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From the YouTube Music Video Archives: ‘Ave Maria’ by Giulio Caccini Vladimir Vavilov

You’ve heard this lovely aria before, haven’t you? I’d probably heard it first in the movie Donnie Darko. Haunting, though it hadn’t really haunted me as much as it might have. (That could be said of the movie as well as the music.)

But one morning this week, during my commute, the DJ for the local classical station gave this piece a memorable introduction: This ‘Ave Maria’, though commonly attributed to the 16th-/17th-century Italian composer Giulio Caccini, is almost certainly a hoax. In fact (said the DJ), this piece was most likely composed around 1970 by a Russian who rejoiced in the name of Vladimir Vavilov… and who had a habit of publishing his original compositions as ‘Anonymous’, or under false attributions. Vavilov — a lutenist as well as a composer — evidently recorded his ‘Ave Maria’ for a Soviet state-owned record label, presenting it as some anonymous Baroque composition he had uncovered. After his death, it somehow picked up the Caccini attribution, and has been widely recorded since. (The fact that the aria’s only text consists of the two words ‘ave Maria’, rather than the full text of the prayer, seems to be a sign that it was written somewhere outside the spatio-temporal bounds of Latin Christendom — bogus as a three-rouble note.)

But the DJ, before he spun the record, gave this particular screw still another turn: He suggested that Vavilov might have borrowed the melody for his ‘anonymous’ aria from Jerome Kern’s 1939 standard ‘All the Things You Are’ — making this ‘Ave Maria’ not just a hoax, but a joke.

Credible? Judge for yourself:


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

  • Text by Archangel Gabriel
    • addressing mother of God Incarnate
  • Latin
    • translation from divinely-inspired Greek text of Saint Luke
      • presumably translated from Gabriel’s Aramaic (Hebrew?) original
  • Composed and recorded by Russian lutenist circa 1970
  • Published as anonymous work
  • Distributed by Soviet state-owned record company
    • Communist
      • godless
  • Wrongly attributed to Baroque-era Italian composer
  • Likely adapted from 1939 Broadway show-tune

Art Is a Joke

‘[The Goldfinch] can strike the eye […] from afar [as a true-to-life image of a bird]. [But] Fabritius, he’s making a pun on the genre […]  a masterly riposte to the whole idea of trompe l’oeil […] because in other passages of the work – the head? the wing? – not creaturely or literal in the slightest, he takes the image apart very deliberately to show us how he painted it. Daubs and patches, very shaped and hand-worked, the neckline especially, a solid piece of paint, very abstract. […] There’s a doubleness. You see the mark, you see the paint for the paint, and also the living bird. […]

‘It’s a joke, the Fabritius. It has a joke at its heart. And that’s what all the greatest masters do. Rembrandt. Velazquez. Late Titian. They make jokes. They amuse themselves. They build up the illusion, the trick – but, step closer? it falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and yet not the thing.’

From a monologue by Horst, an art dealer (of sorts) in The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Seattle Joke

A beautiful young woman was so depressed that she decided to end her life by throwing herself into Puget Sound.

But just before she could throw herself from the docks, a handsome young man stopped her. “You have so much to live for,” said the man. “Look, I’m a sailor, and we’re off to Europe tomorrow, and I can stow you away on my ship. I’ll take care of you, bring you food every day, and keep you happy.”

With nothing to lose, combined with the fact that she had always wanted to go to Europe, the woman accepted.

That night the sailor brought her aboard and hid her in a lifeboat. From then on, every night he would bring her three sandwiches and make love to her until dawn.

Three weeks later she was discovered by the captain during a routine inspection.

“What are you doing here?” asked the captain.

“I have an arrangement with one of the sailors,” she replied. “He brings food and I get a free trip to Europe .”

“I see,” the captain says.

“Plus,” she added, “He’s screwing me.”

“He certainly is,” replied the captain. “This is the Bremerton Ferry.”