has been discussed before as being non-music. For example, from here:

In the right hand panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights there is an interlinked series of images often referred to as the 'Hell of the Musicians'. At the base of a barbiton or other lute like instrument a book of music lies open. Also a choir of human souls led by a demon choirmaster appear to be singing the music written on the bottom of a man crushed under the barbiton. Can this this music be identified? I asked my colleague, the musicologist Joscelyn Godwin to appraise this "music". His reply leads me to understand that this is only made to look like music but has no real musical structure.

I believe it is made-up notation with no musical identity. Some of the reasons, in brief:

1. The C-clef is on a space. Clefs are always on lines. Other staffs lack clefs altogether.
2. The notes are not identifiable mensural types. By Bosch's time, hollow noteheads were used for minims and semibreves, but it would have been difficult for the artist to delineate those on this scale. He seems to have used a single brush-stroke for each note, sometimes with a tail and sometimes without. So the rhythm, if any, makes no sense.
3. There are two voices on each stave. Late 15c. notation (with rare exceptions for keyboard music) uses one voice per stave.
4. If two polyphonic voices are intended, the rhythmic difficulties mentioned prevent any correct alignment.
5. As far as one can judge by simply comparing notes in vertical alignment, there is no sense to the harmony of the two voices.
6. One might argue that plainsong is intended, in view of the non-mensural noteheads and the four-line staff. If so, the melody is very uncharacteristic of plainsong, because it has too many repeated notes and triadic patterns. These occur in plainsong, but only in a context of generally conjunct motion.

So I think the artist was simply saying "Music" and not reproducing a real piece.

posted by vacapinta at 10:39 AM on February 13 [15 favorites]


Hark to the music of the spheresbuns.

The music of the rears?
posted by the_bone at 10:44 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Rats, I was hoping it would be This.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:46 AM on February 13


yoink: "I wonder if the notes' letter-names spell out some sort of phrase?"

Play the song


Like a bell.


But if you fart it


Go to Hell.



Burma Shave!
posted by Splunge at 10:47 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


I wonder if it is meant to be played asselerando?
posted by ian1977 at 10:49 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Yeah, whatever. I was into 500 year old Flemish butt music a few years ago, but now it's overplayed.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:51 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


That's some crack musicology work there.
posted by zippy at 10:56 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


It was intended to be played on the trumpet.
posted by popcassady


Or maybe the sackbut?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:02 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


This is bet found playing on a child's music box. In a home where the entire family has gone missing. During an eclipse. Only that guy from Dan Brow's books can unravel the mystery of Bosch. Which he does, and is dragged to hell, where he is tortured forever. The end.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:02 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Can I get it as a ringtone?
posted by Devonian at 11:03 AM on February 13


OK, here is my extremely feeble attempt at recording this chant-style. I have quite bad laryngitis, so not only is it badly sung, it's a full octave below the transcribed pitch level, but you will see what I mean by the unequal note lengths.
posted by KathrynT at 11:04 AM on February 13 [46 favorites]


KatherynT, that was great! I think you got it, because blood is running from my eyes and won't stop, even when I put in the spares.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


Stuff like this is why I loved Art History so much - I had an enthusiastic professor who would have presented this to us with great glee. (And in the same spirit, posts like this are why I love Metafilter.)

As for performing the piece, has Joseph Pujol no modern day successor?
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:14 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


OK, here is my extremely feeble attempt at recording this chant-style.

That was great! Plus, I fully believe the lyrics to ALL songs in hell will be "lorem ipsum..."
posted by yoink at 11:15 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Sounds like Piano Cat.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:15 AM on February 13


It was intended to be played on the trumpet.

I disagree.
posted by Mchelly at 11:23 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the implication is that the butt has been pressed so hard on the music book that the notation got printed there? If so, the music would be in reverse

Proto-backwards masking. Awesome!
posted by malocchio at 11:29 AM on February 13


Please -- where can I download this as sheet music?

(No, seriously, I'm re-learning the piano and need simple practice reading music)
(either forward or backward)
posted by hank at 11:34 AM on February 13


Hank, me mail me an email address and I'll send you a PDF.
posted by KathrynT at 11:39 AM on February 13


I don't know what kind of jokers Facebook has staffing their 'related links' project, but when a friend posted this on my Facebook feed, the following links were offered as suggestions:

Farmer plays a song with hand farts (from the same blog)
Lord let me know mine end
posted by heyforfour at 11:40 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


that first link is great by the way, if you're like me and had no real context for Bosch outside of "... seminal weird art guy".
posted by philip-random at 11:43 AM on February 13


If you fart the song


It will smell


But if you shart it


You'll go to Hell


Burma Shave!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Eine Kleine Buttmusik.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:49 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


"And a-one, and a-two, and a you-know-what-to-doodoo"
posted by drlith at 11:51 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Maybe Butt Trumpet can add it to their repertoire.

(I was happier than I should have been to see the lolbutts tag…)
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:53 AM on February 13


Play it again, this time fortassimo.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:56 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I like the piano version, but it could have used a little more dumper pedal.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:57 AM on February 13


Also notice the strange lack of hole notes.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:58 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Obviously played on a strumpet, bastard child of sackbut and trumpet.
posted by mermayd at 12:02 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I can see where it's definitely music from hell, but it might be better played a bit more anDante.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:02 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I mean like KathrynT's version has a nice rubutto.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:03 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Too much rubutto though and the tempo might get too behind.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:04 PM on February 13


I do like largo rubutto, I cannot lie.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:06 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Someone ought to do an orchasstral arrangement I think.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:07 PM on February 13


....................Assoon.

A bassoon you— you play with your butt.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 12:07 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Somebody stop 'em, I think Lutoslawski's gone ass over teakettle.
posted by carsonb at 12:09 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


TacoBell's Cannon?
posted by benzenedream at 12:13 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Dangerous Minds is a good source for historical butt links.
posted by homunculus at 12:19 PM on February 13


Dingle! Dingle! Dingleberry much!
posted by lagomorphius at 12:46 PM on February 13


The ring of hell

where you will find

the music swell

is my behind

BURMA SHAVE

lolbutts
posted by jquinby at 12:48 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


"I wonder if the notes' letter-names spell out some sort of phrase?"

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine?"
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


surely a case of vita brevis, arse longa
posted by klangklangston at 12:53 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Probably the tattooist was feeling mischievous. "This guy obviously doesn't even know musical notation, he just thinks it's cool. I'll show him!"
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:59 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I swore I would never again utter the phrase, butt since it's Bosch we're talking about, I'll just say it. BUTT ROCK.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 1:17 PM on February 13


If you think that was a short piece, wait until they turn the other cheek!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:19 PM on February 13


I expected better. It just sounds like something he pulled out of his ass.
posted by molecicco at 1:37 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Y'all are cracking me up.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:51 PM on February 13


Play it again, this time fortassimo.

Fartassimo, surely.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:53 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Eine Kleine Buttmusik.

That, or maybe The Well-Tampered Cavalier.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:01 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


That, or maybe The Well-Tampered Cavalier.

The Well-Pampered Cavalier, surely.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:05 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Handel's Water-Closet Music.
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on February 13


Lutoslawski: "Too much rubutto though and the tempo might get too behind."

Typical American excess not to admit that every wide duration must come about at the expense of a smaller one. Rubutto is theft.
posted by invitapriore at 2:07 PM on February 13


Madame BUTTerfly by POOccini.

I fear I've wandered far afield.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:14 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The Well-Pampered Cavalier, surely.

I am not sure being crushed under a gigantic instrument counts as "pampering."

And I hate to think what the demons may have done to even the score.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:16 PM on February 13


"The Well-Pampered Cavalier, surely."

Quite appropriate in this context:
However, the word was coined by the Roundheads as a pejorative propaganda image of a licentious, hard drinking and frivolous man, who rarely, if ever, thought of God. It is this image which has survived and many Royalists, for example Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester, fitted this description to a tee. Of another Cavalier, Lord Goring a general in the Royalist army, the principal advisor to Charles II, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, said that he...
...would, without hesitation, have broken any trust, or done any act of treachery to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite; and in truth wanted nothing but industry (for he had wit, and courage, and understanding and ambition, uncontrolled by any fear of God or man) to have been as eminent and successful in the highest attempt of wickedness as any man in the age he lived in or before. Of all his qualifications dissimulation was his masterpiece; in which he so much excelled, that men were not ordinarily ashamed, or out of countenance, with being deceived.
Lord Goring, though a century or so after Bosch, would probably belong in that Rightmost Panel of Hellish Torment.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:30 PM on February 13


I hate to think what the demons may have done to even the score

Yes, difficult given the hilly nature of the anatomical terrain. Some sort of ass-press, one imagines. But that score sure looks even.
posted by yoink at 2:35 PM on February 13


Here I sit
Broken hearted
Tried to play butt music
But only farted.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:41 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


carsonb, my post was hurriedly lifted from the DM post, links and all. A lazy morning half-assed (ha!) attempt at a post. you want to see my post, just look at the DM one - minus the images, of course.
posted by item at 3:15 PM on February 13


As an ex-Catholic some tiny voice from the depths of my mind says,

Voice: Dude. What if this is a true Demonic Key? And what if all the poor jokers here, yourself included, are in for some horrible visitations?

And then I remember that I live in Florida. In 2014. And I'm not so worried anymore.

Voice: Well... At least write some sick story using this as a basis you lazy bastard!
posted by Splunge at 4:41 PM on February 13


A thirteenth century monk, secretly pursuing his own interest, after months of experimentation discovered the long-lost sequence of relative tones to summon Belphesar, a demon of terrible fear. He was found dead the following morning, hanged in his cell.

His notes, as marginalia in various neglected and oft-copied manuscripts, survived him and were acquired by an eccentric Flemish collector after the monastery burned down fifty years later. This collector, intrigued by the monk's investigations, eventually replicated the sequence in more contemporary musical notation, not accounting for some precise calculations that were included in a manuscript that was lost in the fire. Upon the collector's attempt to perform the invocation, there was no result. But the musical transcription was passed along to his family at his death.

Bosch was to eventually encounter this transcription and the related notes, and he incorporated the tune into this triptych.

Over the years, numerous individuals, motivated by idle curiosity, have performed this tune. None have summoned Belphesar, as tempered tuning offets some key intervals, assuming that the piece was performed around the correct reference frequency, which, as it happens, it never has been.

Until today.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:13 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Sounds like Piano Cat.

Play him off, Piano Butt.
posted by immlass at 5:44 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


This Charmin Man?
posted by lagomorphius at 6:25 PM on February 13


Ode to St. Cornholio's Day?
posted by lagomorphius at 6:32 PM on February 13


The Harmonious Crapsmith?
posted by lagomorphius at 7:04 PM on February 13


carsonb - I realized that any attempt to beef it up would make me miss the bus I was already seconds from missing, then I realized I didn't even have enough time to fill in all the links and such. Really, it was the job for a better human being (or a really competent Great Ape, I suppose) and the post couldn't have gone to a better Mefite. This is one for the history books, folks: the most thorough, dull, and pointless history books ever produced (insert Texas joke here __________). I bring you what could have been, in all its quoted (and mostly credited) word-for-word, 3/4 finished glory:

* * *
"An Oklahoma college student named Amelia has transcribed the music written on the ass of a figure from the “Hell” panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, and posted a recording of it to her Tumblr."

***LISTEN TO IT HERE*** via Dangerous Minds


*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside*[more inside]*[more inside]*[more inside]*


BONUS: the 1968 song that should have been discovered on that butt: The United States of America - 'Garden of Earthly Delights'

As per the DM piece, "Music geeks may have noticed that the staff on the man’s butt (must resist obvious joke) has only four lines. It seems likely that this is an older form of notation used for Gregorian chants.

If you’ll indulge a nitpick—on her blog, Amelia calls this “LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell.” Given that most sources hold that the triptych’s completion date was around the year 1500, give or take, it’s much, much closer to about 500 years old. But an error like that is easy enough to ascribe to a slip of the typing finger.

If you’re curious to know more about the Bosch painting, it can be viewed at The Prado. If you don’t live in Madrid and your travel budget isn’t so indulgent, this episode of the fine BBC documentary series Renaissance Revolution covers it in fascinating depth."


* * *


See? This was as far as I got in lifting an entire post word for word from one mildly popular internet site and pasting it - with planned but mostly abandoned minor tweaks - near verbatim onto another, more popular site (with accreditation) was my goal today as I drank the special spinach/kale/strawberry smoothie my SO lovingly prepares five mornings a week while reviewing some of my clients' shit and dosing out the daily (well, morning) dose of attention via rump scritches, belly rubs, and ear-mite scratching required by my two cats under threat of having weird shit done to the house by two clever furry monsters (okay one clever furry monster and one sidekick/lookout/timid voice of panicky reason along for the ride). Blame usually gets split 70/30 and if they insist they don't know why something (i.e. a roll of toilet paper) that had previously been locked away in a cabinet, the creatures are lying right to your gullible face. The bus then came and after I reluctantly left my half-assed (ha! ha, ha!) post to fester in the climate-controlled house, I spent the next nine hours doing social-work-type stuff with and for folks who - understandably - really don't give a demon's sweat about notes painted on a butt some half-century ago.

So yeah: I only thought about 500 year-old butt songs maybe once during the day. I wish I could have spent my entire day enmeshed in their folds, but it just wasn't to be today.
posted by item at 11:14 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


As for performing the piece, has Joseph Pujol no modern day successor?

Can I just point out that Joseph Pujol is the perfect name for a professional farter, as it is a homophone pair with poo hole?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 3:57 AM on February 14


KathrynT's reply made this post 200 % better! And it was pretty awesome to begin with.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:35 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]


So, it turns out someone recorded an interpretation of the butt music back in 1978! Or so it is claimed. Codex Gluteo - Atrium Musicae (dir. Gregorio Paniagua)

I learned this, as I learn most things, from WFMU.
posted by moonmilk at 7:20 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


« Older Thomas Scully, the Administrator for the Centers f...  |  Scaaaary Valenstein's Day card... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments