September 25, 2019


Accipe Ovum & igneo percute gladio [take the egg and strike it with a fiery sword

“Emblema VIII. Accipe ovum & igneo percute gladio. ‘Take the egg and strike it with a fiery sword.’ The egg is the Subject of the Art, which must be struck by the martial igneous agent wielding the ‘double-edged sword’ of the Secret Fire. Mars thus comes to the help of Vulcan, and from the ensuing darkness of Putrefaction (Nigredo) the hermetick chick will hatch. Raymund Lull, quoted here by Maier, stresses in several places that the fiery sword is a sharp lance, because Fire, like a lance, pierces bodies, rendering them porous and permeable, so that Water may penetrate them and turn their hardness into softness” (p98).


According to Luca Ferrari's excellent and detailed notes inside the booklet of the 50th Anniversary edition of "Alchemy", the iconic cover was taken from the book "Atalanta Fugiens" by Michael Maier (1568–1622), published by Johann Theodor de Bry in Oppenheim in 1617 (2nd edition 1618). 
It consists of 50 chapters with engravings by Matthias Merian, a great artist rarely quoted. Alongside illustrations, poems, and alchemical explanations, it included 50 pieces of music in the form of "fugues" scored for 3 voices. 

Being a fan of Early, Renaissance and Baroque music, I let my imagination fly: if Third Ear Band were around at the time, could their music be considered some kind of alternative "secret" sound to the more famous composers of the era? I suppose there's no answer to this question, but I think that it could definitely be interesting to hear what the original pieces from the book sounded like.
Among the countless transcriptions of the work you can listen to a nice vocal performance here below:

More performances here:

For voices and instruments here:

A different Czech ensemble recorded the fugues using for the cover the same engraving of the TEB:

...and even two modern transcriptions for piano and synthesizer here:

It is also worth noting that for many researchers and musicologists "Atalanta Fugiens" may be considered an early example of multimedia.

Alessandro Monti :: unfolk

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

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