Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Speculum Musico-Mortuale

These interesting engravings come from a 1672 Salzburg manuscript, Speculum Muscio-Mortuale by baroque composer Abraham Megerle(s).

To the best of my limited understanding (limited by the dearth of relevant information on the web and by the usual translational aberrances) Megerle (1609-1670) was from Innsbruck, Austria and pursued something of a religious life as Director of Cathedral Music in Konstanz, Germany and was a music pupil of Johann Stadlmayr.

It would seem that these Totenköpfen ('deadheads' - skulls) form some sort of allegorical centrepiece, augmented by the musical instruments and symbols in each illustration. The engravings are placed among descriptive and biblicial text and give the appearance to my mind of some kind of musical half-cousin to the emblemata genre. I saw some passing reference to this volume being an autobiography but I'm not sure about that.

It's best to see them in their original context, particularly if you read german (and latin moreso). I'm very curious so if anyone knows what the book is about or has any edumacated guesses to offer, please go right ahead.

There is also reference to a Peter Tenhaef and his " Abraham Megerles "Speculum musico mortuale" and its dead-liturgical parallels in the "Beylag to my will" in: Music in Bavaria 56 (1998), 15-40 ".. [I've half a mind to contact him at his university email address and ask some questions]

The above Megerle images are nearly the total on display at the Universitätsbibliothek Salzburg (translation page)


Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff! I particularly liked the first couple of images on the site where the skulls have flowers growing out of them.

peacay said...

I only just realized the flowers weren't here. Not sure how I missed posting those - it was the translation of their description that convinced me to make the post. Oh well.

peacay said...

Well I did write to Peter Tenhaef and his reply...

**Only a few pages of Megerle's Speculum Musico-Mortuale are autobiographic.

There are 14 Illustrations in the book, one portrait and 13 emblematic pictures (music instruments and other things) with inscriptions and little poems.

The primary sense of the book is a symbolic one; it belongs to the
tradition of Memento mori and Vado mori.

I have made a large commentary
about this work, but it is not published until now, may be next winter with
facsimile in Denkmäler der Musik in Salzburg.**
[end of message]

Memento mori

Vado mori in the danse macabre


Je fis de Macabre la danse,
Qui tout gent maine à sa trace
E a la fosse les adresse.

Respit de la Mort

פאולה שולץ said...

where is that raven on a skull?
can i plz know from which book is it?
i want to make a tattoo, but i must know what it symbolised becouse im jewish.
and i need to buy a better print.

peacay said...

The book is called 'speculum musico mortuale' by Abraham Megerle. If you clock through to the Austrian website linked above you can find the largest versions of the images. I don't think you will find any posters or any other versions of the book online, nor do I think it will be easy finding a copy of the book anywhere, but good luck with it.

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