This Is What a 600-Year-Old “Butt Song from Hell” Sounds Like
The Garden of Earthly Delights is the modern title given to a triptych painted by the Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch. It has been housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Dating from between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was between about 40 and 60 years old, it is his best-known and most ambitious complete work. It reveals the artist at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery.
When Hieronymus Bosch painted The Garden of Earthly Delights some time between the years of 1490 and 1510, the man clearly had a lot on his mind. His triptych shows a hallucinatory landscape: There is Adam and Eve, for example, and there is a man flying on the back of a bird-lion grasping a bear in its talons. The three sections of the painting, all of which are currently housed in the Prado Museum, Madrid, have captivated viewers for centuries, and this week a university student in Oklahoma found another reason to take a closer look.
“Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting…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. So yes this is LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell”
Amelia, “a hard-of-hearing music and information systems double major,” posted a close-up on Tumblr of “the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell.” The figure has a musical score stenciled across both cheeks, and Amelia translated it into modern notation and made a recording.
So what does a 500-year-old “butt song from Hell” actually sound like?