Did the house that Jack built come from Spain?

Cumulative songs (and monstrous nested stuffing recipes) in Quixote and Estebanillo González, with the grossest video you’ll see today.

Quijote and Estebanillo

One of my favourite English kids’ songs is “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,” which I know from the Burl Ives version I heard as a child:

Current bedtime reading is La vida y hechos de Estebanillo González, the mid-C17th picaresque of a scoundrel’s adventures in the Thirty Years War. In Captain Stevens’ 1707 English translation, 1, a Spanish cumulative verse like “I know an old lady” is translated by reference to “The house that Jack built”:

My Master is such a Worthy Person, that he had rather see his Servants made much of, than please himself, and therefore he and his Friends never put their Landlords to any more Charge than a Dish of Imperial Stuff’d Meat with an Egg in it. He ask’d me, What that Stuff’d Meat was made of? And I bid him order me a new lay’d Egg, and a Squab Pidgeon, and two Loads of Coals, and to send for a Cobler, with his Nawl and Ends, and a Grave maker, with his Spade, and then he should know what else was wanting, that he might provide it, whilst we were at Work. The Landlord was amaz’d, and went away half beside himself, to get the Necessaries for the ordering of that Dish of Stuff’d Meat. A while after he return’d with all I had demanded, except the two Loads of Coals. I took the Egg and the Squab-Pidgeon, which I Gutted, and cutting it open enough with my Knife, for I had all my Tools about me, clapp’d the Egg into the Belly of it, and then said to him, Now, Sir, take Notice of this Stuff’d Meat, for it is just like the Tale the Children tell of, This is the Stick that beat the Dog, the Dog that bit the Cat, the Cat that kill’d the Mouse, the Mouse that eat the Malt, the Malt that lay in the House that Jack built; for this Egg is in the Pidgeon, the Pidgeon is to be put into a Partridge, the Partridge into a Pheasant, the Pheasant into a Pullet, the Pullet into a Capon, the Capon înto a Turkey, the Turkey into a Kid, the Kid into a Sheep, the Sheep into a Calf, and the Calf into a Cow, all these Creatures are to be Pull’d, Flea’d and Larded, except the Cow, which is to have her Hide on, and as they are thrüst one into another, like to a Nest of [English ]Boxes, the Cobler is to Sew every one up with an End, that they may not slip out; and when they are all fast Sew’d into the Cows Belly, the Grave Digger is to throw up a deep Trench, into which one Load of Coals is to be cast, and the Cow laid a top of it, and the other Load upon her, and the Fuel set on Fire, to Burn about four Hours, more or less; when the Meat being taken out, it is all Incorporated, and becomes such a delicious Dish, that formerly the Emperors us’d to Dine upon it on their Coronation Day, for which Reason, and because an Egg is the Foundation of all that curious Mess, it was call’d, The Imperial Egg Stuff’d Meat. 2

[
Before we look at Jack, some culinary credibility in this stuffing demonstration using real animals in Fernando Fernán Gómez’s 1974 Spanish Golden Age picaresque potpourri, El pícaro:

I hope that was gross enough. Back to Jack.
]
Stevens (1707) beats Wikipedia‘s first (1739) sighting of the house that Jack built by 32 years, so adepts may want to do a bit of gardening there. Cervantes in Quixote (1605), as well as an imperial relleno adobado like Estebanillo’s, 3 has a more extended version of Estebanillo’s Tom and Jerry cumulative song, which Shelton in 1612 translates more-or-less literally and without reference to Jack:

And so, as men say, the cat to the rat, the rat to the cord, the cord to the post; so the carrier struck Sancho, Sancho the wench, she returned him again his liberality with interest, and the inn-keeper laid load upon his maid also; and all of them did mince it with such expedition, as there was no leisure at all allowed to any one of them for breathing. 4

I think this is the same song of the starving grandparents found in Spanish oral tradition, whose accumulation is pretty much along the lines of the house that Jack built. A quick translation:

An old woman and an old man had nothing to eat but a cheese, and along came a (rhyming) rat and ate it.

Then along came the cat
And killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the dog
And killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the stick
And killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the fire
And burnt the stick
Which killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

Then along came the water
And killed the fire
Which burnt the stick
Which killed the dog
Which killed the cat
Which killed the rat
Which ate the cheese
Of grandma and grandpa.

The ox to the fold
My story’s told
That couple so old
No cheese did behold. 5

But the verse is undated, and so while it might be older than Cervantes, so might it equally be a variant of some version of “The house that Jack built” taught to a Spanish girl by some Napoleon-fighting Brit during the Peninsular War, or some such curiosity, and so we will ignore it.

Spanish origins, or a universal technique?

So was the Jack architecture copied from the Spanish? Estebanillo is shorter in Spanish than English, which might suggest that Jack and other Aarne-Thompson 2035-type (food) chain songs were quite new in English in 1707 but already well-established in Spanish when the novel was published around 1650:

Original

Repare vuesa merced en este relleno, porque es lo mismo que el juego del gato al rato
Literal translation

Your Grace, note this stuff’d meat, for it is just like the game of the cat with the mouse
Stevens’ gloss

Now, Sir, take Notice of this Stuff’d Meat, for it is just like the Tale the Children tell of, This is the Stick that beat the Dog, the Dog that bit the Cat, the Cat that kill’d the Mouse, the Mouse that eat the Malt, the Malt that lay in the House that Jack built

OK, then there’s the literality of the Cervantes translation, but the casual reference to the cat who killed the mouse (or, for you rhymers, the cat who the rat did splat) Canarian polylinguist Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa in Tragedia y martirio de Santa Catalina de Alejandría (ca. 1580) and the lack of any known source in English again might suggest that the device was deeply ingrained in Spain but not in England:

Éste es el gato
que mató al rato

On the other hand, perhaps this kind of thing was going on everywhere in the 16th century. I should be able to think of Dutch examples, and early German counting tales, Zählgeschichten, but can’t. Can you suggest anything in another language in early modern Europe?

Or perhaps it’s actually universal – of all places and times, a spinoff from the use in oral cultures of cumulative techniques for the rote-learning (particularly by children) of genealogies and itineraries. Let us imagine a visit to some early descendants of Shem in an Arabian desert:

Abraham begat Isaac;
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob;
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

… or some of Japheth’s spawn, shivering amid painted savages in a British marsh:

Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces
Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces; Abone, 14,000 paces;
Venta Silurum, 9,000 paces; Abone, 14,000 paces; Traiectus, 9,000 paces;

Afterword: cumulative song striptease?

What game did you play as a child with the house that Jack built? I can’t remember, but a book of dances and games (Bailes y juegos: diversiones varias para entretenimiento y recreo de las tertulias y sociedades… por un aficionado (1903)) describes what may be a rather unusual way of accompanying “La llave del jardín del rey,” the key of the garden of the king:

The game director takes a key with a cord tied to it and gives it to the player to his right, saying, “This is the key to the garden of the king.” The recipient passes it to the player to his right, saying the same thing, and thus the key travels from hand to hand until it returns to the director. He again hands it to the player to his right, saying, “This is the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” The recipient hands it to the following player, saying the same thing, and so on and so forth until the key comes once more into the hands of the director, who continues by saying, “This is the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king,” which everyone else repeats. Then, when the key has been returned to the director, he continues, “This is the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Then he adds, “This is the lion which ate the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Finally, he adds, “This is the hunter who killed the lion which ate the cat which ate the mouse which ate the cord which holds the key which gives access to the garden of the king.” Thus the list increases, the director being empowered to vary the words as he wishes in order to cause more errors and the payment of more items of clothing. 6

Prenda is of course actually forfeit here, rather than an item of clothing, as in Dickens:

‘This,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, ‘this is, indeed, comfort.’ ‘Our invariable custom,’ replied Mr. Wardle. ‘Everybody sits down with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now — servants and all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.’

But search engines seek sensation. As did Pepys:

[A]fter dinner the Comptroller begun some sports, among others the naming of people round and afterwards demanding questions of them that they are forced to answer their names to, which do make very good sport. And here I took pleasure to take the forfeits of the ladies who would not do their duty by kissing of them; among others a pretty lady, who I found afterwards to be wife to Sir W. Batten’s son. Home, and then with my wife to see Sir W. Batten…

What a back-and-forth and to-and-fro of customs! And the Russians (or Fabergé at least) even prefer their nestled stuffings topsy-turvy, with the egg on the outside and the emperor inside! Where will it ever end!

Stuff

  1. The printer was in Bearbinder Lane – check this splendid map of early modern London.
  2. Mi amo es tan gran caballero que más quiere tener contentos a sus criados que no a su persona; y así él y sus camaradas no hacen de gasto al día a ningún patrón si no es un relleno imperial aovado.

    Preguntóme que de qué se hacía el tal relleno. Respondíle que me mandase traer un huevo y un pichón recién nacido y dos carros de carbón, y mandase llamar a un zapatero de viejo, con alesna y cabos, y un sepolturero con su azada, y que sabría todo lo que había de buscar para empezar a trabajar en hacerlo.

    El patrón, medio atónito y atemorizado, salió en busca de lo necesario al tal relleno, y a el cabo de poco espacio me trujo todo lo que le había pedido, excepto los dos carros de carbón. Toméle el huevo y el pequeño pichón, y abriéndolo con un cuchillo de mi sazonada herramienta, y metiéndole el huevo, después de haberle sacado las tripas, le dije desta forma:

    -Repare vuesa merced en este relleno, porque es lo mismo que el juego del gato al rato: este huevo está dentro deste pichón, el pichón ha de estar dentro de una perdiz, la perdiz dentro de una polla, la polla dentro de un capón, el capón dentro de un faisán, el faisán dentro de un pavo, el pavo dentro de un cabrito, el cabrito dentro de un carnero, el carnero dentro de una ternera, y la ternera dentro de una vaca. Todo esto ha de ir lavado, pelado, desollado y lardeado, fuera de la vaca, que ha de quedar con su pellejo; y cuando se vayan metiendo unos en otros, como cajas de Inglaterra, por que ninguno se salga de su asiento los ha de ir el zapatero cosiendo a dos cabos, y en estando zurcidos en el pellejo y panza de la vaca, ha de hacer el sepolturero una profunda fosa, y echar en el suelo della un carro de carbón, y luego la dicha vaca, y ponerle encima el otro carro, y darle fuego cuatro horas, poco más o menos; y después, sacándola, queda todo hecho una sustancia y un manjar tan sabroso y regalado que antiguamente [lo] comían los emperadores el día de su coronación; por cuya causa, y por ser el huevo la piedra fundamental de aquel guisado, le daban por nombre relleno imperial aovado.

  3. Cervantes 1615/Shelton 1620
  4. Y así como suele decirse “el gato al rato, el rato a la cuerda, la cuerda al palo”, daba el arriero a Sancho, Sancho a la moza, la moza a él, el ventero a la moza, y todos menudeaban con tanta priesa, que no se daban punto de reposo
  5. Una vieja y un viejo no tenían para comer más que un queso, y vino un ratón y comióselo.

    Entonces vino el gato
    y mató al rato,
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el perro y mató al gato,
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el palo
    y mató al perro,
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el fuego
    y quemó el palo,
    porque mató al perro
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    Vino el agua
    y mató al fuego,
    porque quemó el palo
    porque mató al perro
    porque mató al gato
    porque mató al rato
    porque comió el queso
    de la vieja y el viejo.

    El buey ya durmió
    el cuento acabó
    la vieja y el viejo
    sin queso quedó.

  6. El director del juego sacará una llave que tenga atado un cordón, y se la dará al jugador de su derecha, diciendo: «Esta es la llave del jardín del rey.» El que recibe la llave, la entregará al de su derecha, diciéndole lo mismo, y así irá la llave de mano en mano hasta que vuelva al director. Este volverá á entregar la llave al de su derecha, diciendo: «Este es el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» El que la reciba, la dará al siguiente, diciéndole lo mismo, y así sucesivamente hasta su vuelta á manos del director, quien seguirá diciendo: «Este es el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey», volviendo á repetirlo todos los demás. Luego el director continuará cuando vuelva á entregar la llave: «Este es el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Después añadirá: «Este es el león que se comió el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Por último, añadirá: «Y este es el cazador que mató el león que se comió el gato que se comió el ratón que se comió el cordón que sostiene la llave que da entrada al jardín del rey.» Así se irá aumentando la relación, teniendo facultad el director de variar las palabras que quiera, á fin de que resulten más equivocaciones y de que se paguen más prendas.

Mechanical musical instrument invented for the 1851 London Great Exhibition by Henry Mayhew

He also coined “flaxen Saxon.” With other absurdities.

Kindle says I’m 55% through the devilish ditties. I’m still quite unsure what to believe, but doubts are stilled by the flow of gags and witticisms:

– Once as a girl on Battle Hill, she was fond of recounting, always in the same time-polished words, – once as a solitary child, I found myself, quite suddenly and with no sense of strangeness, in the middle of a war. Longbows, maces, pikes. The flaxen-Saxon boys, cut down in their sweet youth. Harold Arroweye and William with his mouth full of sand. Yes, always the gift, the phantom-sight. – The story of the day on which the child Rosa had seen a vision of the battle of Hastings had become, for the old woman, one of the defining landmarks of her being, though it had been told so often that nobody, not even the teller, could confidently swear that it was true. I long for them sometimes, ran Rosa’s practised thoughts. Les beaux jours: the dear, dead days. She closed, once more, her reminiscent eyes. When she opened them, she saw, down by the water’s edge, no denying it, something beginning to move.

What she said aloud in her excitement: ‘I don’t believe it!’ – ‘It isn’t true!’ – ‘He’s never here!’ – On unsteady feet, with bumping chest, Rosa went for her hat, cloak, stick. While, on the winter seashore, Gibreel Farishta awoke with a mouth full of, no, not sand.

Snow.

But all the book’s bons mots can’t be the invention of one man, albehe in league with Him Downstairs! And thank goodness, and perhaps this is a token of the author’s affection for 18th and 19th century British fiction, the tradition of the flaxen Saxon may have been invented in 1851 by Henry Mayhew.

I know Mayhew for the same reason you do, but it turns out that London Labour and the London Poor was far from the be-all and end-all of his literary life. His novel, 1851, or, The adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Sandboys and family who came up to London to “enjoy themselves” and to see the Great Exhibition (1851), presents a pilgrimage more bizarre even than Ayesha’s drown-doomed exodus:

THE GREAT EXHIBITION was about to attract the sight-seers of all the world—the sight-seers, who make up nine-tenths of the human family. The African had mounted his ostrich. The Crisp of the Desert had announced an excursion caravan from Zoolu to Fez. The Yakutskian Shillibeer had already started the first reindeer omnibus to Novogorod. Penny cargoes were steaming down Old Nile, in Egyptian “Daylights;” and “Moonlights,” while floating from the Punjaub, and congregating down the Indus, Scindiau “bridesmaids” and “bachelors” came racing up the Red Sea, with Burmese “watermen, Nos. 9 and 12,” calling at the piers of Muscat and Aden, to pick up passengers for the Isthmus—at two-pence a-head.

But Mayhew takes the Dickensian and Rushdian view that there is nowt so strange as one’s compatriots, particularly in this case those from Cumberland:

Early the next morning, Mrs. Sandboys, with Jobby and Elcy, went down to the Fish Inn, to see the dozen carts and cars leave, with the united villagers of Buttermere, for the “Travellers’ Train” at Cockermouth. There was the stalwart Daniel Fleming, of the White Howe, mounted on his horse, with his wife, her baby in her arms, and the children, with the farm maid, in the cart,—his two men trudging by its side. There was John Clark, of Wilkinsyke, the farmer and statesman, with his black-haired sons, Isaac and Johnny, while Richard rode the piebald pony; and Joseph and his wife, with little Grace, and their rosy-cheeked maid, Susannah, from the Fish Inn, sat in the car, kept at other times for the accommodation of their visitors. After them came Isaac Cowman, of the Croft, the red-faced farmer-constable, with his fine tall, flaxen, Saxon family about him; and, following in his wake, his Roman-nosed nephew John, the host of “The Victoria,” with his brisk, bustling wife on his arm. Then came handsome old John Lancaster, seventy years of age, and as straight as the mountain larch, with his wife and his sons, Andrew and Robert, and their wives. And following these, John Branthwaite, of Bowtherbeck, the parish-clerk, with his wife and wife’s mother; and Edward Nelson, the sheep-breeder, of Gatesgarth, dressed in his well-known suit of grey, with his buxom gude-wife, and her three boys and her two girls by her side; while the fresh-coloured bonnie lassie, her maid, Betty Gatesgarth, of Gatesgarth, in her bright green dress and pink ribbons, strutted along in their wake. Then came the Riggs: James Rigg, the miner, of Scots Tuft, who had come over from his work at Cleator for the special holiday; and there were his wife and young boys, and Jane Rigg, the widow, and her daughter Mary Ann, the grey-eyed beauty of Buttermere, in her jaunty jacket-waisted dress; with her swarthy black-whiskered Celtic brother, and his pleasant-faced Saxon wife carrying their chubby-cheeked child; and behind them came Ann Rigg, the slater’s widow, from Craig House, with her boys and little girl; and, leaning on their shoulders, the eighty-years-old, white-haired, Braithwaite Rigg and his venerable dame; and close upon them was seen old Rowley Lightfoot, his wife, and son John. Squire Jobson’s man walked beside the car from the Fish Inn, talking to the tidy, clean old housekeeper of Woodhouse; while the Squire himself rode in the rear, proud and happy as he marshalled the merry little band along;—for, truth to say, it would have been difficult to find in any other part of England so much manliness and so much rustic beauty centred in so small a spot.

As they moved gently along the road, John Cowman, the host of the Victoria, struck up the following well-known song, which was welcomed with a shout from the whole “lating:”—

Ah, him again.

If you’ve read Mayhew’s interview in London Labour with the Italian organ-grinder (“When I am come in this country I had nine or ten year old, so I know the English language better than mine”), you’re probably the kind of person who’ll also want to ponder the mysterious mechanical instrument in Mayhew’s list of imagined musical entertainment at the Exhibition:

St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey (“in consequence of the increased demand”) were about to double their prices of admission, when M. JULLIEN, “ever ready to deserve the patronage of a discerning public,” made the two great English cathedrals so tempting an offer that they “did not think themselves justified in refusing it.” And there, on alternate nights, were shortly to be exhibited, to admiring millions, the crystal curtain, the stained glass windows illuminated with gas, and the statues lighted up with rose-coloured lamps; the “Black Band of his Majesty of Tsjaddi, with a hundred additional bones;” the monster Jew’s harp; the Euhurdy-gurdychon; the Musicians of Tongoose; the Singers of the Maldives; the Glee Minstrels of Paraguay; the Troubadours of far Vancouver; the Snow Ball Family from the Gold Coast; the Canary of the Samoiedes; the Theban Brothers; and, “expressly engaged for the occasion,” the celebrated Band of Robbers from the Desert.

Double misfortune: Cruikshank doesn’t draw it (maybe pro-Brexit campaigners will have a go), and the Xenodokeion Pancosmopolitanicon in the next para is not an instrument but a package deal for the posh.

Other marvellous entertainment biz sideshows in SR’s, so far: tragic Osman, the ex-untouchable bullock-clown; the German-style Mughal ballad singers with illustrations held up on cloths; the horned beast on the snowy beach singing Jingle Bells; ditto entering an African evangelical service in London to the sounds of “Fix me, Jesus” (we’re still allowed to laugh at them); Mrs Torture (you may remember her); the Hal Valance, the grotesque TV marketeer who makes clavichords in his spare time…

More anon on real mechanical musical instruments at 19th century expositions.

Was the Saxon flaxen? Is white-van man a klaxon Saxon? So much to say, so little time:

How to make your street organ twitch and stammer like a well-tuned poxy cove

With an example, sampled from a French street organist, MIDI-fied and manipulated, and finally re-WAVd.

In 1864 an extraordinary open letter was addressed to Michael Thomas Bass, MP by a formidable representation of the then cultural A-list:

Sir,—Your undersigned correspondents are desirous to offer you their hearty thanks for your introduction into the House of Commons of a Bill for the Suppression of Street Music; and they beg to assure you that, in the various ways open to them, they will, out of Parliament, do their utmost to support you in your endeavour to abolish that intolerable nuisance. Your correspondents are all professors and practitioners of one or other of the arts or sciences. In their devotion to their pursuits—tending to the peace and comfort of mankind—they are daily interrupted, harassed, worried, wearied, driven nearly mad, by street musicians. They are even made especial objects of persecution by brazen performers on brazen instruments, beaters of drums, grinders of organs, bangers of banjos, clashers of cymbals, worriers of fiddles, and bellowers of ballads; for, no sooner does it become known to those producers of horrible sounds that any of your correspondents have particular need of quiet in their own houses, than the said houses are beleaguered by discordant hosts seeking to be bought off. Your correspondents represent to you that these pecuniary speculations, in the misery they endure are far more destructive to their spirits than their pockets; and that some of them, not absolutely tied to London by their avocations, have actually fled into the country for refuge from this unmerited persecution—which is none the less grievous or hard to bear, because it is absurd. Your grateful correspondents take the liberty to suggest to you that, although a Parliamentary debate undoubtedly requires great delicacy in the handling, their avocations require at least as much, and that it would highly conduce towards the success of your proposed enactment, if you prevail on its opponents to consent to state their objections to it, assailed on all sides by the frightful noises in despite of which your correspondents have to gain their bread. (Signed):—Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, John Everett Millais, Francis Grant, John Forster, J. R. Hebbet, John Leech, W. Holman Hunt, Wilkie Collins, J. E. Horsley, W. P. Firth, F. Seymour Haydn, R. Doyle, T. Carlyle, Alfred Wigan, W. Boxall, George Jones, Alfred Elmore, Thomas Faed, John Phillips, Thomas Cheswick, James Sant, E. M. Barry, J. H. Robinson, S. Cousins, L. Stocks, W. C. Dobson, Thomas Woolner.

A superb piece by John M Picker, The Soundproof Study: Victorian Professionals, Work Space, and Urban Noise, deals with the struggle of this class of Victorian creative professionals against their lesser but noisier and often foreign brethren, where extra-parliamentary remedies included the construction of anechoic chambers and flight to the countryside. Such complaints are not new–somewhere there’s a story of Mary Queen of Scots being kept awake on her arrival in her “native” land by 500 fiddlers, to say nothing of the sad affair at Jericho–but, as Picker notes, at the turn of the century some attitudes begin to soften. And then along comes Igor Stravinsky and writes a ballet score, Petrushka, featuring defective street organ and accordeon sounds (did he know Bergson on mechanism vs determinism & humour?), and a substantial number of subsequent pieces that musicologists would have recognised as celebrating the broken-down sounds of outside if they didn’t spend all their time behind double-glazing.

I’d guess you’d define ours as a visual rather than an aural age because there are no effects or plugins for Sibelius or Cubase comparable to the standard set available in Illustrator or Photoshop. So: as far as music software goes, user output based on non-instrument user input tends to be rhythmically and tonally dull. When my organ is finished I want to get round this problem by reworking live recordings of mine or others. Here’s one recipe on the go:

  1. Record a knackered organ playing a dodgy arrangement. The one in the fragment below was made on the street somewhere in France (Toulouse?). Most (but not all) the ambient crap was eliminated during WAV and MIDI editing
  2. Open with Intelliscore. Dunno what instrument it is, Easy timing setting, Finish -> generates a test version, detecting key, pitch deviation etc. Hit Adjust these settings: Audio tab: if doing in segments make relevant choice. Pitch tab: adjust upper limit to get enough real notes and not too many overtones, transpose to the most appropriate key for your own (tonally limited) organ – in my case that’s Bb. Timing tab: check Easy timing (you’re not notating), adjust the pitch and time quantisation settings until you get something whichever side of borderline chaotic you do. Etc etc
  3. Wav -> Midi with AmazingMIDI by Araki – freeware which got as good results for me as Intelliscore, with a less complicated interface and without constant errors on Vista
  4. Sequence bits of MIDI with Mixcraft if required and export
  5. Open the exported MIDI with APrint to check the output against organ specifications, and to export to WAV using your VST (using French organ samples taken from the APrint site) if that’s what you want.

And here’s my modest fragment, created with step 10, of auto-generated sub-Stravinsky to terrify any latter day Dickens or Babbage passing this way:

OK, not that scary, but keep a-hold of nurse.

[You may also want to check this post on 19th century musical noise pollution.]