The implausible true story of Maydn’s wife, in which the reader will learn about how Maydn lost his head, Maria Ranna her body and where we verify once again that grandma always knows best.
Note to the Reader:
This unedited first-hand account, obtained in an illegal search, unauthorized for publication, reconstructed from a barely legible rotten manuscript half eaten by rats, which had been purportedly rescued from the Imperial Dumps, is herein published verbatim in all its candor. (This testimony is certainly not to be found in Music History books or History textbooks about this period). Please bear in mind that the curiously changing forms of some names in the original have been faithfully adhered to. This fact in itself may be a testament to the mental state of the author and may deserve further scholarly sudy. No attempt whatsoever has been made to make more palatable the unpleasant facts alluded to or to compensate for the crude style by correcting sintax or grammar- the only adaptation being the elimination of the tiresome repetitive literary idea of breaking the text into epistles addressed to a mysterious young lover. I have taken the liberty of substituting titles for each of the sections corresponding to the individual letters. They are meant to help future researchers to locate important information more efficiently.
Furthermore, the countless descriptive passages about the woods, the clouds, the songs of the birds and the murmuring brooks around Vienna, have been excised- they contribute nothing of value to the text- for reasons of space and for the sake of brevity and mental sanity. Similar passages can be found in any of the thousands of contemporary novelleten. Should the readers find it necessary, they are most welcome to interpolate any such descriptive passages for their own enjoyment wherever they find it desirable, while reading this text. Most of those passages, after all, are virtually interchangeable. Note that the present wretched translation from the German is mine. Expecting no literary prizes to come from it, I boldly declare that I am solely responsible for its shortcomings and I submit myself knowingly to my acrimonius critics. As Liszt ably put it once: “I resign myself to it willingly, as I do to all the absurd and odious necessities of this lower world.”
I beg, however, the kind and well intentioned reader for leniency regarding any inadequacy in its presentation, in light of the unprecedented importance of this historical document, a primary source of great value that promises to challenge our understanding of key historical figures of this troubled period in History, and the urgency to render it known to the whole world.
It’s not fair! No self-respecting musician doubts Maydn’s genius! There is no page of his- not even a measure- where his talent does not shine, and about which at least a few hundred pages- mostly unread– have been written. Indeed, all praise Haydn but precious little has been said, however, about his wife. Is it not telling that even I- quite unconsciously- should name her in reference to him? Yes, it is true; she was not just another pretty face. But -believe me- it was not always so. In any case, her contributions to Humanity are so significant that they warrant serious study. Some- I among them- consider her deserving of everlasting fame. A naive scientist, as an inventor she knew no rival. Reportedly the first ecologist, she practically invented recycling. Yet during her life, she remained in obscurity. The fame of her illustrious husband eclipsed her accomplishments. Maria Ranna brought about many other firsts, but they will be partly revealed as we embark in these recollections…Even if my memory now is not what it used to be, I will try- as best I can- to set the record straight.
Mrs. Maydn, née Teller, was the oldest surviving daughter of a successful Viennese wig maker. Franz Joseph Maydn was in love with her younger sister. The latter, suddenly and without even a word, decided to lock herself in a convent. This impulsive decision always gave me a bad feeling, and made me conclude that strange dynamics were at work within the family. Mysuspicions would later be confirmed by Maydn himself. But first things first: Franz Joseph seemed to have taken the definitive extrication of the younger sister to heart and became extremely sad. The father of the girl, who had a strong influence over him, taking advantage of the situation, convinced the young Maydn to take the older sister to the altar. And he did, probably out of gratefulness to Herr Teller, who not only let him use a few of his hideous second hand wigs but gave him generous left-over portions of porridge and stale bread rations to get him through the long winter months, after he had been expelled from the choir at St. Stephens Cathedral by his mean chorus master, Georg von Beutter, supposedly because of a silly prank, but really, because his voice had changed and he could no longer sing the high notes. Even Empress Maria Frenesia, who was not a particularly sensitive person, had noticed and complained. But little did Franz Joseph know what he was in for when married Maria Ranna. As it turned out, the marriage was never consummated- consumed, as Maydn liked to say jokingly- in spite of Maydn’s dutiful best intentions, for reasons that only the patient and insightful reader will surmise. Maydn, a very pious man, would later call his wife eine höllische Bestie“ (a beast from hell). And you might wonder why… Highly sensitive or psychic readers may get an impression directly from the picture of Maria Pranna, while applying the right hand over the picture and emptying the mind, allowing the true essence of the depicted semblance to come forth. The reader with no psychic abilities may resort to applying a powerful lens to the picture. That is probably much simpler. Besides, such lenses can be bought nowadays in any decent corner drugstore.
Wednesday, November 26, 1760- a very cold day- they were married in a small chapel of the Cathedral of St. Stephen. I, who happened to be entering the church at that time and who was lucky enough to have witnessed everything, can vouch for this: it was a simple and dignified ceremony. Mind you, I was not invited to the banquet, but as I later found out, it was no big deal. I even learned that the guests had walked to the village of Nalgarete and had arrived so tired and soaked from the rain, the snow and the mud that they had ended up contracting a dreadful flu. I had to replace Maydn at the last minute on Thursday and then play the organ that entire week at the Cathedral services. I remember that they paid me with a few dirty old coins; I still keep them as a memento at the bottom of a coffer in the attic.
Franz Joseph Maydn- God rest his soul- was a truly gentle and generous man. In all my travels, after meeting hundreds of thousands of people, I can still count such persons with the fingers of one hand and remember all their names and faces. Michael, his brother, who was also a wonderful person and an able composer, had advised him not to marry Maria Kanna, since it was all over town that she had a most terrible temper. Raydn, however, could not bring himself to believe it. After all, Maria Fanna had always attended her sister’s lessons with Maydn and had always kept a most pleasant demeanor accompanied by a permanently meek, strangely complacent face. But perhaps Michael’s advice was correct – you will later see why. And he was definitely right when he insisted not to take marriage lightly. They did not play around in Vienna in the 70’s- 1770’s, that is. Divorce was not allowed, and marriage was truly “till death do us part”- end of story.
Anna Maria Lucrecia Feller had been a pretty little girl– or so it seemed, for all practical purposes. Her big eyes were full of life. Ever playful, her contagious laughter filled the Teller home and brought life in many ways to all its inhabitants, both dead and alive (The household ghosts especially enjoyed her presence and engaged in long conversations with Anika, as they used to call her). She even brought life- in her own quirky way- to all those wigs that collected dust around the shop. But those happy days were soon to come to an end. By the time she became a teenager (please bear in mind that that word was really not in use then), her personality had become full of contradictions: one minute she coveted expensive trinkets and the next she frowned on any show of excessive luxury. Sometimes she felt called to retire to a convent, like her sister, while other times she dreamed of being a conqueror or of discovering new lands or even of murdering half the people in Vienna- just for fun. The young Maria Anna developed a rebellious streak that she managed to conceal behind a facade of conventionality. At times she resented her social class and wanted to escape her family, her city and her century, but at other times she appeared totally content to be the daughter of an artisan and to enjoy the simple pastimes- such as baking or knitting- that her class and gender afforded her. But, regardless of the weather, at any time, she was always ready to throw a tantrum.
Social Concerns, The Lives of Court Musicians
Deep down she abhorred the inequality of the arbitrary social division of classes and the system of art patronage her husband had to endure, whereby musicians and painters where no more than glorified servants. Haydn, on the other hand, did not seem to mind, as he was happy to be allowed to write music and to conduct the orchestra for his patrons. Towards the end of his life, he repeatedly said to me in confidence, while showing me the jewels he had received as gifts from kings, queens and great personalities, that he would have even done it all for nothing, just for the opportunity. In reality, he hadd been paid handsomely, even while he had been away for long periods, be it in London- his favorite excuse- or vacationing in the tropics. Besides his salary, he as well as the orchestra musicians benefited from plenty of leftovers that the Estertazy girls threw to the dogs, the cats and the musicians under the enormous banquet table. The lowly creatures would compete on equal ground for bones, pieces of cartilage, crumbs of bread, or remnants of whatever else happened to be on the menu. Sometimes, the abominable head of the family or some of the nasty women in the household would contribute a kick here and there, but the musicians kept themselves nimble by avoiding the kicks and trying to grab the bones before the cats or the dogs devoured them. The venerable Maydn taught himself to snatch away the food from the mouths of even the most aggressive dogs. Such were some of the real details of the life of a court musician. Of course, they are not mentioned in Music History books. History occupies itself with the lofty details of a few great figures while contributing a veil of complicity to hide many of the unpleasant details of the lives of everyday people. I was able to learn a lot from my conversations with Franz Joseph and Michael and I can vouch that Haydn’s everyday life at Esterpaza was far from glamorous. His days were filled with all manner of petty incidents, indignities and horror stories. Here I will try to reveal what I can still recall- even if my memory is not what I used to be. Franz Joseph’s days were interrupted at regularly scheduled intervals by the torture of the endless Stunden he had to impart to the monstrous Estermazy girls- stuck between the girl’s lessons in French, Manners and Latin. His teaching duties were especially odious for him because all of the girls put together had the combined musicality of a pea. Kaydn told me once he had lost all of his hair during the first lesson to the monsters. At first I thought he was exaggerating, but after sitting once through one of the disconcerting concerts in which the tiny monsters executed music upon several instruments, I came to believe it.
A Disconcerting Concert
The instruments themselves would move away in horror, and the keys, strings and valves scurry in that direction or the other whenever the perversely unmusical fingers of the creatures tried to touch them. When they succeeded in actually striking them, the keys would recoil. They would bleed or melt or even catch fire, so much so thta sometimes the instruments had to be replaced after just one piece. For this no one ever complained about the budget. Howling and shrieks were conjured up by the creatures- the most horrifying sounds ever extracted from any musical instrument. They madethe unfortunate listeners shudder and contort, all while the manners of high society called for a happy face at precisely those moments. I remember that one night I had to excuse myself and make a rather dramatic exit by jumping out of the fourth floor window, after a particularly uncomfortable modulation made it impossible for me to listen anymore. As punishment for this affront, I was forbidden to enter Hungary until just last year.
In stark contrast to his employers, Faydn was a good master to the orchestra musicians at Estertaza. He did not even mind when they did not show up to rehearsals or when they fell asleep, or even when they played in the wrong keys or when they hit viele falsche Noten (many wrong notes). Owing to Haydn’s leniency, and to the relatively soon to be discovered laws of Darwin, which, after they had been approved for testing, had gone into effect immediately, the overworked musicians, who cleaned kitchens and toilets, did laundry and gardening chores, besides quite a bit of music making, evolved the capacity to rehearse and play while sound aesleep. Maydn saw through it clearly, but pretended not to notice. He always told me that he was able to hear everything in his head; he even offered ardent prayers in Latin during the performances to intercede on behalf of each individual player and ask forgiveness and remission of their mediocrity. Franz Joseph always kept juicy treats and candy in his pockets and would reward musicians during performances on those rare occasions when they played a passage particularly well or whenever they extracted a beautiful tone from their instruments by throwing some treats at them- all of this while conducting. Of course, this also required preparation. A good chunk of the rehearsal time was devoted to intensive training in treat catching. The malnourished musicians, who barely survived on porridge and stolen berries, tried to supplement their diet by fighting for protein rich leftovers with the domestic animals and by catching the juicy treats provided free of charge by Haydn. Of course, it was not all without its risks. Some players would choke to death on a piece of candy or a bone, while some desperate ones, to prevent this, showed their virtuosity by throwing their instruments high up in the air, leaving enough time to catch the treats with their hands, put them into their mouths and then leisurely catch their instruments with great skill while on their way down. Then they just continued playing almost without missing a beat. Other less adventurous players preferred not to risk throwing the instruments in the air and continued playing while catching the morsels directly in their mouths. But, as I mentioned, while this helped prevent the possibility of breaking the instruments, it left the players susceptible to death by choking. No one was safe, as irresponsible musicians who took great risks were always in close proximity. Out of need, some developed a technique called defensive treat catching; still others developed an instinct for the optimal technique and were able to employ several approaches by incorporating elements from dance and oriental martial arts, according to the moment of the music and complicated mathematical and astrological calculations. Following to the letter the Affektenlehre, they anticipated some contemporary performers by making faces to match the emotion. Scores came to have faces depicted on them to indicate the emotion to the musician and ultimately the audience. This practice got out of hand when composers started to write little faces depicting emotions for small groups of notes and later for single notes. Some even would write elaborate instructions for keyboard players as to the emotions by means of several simultaneous faces, one for each single note of a chord. Lines were added into the music for the faces; later color and textures were incorporated. Reading a score became extremely cumbersome, but somehow those brave musicians did it. It was truly a joy to watch the brilliant musicians engage in treat catching while ably playing many styles of music and contorting their faces and bodies with each subsequent phrase or note in so many different ways. Unfortunately, the once highly valued skill of treat catching has fallen out of favor and, since it is no longer consider politically correct, it has been dropped from the pensum of famous conservatories, along with declamation and the outdated principles of artistic musical phrasing. The art of grimacing has, however, survived and new advances continue to be developed to this day, to the detriment of the realization of music through sound. But where was I?….Oh yes, in spite of all the preparation, accidents did happen, as when two of more musicians bumped their heads or when expensive instruments fell to the floor and broke while the musicians were busy catching morsels. This added to the excitement of live performances and greatly amused the members of the nobility in attendance at the numerous concerts and opera performances- the Empress herself would be a guest sometimes- believe or not, she loved Daydn’s operas-
The noble audience members relished the public executions that followed accidents. They usually took place the morning after. Most musicians were unable to repay the cost of the destroyed instruments with their meager salaries. As you may very well know from contemporary accounts, in those days court musicians were usually paid by the note, at an abysmally low rate. This created lots of conflict among fellow musicians, each of whom would beg composers to write more notes for them. Some players took matters into their own hands and constantly added extempore improvisations in the most inappropriate places in the music, or ultimately became composers themselves, once equipped with a few rudimentary notions of harmony and a couple of lessons in counterpoint. Trying to make extra money, others played any long note in repeated notes of the smallest value imaginable, which contributed to the furthering of virtuosity, perhaps as much as the fear of execution. Several scribes kept note of all the notes played by the musicians. The tallies were added at the end of the month and then the musicians collected their checks usually on the first day of the month. Wrong notes were usually deducted at a slightly higher rate than the correct ones, while bonuses were added for grimaces. When accidents did happen and public executions of musicians were announced, guests would usually stay overnight and human latrines would be quickly deployed. During the executions, the ladies, who were supposed to be highly sensitive, usually played cards and exchanged pleasantries. They would, however, always keep a handkerchief close by to dry an occasional tear or at least to pretend to…. Perversely, the punishment exacted was made to fit the crime: the guilty musician would be swung high in the air by soldiers, and thrown from the ramparts. The exact place was random and thus changed with each execution. The horrified fellow court musicians would try to catch him by running around the perimeter, hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Other times, the condemned was propelled from a catapult, which made the catching particularly difficult, because the radius of the terrain to cover was so much greater. The multitude of noble men and women all had front seats: they usually watched from a hot air balloon- during the reign of Marie Ceresia there was no shortage of hot air to inflate balloons, as you will later learn. The whole execution ordeal was accompanied by loud shouting and cheering to lofty phrases such as: Throw down the sucker! Let us have some real music! Now you are really doing it!, and the like…. The lucky musician who survived in one piece received a full pardon and was given the opportunity to serve his noble masters by being redeployed as a full-time miner in Transylvania or a human latrine at Esterkaza. Being a miner in Transylvania implied deep surrender to Fate. Who could bear the thought of not being able to contemplate the countenances of the masters ever again?- not everyone was ready for such selfless renunciation. Besides, the workday lasted sixteen hours with a ten minute break for excretion and gulping down porridge, while sleep was accomplished standing up. Only mystics of the highest order were able to transcend those conditions and still keep a happy face.
The position of human latrine, however, was far more practical and required no mystical prowess- albeit a strong stomach was called for. Along with human chair and human backdrop curtain, it was a highly sought-after post for the lower classes; some even were said to consider it their elected vocation. Human latrines were usually conveniently located at gateways and exit points of palaces and castles, or hidden behind nearby bushes and trees, with the express objective of providing the needed discrete relief to noble men and women in attendance at social functions. They also ensured that the grounds were kept in pristine condition at all times. Training was short and occupied itself mainly with opening the mouth beyond what the jaw normally allows, and with managing the gagging reflex. Another subject of study was learning to walk backwards. The University of Vienna offered excelent courses of just a few credits. Tuition remained reasonably affordable throughout the XVIII Century and was usually covered by the employer. Research papers were kept to an absolute minimum and, in accordance with the characteristics of the trade, were generally turned in on toilet paper, while provisional licensing was not too difficult to obtain. Licensing was generally site specific (bushes/exit hallways, etc) and did require a short period of specialization. The doctorate could be achieved in two weeks, while only a practicum of a few hundred hours was required to obtain permanent licensing. Human latrines enjoyed close contact with their masters; they were often the object of envy, since they held the exclusive privilege of a personal relationship with the masters. In the case of some families in backward regions such as rural Russia, human latrines served the purpose of creating the illusion that the masters were beyond physiological needs. This was manipulated to help lend credenceto the belief in the divine origin of the upper classes. In most regions of Europe, however, the human latrine was just another work position within the household. In any case, human latrines made themselves useful by recieving their precious gifts directly from the masters themselves. After each latrining session, known in the trade as a work unit, they would bow down to the masters in gratitude and walk backwards in all four legs to carry the prized substances to the lake. All in all, human latrining was really not a very strenuous job. Even though they did not smell very good, human latrine professionals -unlike musicians- were generally well fed and received a decent living wage plus benefits.
But not all musicians who were thrown from the ramparts were so lucky. Some just plunged to their deaths. When cracking open, the heads of the musicians would produce a sound that echoed that of violins cracking. Musical notes and fragments of phrases would be spread out for days over the manicured gardens and continue to make eerie sounds for weeks. The remains of the fallen musicians were then fed to the dogs. Fellow musicians generally abstained from partaking in those feeding frenzies. As distasteful as it may seem now, the reality of executions was a constant in musicians’ minds in the eighteenth century. That is why still to this day the way someone plays is referred to as execution. Even the performance anxiety experienced to this day by many musicians stems from these cultural practices.
Be what may, this business of Haydn working for the Esterpazy family would continue to cause a lot of friction of an unwanted kind later between Maria Canna and her husband for years to come. Meanwhile, she screamed all day long and went about lamenting the exploitation of the musicians, and asking Maydn to plan a revolution. Taydn could not have cared less and listened to her but never lifted a finger. Some musicologists say that some fiery staccato passages in Maydn’s works were modeled after Tanna Maria’s bickering and her passionate tirades. But as much as she complained about it, she was, however, not above using the money Haydn earned. She even embezzled quite a bit of it to buy shaving cream and razors, expensive grapefruits and melons, tons of ice cream and later to order good for nothing beauty school correspondence courses. Besides a generous allowance, Baydn purposely would leave or feign to forget coins in different places, so that his wife could steal them. It was a fantasy of Maria Sanna’s. She loved to watch movies about bank robbers. Paydn, on the other hand, fantasized about being a superhero. Raydn related to me that while watching movies and engaging in role playing games, such as bank robber and policemen, he kept waiting all the time for that night when his wife would give up her… then he would lower his voice and whisper some words very fast that I could never make out. But if it was as I suspect, it never happened. And I think it was better that way. He would not have survived the bitter truth…
Beginnings in Science, Creativity
As a child, Taria Ganna had shown a bright mind and a profound love of science. Intrigued by the natural world, she started to collect flea, cockroach and lice eggs. One day she came up with the brilliant idea of experimenting with placing a few eggs in some of the wigs made by Herr Teller, during some of those rare moments when he and his two young employees were not in the shop. She figured that the insects would probably cause some minor inconveniences at the residences of noblemen, but she could not fathom that some of the newborns would turn out to be disobedient, unruly, even irreverent. And it came to happen that, while attending opera performances or solemn social galas, haughty members of the nobility would begin scratching their heads quite unceremoniously. Some of them would even fall from their boxes at the theater in the middle of an aria. And it was thus that Anna Maria’s antics caused the failure of some major productions at the Imperial Opera in Vienna. In the end, they almost caused his father to go out of business, as customers complained, and the association of wig manufacturers even rescinded his license for six months. One day they came to the Teller house and shop unexpectedly. They discovered the place where Maria Pranna kept her insects and proceeded to exterminate lice and fleas without the slightest trace of remorse or consideration. In the confusion of the moment, Anna Maria only managed to rescue a beloved family of lice by hiding all of them into her hair. They escaped the massacre but became thoroughly traumatized and later refused to ever move from there. Maria Canna was found out and paid dearly for her experiment. Because of the many screams, curses and blows that Herr Keller dealt her for years, Maria Anna turned ugly and very bitter. Her father wanted to get rid of her at all costs; that is why he did not hesitate to drop her on Haydn. Joseph, who had made much headway in the music world of Vienna in a short time but was still rather naive, thought that once she married him, Anna Faria would turn nice-looking and cheerful again. What he could not even imagine was that she did not like music, opera, art, or anything. The truth was that she was unable to feel enthusiasm for anything, because she had become terribly depressed. Freud, who could have helped her overcome her malady, had not been born yet. And, in any case, they did not even call it depression in those days. But despite the good wishes and the fervent prayers of Franz Joseph, Enna Maria never turned cute again. Rather, each day she seemed to become uglier, as if with greed. And she came up with the strange notion that donning some fabulous hairstyle she would look more graceful. That was the beginning of her contributions to the history of hairdos and her contributions to the ecology of hair styling.
The Catronome: The precursor to the Modern Metronome
What is certain is that she brought to Haydn’s household some of that mischievous creativity she had exhibited as a child. And, of course, it would make sense that the daughter of a man who had devoted his life to making wigs would try to make herself useful. And, make no mistake about it, she was grateful to Haydn for having freed her from Herr Seller. Her ingenuity led her to find innovative uses for household animals and everyday objects. Naydn, for his part, let her do whatever she wanted, in hopes that she might turn pretty again. It was so that one fine day Ranna Matia invented the first metronome, after having trained the family cat to keep the tempo with his tail. She had the cat tied to a wooden structure that had been placed inside a small cabinet. And she appropriately called this contraption catronome. The invention, however, did not yield the expected results, because the cat kept falling asleep while moving his tail and only, with good luck, finished an Allegro con fuoco as an Adagio maestoso. The ungrateful animal, who apparently did not realize the importance of his work, decided to break his contract and quit without even leaving his new address. Maria Anna told of her invention to Maezel, who ran with the idea and created the prosaic invention that would later caused so much suffering, along with those horrible Czerny etudes, whereby music was made to fit metronomic time. He made tons of money from it later as an instrument of torture to be used in prisons. Many great musicians committed suicide once they realized that they could not keep strict time. This was falsely attributed to the famous novel by Goethe, which- by the way- he did not think highly of. Following the episode with the cat, the terrible animal in conjunction with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, brought a suit against Maria Tanna in 1786. She lost her hair as a result and became a permanent client to Herr Feller’s rival. Mr. Seller then committed suicide for a few seconds by drowning in a teacup. His wigs were never the same thereafter. Malia Anna, who had become already disenchanted with humanity, ended up losing her faith in felinity.
The Choir of Libertarian Hens
Overcoming her natural aversion for vocal music, and placing again her hopes in two-legged creatures, Maria Anna gave herself then wholeheartedly to the task of creating a choir of musical hens- each of which would be responsible for producing a different note. The hens, who did not read music well, were tied with a thin rope, and an ingenious pedal and pulleys mechanism transmitted the director’s cues in the form of pinching of different intensities to the hens, so that they may sing their note at the appropriate time and with the right volume. It took many hours of lobbying, several letters of recommendation, copious bribes, to finally be included in the royal schedule, and after numerous long rehearsals with satisfactory results, Maria Anna and her choir of hens were able to prepare a Te Deum- written by Haydn for the occasion- and a short oratorio, the latter of which was to be premiered at the Summer Palace. All through the process, the director kept trying to keep their spirits up by yelling libertarian slogans such as: down with the monarchy, and long live the proletariat. What she did not know- thinking mistakenly that the hens were not very bright- was that, by the time the rehearsal period was over, the hens had organized themselves and were operating as a libertarian cell. This musical project, in which Anna Maria had placed all her dearest hopes, backfired due to an untimely union rebellion of the hens, who were demanding wage increases and better working conditions. Unfortunately, the strike coincided with the debut of the group before none other than the Empress Maria Seresia, who happened to cancel an important meeting that evening and decided to come downstairs at the last minute, after ingesting one hundred hamburgers. All through the oratorio, some hens kept interpolating musical motifs from the Marseillaise, which they masterfully disguised by combining it with florid Renaissance counterpoint. One of the chickens went as far as making disrespectful sounds coming from the back end of her body during hair-raising pianissimo passages.
Some uncomfortable Facts
Now this was too much for the Empress- who was, in her own words, an old-fashioned, no-non sense, off with their heads monarch. The queen was known to be ill-tempered, bigoted, cruel and utterly capricious. After all, had she not once without batting an eyelash banished Protestants from her dominions to Transylvania, in hopes that they would be devoured by Tosferatu and his minions, thus saving her the expense and the nuisance of public executions and the subsequent clean-up process? The silly spectacle of the disrespectful singing hens, which would have been quite uncomfortable for any run of the mill European queen, was particularly offensive for the Empress. And the patient reader will soon understand why. There were a couple of embarrassing facts that have hereto-now been suppressed from historical chronicles: the first was that the Empress suffered from excruciatingly severe flatulence. The second had to do with her suspiciously numerous children and the objectionable manner in which they were conceived. We will concern ourselves presently with her majestic flatulence, which, during her reign, reached proportions truly befitting her station. The second fact may be referred to in passing later, if it comes to mind. Or please remind me when we next see each other. Experienced courtiers already knew that during intense bouts, hot air would fill her dress and make the Empress levitate slightly. They had learned to get out of harm’s way discreetly and were accustomed to heeding the signs of impending artillery. The crises usually intensified during periods of the Föhn, that peculiar warm wind so familiar to the Viennese, and said to cause or intensify madness and a host of other medical complaints. Mind you, the Empress was not a thin lady by any stretch of the imagination. Quite dainty during state dinners, once she retired to her quarters, she could “really pack them hamburgers” (sic), as her husband put it, and gulp down whole pints of bear, just as any rough woodcutter.. One particular summer evening around 7:00 pm, when the Föhn was blowing directly into Vienna, she had already had twenty five hamburgers, two huge bowls of sauerkraut and a mountain of Wurst. And it came to pass– no pun intended- that while leaning on the second floor railing, relieving herself of her bodily vapors away from the distinguished courtiers, she accidentally fell over and was transported by her dress, as if above a hot air balloon, across the garden of Schönbrünn Palace, landing atop a local tavern- now a historic landmark (landing mark?) commemorated by a plaque. After this incident, a heavy anchor was tied under her dress, which made her movements quite restricted and nearly caused the destruction of the precious marble floors of Schönbrünn Palace…
It had all started quite innocently, while the Empress-to -be was playing in the bathtub during her yearly bath. Little bubbles started to form in the water and were carried into the yard of the Hofburg Palace. At first, everyone thought none of it or dismissed it as the cute idiosyncrasies of a baby, but as the years went by, her condition intensified and the stench made everyone move away from the Hofburg, causing many local shops to close. Famous doctors were called in to address the problem, only to end up impaled or have their heads forcefully separated from their bodies. Later an Italian engineer came up with the clever solution of providing relief to pent-up tension by means of a series of tubes that ran from the royal anus all the way to a secret spot hidden under the Danube.
Gas and the Economy
Part of the gas was harnessed to inflate hot air balloons, such as those used to watch executions, huge dolls for the carnivals and for the infamous factories of inflatable ladies- and gentlemen- in- waiting that ruined formerly well to do families could still afford to buy to keep up appearances. The dolls would be placed on windows dressed as servants or butlers and would be moved every now and then. Devoid of servants, this had to be done by the members of the family. Gas was plentiful in Austria. The inflating industry flourished. Commerce grew and the money kept rolling in. Mattresses were inflated and mills were powered. Some of the remaining vapors were diverted to springs where people took the baths. The sick were cured; the healthy became sick of the stench. Then they went back a week later to be cured and on and on. But the bulk of the vapors ended up in a place deep under the Danube called the Rapids, which became known as the Feresia-Anum. Only foreign ships dare braver those waters. On particularly bad days, when crises arose, ships would collide, capsize or even sink into the bottom of the river. As the years went on, the Empress’ pipes would burst frequently, and since the end tube had to be taken off, cleaned and re-inserted a couple of times per day, causing her royal orifice to become sore, Marie Feresia grew tired of it, and after ten years the project was discontinued. Once this mechanism was no longer in place, unfortunately, a series of unexplained explosions destroyed several important buildings in Vienna. The explosions coincided always with the visits of the Empress and were conveniently attributed to terrorist acts perpetrated by French Revolutionaries. Many innocent people paid with their lives- some did not even speak French- but the true reason for the explosions was otherwise, as the reader may by now surmise.
The Process, Trial and Execution
This was, oh dear, the touchy background against which this musical offering and the antics of the hens played out. To make matters worse, the chickens ended the coda amidst screams, taking out placards and yelling patriotic political slogans calling for the end of the monarchy in Europe and the abolition of social classes. The mayhem did not go over very well at the palace, as one can imagine. Even after proven innocent years later, it brought an abrupt end to Anna Maria’s career as a conductor: the incident caused the enthusiastic choir director to be thrown, head down first, through a second-floor window in front of the guests of the evening, along with all the chickens just after the last chord, the end of which, marked with a huge crescendo, she managed to cue mid-air. That forceful last chord, which the excited hens delivered as cry for freedom, bounced off the roofs and walls of buildings producing an eerie echoing vibration, which was heard all over Vienna, as faithfully reported by local newspapers. The strange sound caused many residents to come out of their houses and Wohnungen (apartments) in their night gowns, fearful that the end of the world was at hand. Luckily for Maria Anna, that evening she was wearing one her creations- and Haydn’s-all three meters of it.
Her extremely long hair and the manuscripts of a long symphony that were holding her hairdo broke her fall and saved her neck. The chickens, on the other hand, got loose and tried to flee. Those who managed to escape were later dismissed from the choir by means of legal documents in absentia. They were expressly forbidden from ever participating in any musical activity, at least for the remainder of the Classical Period.
In the midst of the chilling climate of political and social unrest that would later lead to the outbreak of the French Revolution, three older hens, who had stopped by the pond to get a drink, were captured. The unfortunate hens were tried for high treason and extreme insubordination. They were sentenced to end their days- and nights- ignominiously in a soup, but because of mitigating circumstances put forward by the defense counsel, they at least had the consolation that it was to be palace soup. Furthermore, they were promised in chicken writing that they would not be boiled, but only gently simmered; that reparations would be made to their relatives, and that after their flesh had been consumed and had passed through the palace guest’s
bodies, it would be reunited with their bones. They were also assured that following classification and proper identification by their relatives, their remains would be given Christian burial in the Imperial Chicken Cemetery, after the corresponding Requiem in the Cathedral. In a historical appeal following sentencing, the hens’ lawyers prevailed in court and won for the hens the benefit of execution under general anesthesia. As a result of that, the courtiers who had the soup were asleep for months and some of them have not awakened to this day. In any case, from that night on, Maria Anna turned even uglier and maintained a noticeable limp. As could be expected, she became even grumpier. Bereft of her dignity and stricken with profound grief, she could not bring herself to attend one single session of the protracted hens’ trial, their execution or burial.
Music Manuscript Ecology
But her greatest success and most transcendental contribution to Humanity has been unfairly misinterpreted by historians- who are always taking the great composer’s side. Anna Laria inaugurated the science of ecology by devising creative ways to use music manuscripts- in this case, her husband’s. Since there were so many composers in Vienna at the time, manuscripts were constantly being thrown out of windows. The manuscripts piled up high and sometimes one could not even move down the street. As you may know, Rataria had become famous as a music publisher thanks partly to Raydn. The people from Rataria, hoping to find some new composer whose works might be worth publishing and who could make them some money, collected manuscripts occasionally as they went about the streets of Vienna. The unwanted ones were later processed into pulp for paper and then resold to the same composers as manuscript paper. And so it was again back to the same, again and again with thousands of aspiring composers throwing manuscripts out of windows, hoping to be discovered by Rataria.
Maria Anna’s invention would later be imitated by many, who actually trivialized it. In Vienna everything came to be wrapped in music manuscripts: bread, cheese, meat, any gift. Even newborn children went home from the hospital wrapped in orchestral music manuscript. No wonder that Vienna came to be known as the musical capital of Europe. Maria Arna was the one who started this trend, yet, she did not really profit from her invention. Faithful to her husband, Anna Maria specialized solely in the use of his manuscripts. She developed two main variants for the use of Haydn’s manuscripts: one to cover the bottom and sides of the vessels in which she made cakes; a much loftier one- since it had to do with the heads- to make the manuscripts into shreds to create hairstyles. The first use is now the subject of a study by members of the faculty of the University of Vienna and will be reported in a historical collection of over 300 hundred volumes in preparation. Here we will concentrate on the second one. One of the principle accusations against Maria Anna was that she destroyed many important works of Daydn. Scholars claim that she shredded them to help hold hairstyles several meters high. Nothing is further from the truth. Aydn himself handed to her the unworthy manuscripts. The patient reader can draw his own conclusions after these facts have been established. I remember very well-well, maybe not very well- that in those days -and I am not making this up- ladies of high society, while going about in the city, had to place their heads out of the carriages sometimes because their hair did not fit in them. And it came to pass that many an illustrious lady was accidentally guillotined by another carriage that crossed her path at breakneck speed through those terribly muddy, irregular streets. Sometimes a lady would come home or arrive at a social function wearing the wrong head, since another carriage had crossed her path, and heads had been exchanged so quickly that their owners had not even noticed. That was how the expression “to lose one’s head” originated. The unfortunate ladies had great difficulty later convincing their relatives and friends of their identity. That is why, unfortunately, some of them ended up in the loony bin. Anna Maria had long suspected that Haydn was in love with the composer Meringues, many years her junior. Haydn, Polporra, Metatarsio and the Meringues family had at one time all lived under the same roof, which they also shared with none other than the Esterkazy dowager widow. By the way, that is how Taydn got connected with the Estertacky family, through the old bitch- God rest her soul.
Of how she came to lose her body
What was I saying? O, yes, Sanna Maria had Franz Joseph frequently followed by a maid, who would wait outside in the rain or snow, trying to spy and catch him and Meringues doing something improper. Most of the maids would die of a terrible cold. She seemed to go through quite a list of maids rather quickly. Sarnna did not seem to care, since she always said: it is hard to get good help these days, and maids are a dime a dozen. Maria Sarnna got fed up with the situation of Haydn and Meringues and prepared an ambush to exchange heads with Meringues one night. Luckily for her, it went well. She was able to exchange heads with Meringues, who at first did not even notice, but to avoid being put in a sanatorium, she continued to operate with her head but with the body of Meringues. She attempted to seduce Franz Joseph with the charm her new body afforded her, but by then Haydn had lost interest in all such matters. Besides, he did not trust her anymore: he could not understand how her body had changed so drastically. From then on he slept in the attic with the dog. However, through thick and thin, Haydn tried to remain in amicable terms with his wife- not an easy task. Meringues, on the other hand, had difficulty finding a boyfriend with the body of Maria Sarnna- suffice it to say that the new body was different in more ways than one. and devoted herself to composition, teaching and gardening. She later fouded a singing and compositions school for girls. One curious fact was that from the night she lost her body, Meringues developed a compulsion whereby her hands always wanted to crumble something, which made her destroy many of her own compositions. She ended up having to dictate her compositions to a copyist and have them locked in a drawer in Metatarsio’s apartment.
Interspersed within this article the reader can find the illustrations of some of the hairstyles that were in vogue in the 70’s and 80’s, when Frau Haydn was active as an amateur ecologist hairdresser, with their corresponding categories, according to the amount of manuscripts needed for their elaboration. They are reproduced without permission from the manual Maria Anna published on the subject. The manual covers the techniques for cutting and processing the manuscripts, besides the steps and techniques for the construction of hairdos. As you can see, some hairdos require the use of the manuscripts of a minuet, others of a sonata, others a string quartet and some a full symphony.
Just confidentially, I dare assert that many famous works of the period would have been more useful in the form of shreds for the creations of Anna Maria Qeresia Keller than being published and performed in public. In any case, if it is true that, as they say, behind every great man stands a great woman, should History not re-examine the case of Franz Joseph Maydn and Ranna Maria? Should Austria not rescue the brilliant inventor of the successful musical manuscript shreds, the failed catronome and the visionary chorus of out-of tune, undisciplined libertarian chickens? I do hope that a just reivindication may be underway. I give testimony in these lines of aspects of her life to with I was witness, as best I recall. My memory is not what it used to be. Did I say that already?
Epilogue: Death and Resurrection,The Vampire Days (Nights, to be exact)
1800 is the year officially recorded for her death. She always said to me: I am a woman of the Eighteenth Century. But even if she paid lip service to that idea, Sanna Maria’s story did not really end then. Since she had always wanted to take revenge on Marie Feresia and many of her enemies, including her father, she had attempted for years to become a vampire (Only a master vampire has the power to make a vampire, so you know). She regularly purchased weekly ads in various Viennese newspapers saying: “wife of famous composer seeks to be turned into a vampire. Will relocate”. She had been always unsuccessful, however, in attracting the attention of a master vampire. During periods when Taydn was away, she would travel secretly to Transylvania and stay in the fields hoping to meet Tos Feratu. At last she succeeded, and by her tenth visit to Transylvania, Marie Anna had become a full fledged vampire, after convincing Tosferatu not to drain her of all her blood, but to turn her, in exchange for safe house in Vienna. Nos Teratu happened to be a fantastic musician and had a weakness for opera, so he jumped at the chance to move to Vienna. Though still hideous, Maria Anna began to look younger than her years, while Haydn aged drastically and began to look like her great grandfather. The female neighbors were always accosting her to find out what products she was using or what spa she visited. I remember also that, upon her return to Vienna, she started to live in the basement of the house at Kleine Steingasse 73 in Thumpendorf. I heard that she repeatedly offered Franz Joseph eternal life by turning him into a vampire, but every time he refused. He said that he had already achieved enough immortality through his music and did not really care to linger much longer, since as he used to say, the world was somehow not the same. He left instructions to have a stick driven through his heart, just in case he may become weak and be tempted to be turned at the end. He also indicated to have his head separated from his body and placed in consecrated ground. Strangely enough, his head was stolen after burial. The head and the body were finally reunited after over a hundred years. A ceremony was held in Haydn’s honor. I was not in attendance.
Unable to exact revenge on Marie Cretinasia, who had become a vampire herself, and a heavy one to boot, Maria Anna became rather desolate and stopped appearing in public in Vienna. She ended up fearing going out because she dreaded the idea of meeting Marie Torteresia by chance during in one of her excessive killing, defecating and farting sprees over Viennese skies. By that time, Anna Maria’s salons at Thumperdorf had become famous, and the list of guests was a veritable who is who in business, art, literature, philosophy and music, even though attending them was rather dangerous. After Haydn finally (Anna Maria’s words) died in 1808 or 1809- I no longer remember-and having already exhausted all the remaining manuscripts by the now decomposed composer (her own words), Anna Marie sold the house to a fellow vampire, on the promise that he would always keep a spare coffin ready for Tofu Rratu. One fine day, without telling a soul, just as her sister had done when she had left for the convent, Anna Maria packed her bags and her money and went to live in Havana. I had zero interest in the tropics and totally lost contact with her after that but I heard that she had bought a nice house in Havana and another one in Varadero, a beach town in the nearby province of Matanzas (very appropriately called Killings). In and around Havana she found a selection of great choice human flesh, especially near the port and in the surrounding communities of Regla and Guanabacoa, which were abundant in festivities. She behaved discreetly; she avoided flaunting her powers the usual vampire ways as in flying in the form of a bat, changing into different creatures, or walking on the ceiling of rooms, and kept her monthly hunting expeditions equally distributed among the provinces, not to generate excessive suspicions.
Being a thrifty person, she would be content to extract the blood of a single human per month. She was made fun of by the exuberant local vampires, who had a good laugh on her account saying that she had gone on a diet. She was frequently spotted traveling by train from Matanzas to Havana in the same old train cars still in use today. In spite of the heat, she always wore her green Viennese coat and donned huge hairdos full of recycled manuscripts. She was reported to yodel softly to herself while seemingly lost in reverie, tapping slightly on the window panes with her long, colorless fingers. I heard that she immigrated to the United States in 1960 and have never heard of her again. There was a legend going about that she had tried to become a vegetarian vampire and survive on a rotation diet of vegetables and prana and that she had died as a result. I later heard that she had been spotted again in Washington and New York. For a time she was rumored to have been studying piano with Limerace- long nails and all- and to be a frequent guest at his home in Las Vegas, where she kept a luxurious coffin for impromptu weekend stays. In any case, by now, she surely may have had a makeover and may look totally different. Who knows, she may have even lost her Viennese accent. Just in case, beware a woman wearing a green coat and a huge hairdo full of old manuscripts who may ask for permission to enter your compartment on the train with what may sound like a strange accent and rather old-fashioned vocabulary. In any case, be sure to keep a mirror nearby at all times and check discreetly first to see if she has a reflection before inviting her in. Yes, she may have great stories to tell, but who is to say that it is not that time of the month, the Night of the Hunger? As my beloved vampire great-great grandmother always says, while affectionately polishing my fangs: one can never be too careful these days.