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Old 2nd August 2008, 01:29 PM   #1
Rolfe
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Peregrinus expectavi pedes meos in cymbalis

Anybody here with knowledge of 20th century Russian music?

My post is about Prokofiev and Stravinsky, their professional relationship, and apparent rivalry. Are you sitting comfortably?

I've done a lot of choral singing, and certain popular pieces tend to crop up again and again until you can practically perform them in your sleep. Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms was one of the first things I sang with my University choral society. Another piece I encountered on multiple occasions was Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, both the 1939 cantata and the film score for the 1938 Eisenstein film of the same name, from which the cantata was derived.

When singing the Stravinsky piece on later occasions, I began to find my mind turning to Alexander Nevsky during rehearsals, particularly at the passage "quoniam advena ego sum apud te, et peregrinus, sicut omnes patres mei". It was just the word "peregrinus", evoking the nonsense-Latin chanted by the Teutonic knights in the Prokofiev piece - "Peregrinus expectavi pedes meos in cymbalis". I started to think about it as "the Alexander Nevsky bit".

The Latin chant of the Teutonic knights as they march into the Battle on the Ice is puzzling. It doesn't make any sense. You just stand up and yell the words (on the right notes) and get the final s's smack on the beat, and don't ask questions. None of the choirmasters I sang it with ever attempted to explain it. Programme notes just said things like "the repetitive, monotonous chant is held to express the invaders' hypocritical, empty religion." I just thought it was odd. Why not use words more easily recognisable as part of a religious ritual? Why so obscure?

Then, one evening in August 1994 during an orchestral rehearsal for a Prom performance of Symphony of Psalms, it occurred to me that I was being reminded of Nevsky in two places - the above-mentioned passage, and a later one: "et statuit super petram pedes meos". There is was again. "Pedes meos."

Then the Eureka! moment happened. I cast my mind over the rest of the Stravinsky score, and came up with "Expectans, expectavi Dominum" earlier in the text, and "Laudate Eum in cymbalis bene sonantibus" in the last movement. Not a coincidence. (I'm astonished that the last word hadn't rung the bell with me or indeed any choir person much earlier. There's always a debate about the pronunciation of that word - should it be the German "tsoombalis" or the Italian "cheembalis"? For Nevsky, certainly always the former, but there's always an argument. And the choirmaster always lays down the law. But nobody seems to have noticed that the identical argument occurs in these two pieces, and these two pieces only.)

I marked the four passages in my score, and sought out our choirmaster at the tea break. By the time I'd turned to the second marked section, the penny had dropped with him too, and he looked absolutely flabbergasted. I asked him if this was generally known, and he said not to his knowledge - in fact he mentioned that he'd come across people trying to translate the Nevsky chant as if it was meant to make sense.

My immediate thought was that this was quite an important observation. I had some idea that the two composers were rivals, and it was beginning to seem to me like a personal attack. Did Prokofiev deliberately choose to put Stravinsky's words in the mouths of the one-dimensional Teutonic baddies of Eisenstein's film as a way of getting at his older compatriot?

I went to my local library in search of more information, and hit pay-dirt. Autobiographies of both composers confirmed repeated quarreling between them, usually precipitated by one criticising the other's music. Prokofiev's autobiography also painted a striking picture of an arrogant, self-opinionated man who was always in the right and didn't suffer fools gladly. I looked more closely at the period leading up to 1938, when the film score for Alexander Nevsky was completed.

After having spent many years in western Europe, particularly France, with Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes (with which Stravinsky was also closely associated), Prokofiev returned to Stalinist Russia in 1935. I recall being told quite a lot about that during rehearsals for another Prokofiev piece, the October Revolution. It was apparently never clear that Provofiev, as a favoured artist, ever realised the depth of the brutality of the Stalinist regime. It's thought that he returned to Russia from idealistic, nationalistic motives, and willingly composed music that was used for propaganda purposes. The film of Alexander Nevsky was a case in point, with the peace-loving, industrious native Russians (Orthodox, of course) threatened by the monstrous, baby-burning (Catholic) Teutonic knights. Wikipedia has more on this.

Stravinsky, meanwhile, continued to live in the west, and indeed emigrated to the USA just after Nevsky was composed. I began to suspect that Prokofiev despised Stravinsky for this, for remaining in the decadent west while he himself, as a loyal Russian, returned to the mother country. I had discovered from his autobiography that he rather despised Stravinsky's music, considering it (surprisingly, to me) to be backward-looking, reactionary and demonstrating "pseudo-Bachism" (Prokofiev's own term). It was beginning to look like a theory.

Then I hit the real nugget. In a book of collected essays by Prokofiev, I found a short article he had written for the Young Communists' newspaper The Pioneer. Children had been encouraged to write in and ask Comrade Prokofiev questions about music. One girl had asked whether, considering all the music that was being written and all that had been written over the centuries, and given that there were only 12 notes in an octave, composers would ever run out of tunes. Prokofiev started by going over the usual stuff about pitch and harmony and rhythm and orchestration, but then continued. Opinions about what is a good tune, he said, change over the centuries. Thus we now have access to ideas that wouldn't have been considered centuries ago, and in centuries to come, composers will have access to ideas we wouldn't consider today. As an example, he remarked that the girl would be familiar with the music for the film Alexander Nevsky, in which the Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms as they march into battle. [snip what he said next!]

Bingo! Prokofiev thought it was obvious, even to an atheist Young Communist girl, that the words of the chant were from the Psalms. He was expecting the source to be recognisable. Only - it seems it wasn't.

I went back to the choirmaster and showed him what I'd found. He confirmed he'd never come across any discussion of the matter, and encouraged me to write a letter to the Musical Times about it. He also suggested I should contact Prokofiev's son, who lived in London, to see if he had any further enlightenment. I found Oleg Prokofiev in the telephone directory and wrote to him, being very careful not to imply that his father might have been a snide, quarrelsome bastard, but he never answered my letter. I constructed a letter summarising my findings and sent it to the Musical Times, and it was published in the October 1994 issue.

At this point I was still pretty sure I wasn't the first to notice the connection between the two pieces, and was rather expecting a follow-up letter pointing out earlier commentary on the matter. I had also been reluctant to put the boot in as regards the inferences that might be drawn about the two composers' relationship, and specifically Prokofiev's intent to have a real go at Stravinsky. I therefore rather hoped for follow-up exploring that issue.

Nothing. Nil. Nada. Zilch. The letter sank like a stone, end of story. I forgot about the whole issue.

Then in 2003 it occurred to me to search the Internet for more information about it. I was still expecting that experts had spotted the connection, and that it could well have been discussed in musicology textbooks and biographies. I thought the Internet would throw up other references that I hadn't been able to find in the local library in 1994.

Nothing. Nothing but about five different examples of people producing ludicrous "translations", just as the choirmaster had said. And three people using the phrase as email sig lines. This surprised me greatly, because I had discovered that if you put the Latin words into Google, the returns were a mix of references to Alexander Nevsky and The Symphony of Psalms. Frankly, one look at the Google returns page was a revelation in itself.

At this point I converted the letter to a web file and stuck it on my web site, with a bit of commentary. I hoped that people looking for the meaning of the chant might find it, and so the explanation become common knowledge. But it was just one web page, and nobody seemed to beat a path to its door. A subsequent check a year or so later merely turned up yet abother silly "translation" on Answers.com.

Well, this year is the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the film, and I thought it was time for another go. Specifically, I decided to put the information into the appropriate Wikipedia page, and see if that made any difference.

I ran the Google search again, and again got the mix of pages about the two compositions in the returns. I found another shed-load of daffy attempts at "translation", including en.allexperts.com/q/Latin-2145/Medieval-Latin.htm the following prize piece of posturing from Allexperts.com, dated 2004.

Originally Posted by Allexperts
Question
In the cantata Alexander Nevsky by Prokoviev what is alleged to be a medieval pilgrims' chant is sung by the Teutonic Knights during the Battle on the Ice. The words don't make sense to me or to any of the Latinists whom I have consulted over the last 20 years or so. They appear to be: "Peregrinus expectavi, pedes meos in cymbalis". Why medieval knights should look out for their feet being in cymbals beats me. There must be a more rational translation, or perhaps Prokoviev simply got his quotation wrong.

Anyway, I'd be grateful if you could help.

Michael H.

Answer
Hello,

You are right: there is no reason why Teutonic knights should wait, or look out, for their feet being in cymbals.

So, I can suggest some hypotheses to translate this phrase.

1st.HYPOTHESIS.
"Peregrinus expectavi pedes meos in cymbalis" could mean:
"I, a pilgrim, waited for my musical rhythms in cymbals".

In fact, the Latin term 'pedes' (accusative plural of 'pes'.'pedis') means also "metrical feet" and then "musical rhythms", which is very suitable for this medieval pilgrims' chant sung by the Teutonic Knights.

I really think that this hypothesis could be the best one as it is the most valid and reliable in a cantata like this.

2nd.HYPOTHESIS.
Maybe the phrase "Peregrinus expectavi, pedes meos in cymbalis" (with a comma) could mean:
"I, a foreigner, [or perhaps "a pilgrim"] waited, with my feet in cymbals".

In fact, "pedes meos" ('with my feet') could be an Accusative of Specification (Greek accusative or accusative of respect), i.e. the so-called synecdochical or Greek Accusative, found in Greek poetry and later Latin and used to denote the part affected.

In this case there is however another problem as the Latin term "cymbalum" (ablative plural,"cymbalis") means exactly "cymbal", that is a percussion instrument, which is absolutely strange in this context. We could then suppose that there is a spelling mistake in the Latin phrase where 'cymbalis' could be wrong, while the correct form could be "cymbulis" from 'cymbula' meaning 'small vessel'.
This would presuppose that the Teutonic Knights had small vessels during the Battle of Lake Peipus which took place in 1242 between the Teutonic Knights and the Russian city-state of Novgorod, led by its leader Alexandre Nevskii.
But we know only that the Teutonic Knights made a critical error as not only was their armour too heavy for the ice to support, but, also, for them to climb out of the cold waters, once they have broken through. So, the entire army drowned.

To conclude, I think that my first hypothesis can be a reliable answer, unless Prokofiev invented this phrase, without a real knowledge of Latin.

Hope I made myself understood and I helped you a little bit.

Best regards

Maria

I'm afraid that had me in stitches. (I have sent "another answer" to them, so we'll see if they publish it.)

Then the one ray of light, only a couple of months old. Yet another question about the meaning of the words, this time on Usenet, which elicited at first the usual maunderings about travellers' feet expecting cymbals, only for a Jerry Kohl to step in explaining all about the Stravinsky connection, declaring that this was first pointed in my letter to the Musical Times in 1994, and quoting extensively from the letter, which I assume he must have in print form.

This was followed by another poster who took issue with my rather restrained interpretation of Prokofiev's motives in the letter, and gave his interpretation.

Originally Posted by Mr. D
For, psychodynamically speaking, P[rokofiev] has actually found a way of having it all:
  1. He's jealous of S[travinsky], so he steals something of his;
  2. At the same time, he protects his own musical pride by stealing from the text rather than from Strav's actual music;
  3. He also renders what he steals incomprehensible and meaningless, and so revenges himself upon the work it comes from;
  4. He then dangles his theft in front of people -- whose failure to spot its derivation inevitably reassures him: obviously "they don't really know" the great S. work as deeply as he's afraid they will!;
  5. He blends his psychology with the film plot's psychology: Stravinsky and his massively successful masterwork are condensed with the invading Germans as 'the threat from the West';
  6. By associating Stravinsky with German culture he achieves the supreme Russian musical insult -- since for about a hundred years Russian music had been struggling to assert an authentically 'national' identity in the face of Austro-German artistic and theoretical domination. Thus Stravinsky even ends up as being a 'traitor' -- "and we know how the film says we should treat traitors, don't we...?", says Prokofiev's Unconscious. "And it's the film that says that, not me...!!"

Now that's the sort of response I'd hoped for from the letter at the time!

Well, that's the story so far. But I'm still puzzled. Both pieces of music are popular. Both are performed by the same choirs and orchestras, choirmasters and conductors. There are musical experts who study these things. There's even the Google returns, visible to anyone Googling the words of the chant for enlightenment. It's not that nobody is interested, because there are numerous pages on the internet where people have asked what the words of the chant mean.

I don't understand why I'm the only person who seems to have spotted this.




OK, I've got that off my chest. I'm prepared for this thread to sink straight to the bottom of the listings. But if anyone has been interested enough to read all the way to the end, please post to say so!

Rolfe.
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Old 2nd August 2008, 03:13 PM   #2
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i rd 2 end. like.
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Old 2nd August 2008, 04:58 PM   #3
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I read it to the end too. It's an interesting detective story for sure! My knowledge of the subject is much too shallow to have anything to add. I hope for you this post will enhance discussion on the subject - for now it seems as you're the authority on the subject.

Is Prokofiev's son still alive? Maybe you could have another try at writing him, pointing to the interest in the subject by the internet community .

As to the Alexander Nevsky Cantata - which recording would you recommend? I really liked the film, and not only for the whacking the Huns aspect. (to be fair: the first time I saw it was on German TV).
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Old 3rd August 2008, 02:51 PM   #4
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me three
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Old 3rd August 2008, 02:59 PM   #5
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Well, thanks guys.

At ddt's suggestion I checked 192.com for Oleg Prokofiev in London, and drew a blank. He may have moved out of the city, or perhaps he is no longer alive. Just going by his parents' dates, he'd be well over 70 by now (though I note his mother lived to be 102!).

I rechecked Allexperts.com, and they have not posted my "another answer" which I submitted two days ago. I took the opportunity to resubmit, crafting a more considered submission this time.

Quote:
The words chanted by the Teutonic knights in 'Alexander Nevsky' (Peregrinus - expectavi - pedes meos - in cymbalis) are not meant to be translated. They do make perfect sense, just not that sort of sense.

Prokofiev himself, in an article for the 'Pioneer' in 1939, remarked that "the Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms as they march into battle." The context suggests that he imagined this would be obvious, but in fact it is rarely spotted. The words are indeed from the Psalms, specifically from the Vulgate text chosen by Igor Stravinsky for his 1930 cantata 'The Symphony of Psalms'.

Stravinsky and Prokofiev had been rivals as well as colleagues for many years, with a history of quarrelling, mainly sparked by criticism of each other's music. Prokofiev is on record (in his autobiography) as despising Stravinsky's musical idiom as archaic, backward-looking "pseudo-Bachism". In addition, while Prokofiev returned to live in the Soviet Union in 1935, Stravinsky remained living and working in western Europe, and indeed he was to emigrate to the USA at the outbreak of war in 1939.

When composing the musical score for Eisenstein's 1938 Soviet propaganda film, Prokofiev plucked these four random words/phrases from one of Stravinsky's best-known works and put them into the mouths of the cruel, baby-burning enemies of 13th century Mother Russia. Given the history of their relationship, this was undoubtedly intended as a personal attack, both on Stravinsky himself and on his music. Even the musical setting - percussive, repetitive notes, set with little regard for the meaning of the text - may be interpreted as an attack on Stravinsky's idiom. In a post on Usenet dated March 2008, a "Mr. D" elaborates:

For, psychodynamically speaking, P[rokofiev] has actually found a way of having it all:
1. He's jealous of S[travinsky], so he steals something of his;
2. At the same time, he protects his own musical pride by stealing from the text rather than from Strav[insky]'s actual music;
3. He also renders what he steals incomprehensible and meaningless, and so revenges himself upon the work it comes from;
4. He then dangles his theft in front of people -- whose failure to spot its derivation inevitably reassures him: obviously "they don't really know" the great S[travinsky's] work as deeply as he's afraid they will!;
5. He blends his psychology with the film plot's psychology: Stravinsky and his massively successful masterwork are condensed with the invading Germans as 'the threat from the West';
6. By associating Stravinsky with German culture he achieves the supreme Russian musical insult -- since for about a hundred years Russian music had been struggling to assert an authentically 'national' identity in the face of Austro-German artistic and theoretical domination. Thus Stravinsky even ends up as being a 'traitor' -- "and we know how the film says we should treat traitors, don't we...?", says Prokofiev's Unconscious. "And it's the film that says that, not me...!!"

So please, let's have no more about pilgrims waiting with their feet on cymbals! The real answer is much more interesting than that.

Nobody seems to have raised any objection to my Wikipedia edit. I didn't manage to figure out how to post references to non-Wiki pages, so they may be round demanding citations at some point. Both the criticism of Stravinsky's musical idiom as "pseudo-Bachism" and the throwaway remark "Those who saw the film will remember that the Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms as they march into battle" are from the same book, Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences, by Shlifstein and Prokofieva. I found it in my local library in 1994, but it's now on the Internet available through Google Book Search. All I had to do was Google "pseudo-Bachism" and "Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms" (separately), and the relevant pages were presented to me. I could also reference my own published Musical Times letter.

Interestingly, Googling those two phrases gets you only that book, the two on-line occurrences of my letter (my own free-access page and the official citation hidden behind a $12 pay-wall), and this thread. The thread came up within just a few minutes of my having posted the OP, which says something about Google I suppose! Again, this rather suggests the matter hasn't been discussed elsewhere.

Perhaps I should PM Geni; he's very into Wikipedia. In fact, I note a comment in Prokofiev's Wiki biography that "He did not particularly like Stravinsky's later works" has a "citation needed" comment. Well, I can certainly provide a citation for that - at least if 1922 counts as "later", because that's the date Prokofiev assigns to the "pseudo-Bachism" remark.

I note from the Wiki bibliography that there are six biographies of Prokofiev in print and one musical analysis book. I suppose I can't say for sure that none of these refers to the Peregrinus puzzle and its solution without reading them all, but given the absence of any wider references to it, I rather suspect they may not.

I think the problem I had back in 2003 was that the Internet was much less interactive. There was no way I could see to make my letter more visible beyond just sticking it up there, and no way to intervene in any of the silly-translation pages. When I found the nonsense on Answers.com (or was it AskJeeves? - I'm not sure) I tried to find a way of correcting the proffered answer, but there was none. All you could do was tell them how great you thought they were, or ask another question. They didn't take corrections.

Things are different now, and maybe Allexperts.com will indeed publish my correction to their expert's off-beam speculation. At least they offer the opportunity. And of course there's Wikipedia, the way to publicise your esoteric knowledge. I suppose I could have started a thread here sooner, but I didn't think about it. I think I'll try Googling the subject every so often to see if any new discussions are developing - it does seem as if somebody goes somewhere and asks what the chant means with monotonous regularity.

One day, maybe, I'll attend or sing in a performance of Alexander Nevsky, and the programme note will, as a matter of course, tell the audience the real significance of the Latin nonsense-chant!

Rolfe.
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Old 5th August 2008, 04:28 PM   #6
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Testing, testing....

pseudo-Bachism

Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms

Rolfe.

PS. Yeah, that worked! Linkies straight to the salient passages online of the library book that so illuminated the puzzle for me in 1994.
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Old 6th August 2008, 03:50 AM   #7
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Success with AllExperts! I posted my follow-up yesterday from my work computer rather than from home, and this has worked. It's on another page - the original ridiculous answer is still the one following the question - but now there is another link below it reading "View follow-ups", and clicking that gets you my little essay.



Rolfe.
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Old 6th August 2008, 04:59 AM   #8
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Fascinating stuff, Rolfe, thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 6th August 2008, 05:21 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
As to the Alexander Nevsky Cantata - which recording would you recommend? I really liked the film, and not only for the whacking the Huns aspect. (to be fair: the first time I saw it was on German TV).

Sorry, I meant to answer this. I don't think I've ever listened to a commercial recording of it. Having been in the BBC Symphony Chorus, all of whose concerts are broadcast, my strategy has just been to tape the broadcasts and keep our own recordings.

Mildly funny anecdote. We (BBCSC) performed Nevsky at a Prom concert one summer, and just after that the Brighton Festival Chorus, with which I was also singing at the time, started rehearsals for a series of film backing performances. By that time I could pretty much do Nevsky in my sleep, and was on autopilot during the Brighton rehearsals.

We got to the part (I think it's in the Battle on the Ice) where the Teutonic knights (full chorus) simply yell "Vincant arma crucifera, hostes pereat!". And I mean yell. I was absolutely totally used to shouting it at the top of my lungs, always making sure to make the final "t" a syllable of its own on the beat at the end. I had utter and absolute confidence that everybody else in the room would do exactly the same thing, so that my voice would just be one among many.

My autopilot did exactly that at the first Brighton rehearsal of the piece, where everybody else was still feeling their way, and the choirmaster hadn't got anywhere near the point of calling for full-throated yelling.

Boy did I feel stupid.

Rolfe.
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Old 6th August 2008, 05:40 AM   #10
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I liked the film too. The actor playing Alexander Nevsky was really quite cute. (Quite unrecognisable however many years later it was in Ivan the Terrible though.)

I was especially struck by the early section showing the nomadic Mongol tribesmen. I noticed several of the mares drawing the carts had foals running at foot. This is how it would have been - the mares would be expected to work and the foals would just have tagged along until they were old enough to be broken in themselves. I very much doubt that anyone staging that for a film would have thought of that little detail though, which makes me suspect that these were genuine Mongol tribesmen Eisenstein used in the filming.

I understand the sequences in the Battle on the Ice after the ice has broken and the knights are drowning in their heavy armour was filmed in a swimming baths in Moscow. If you look carefully, you'll see that there are only people in these sequences, and no horses. I don't suppose Health and Safety was a very advanced discipline in 1938, but even they would have seen the danger in getting into a swimming pool along with a horse!

I read a programme note saying that the Teutonic knights were "never happier than when throwing a baby onto a bonfire", then when I saw the film I realised they do just that. It's a bit obvious the kid is just dropped down behind the flames though.

Rolfe.
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Old 6th August 2008, 09:08 AM   #11
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This is all fascinating. I had always assumed that the language was more or less Latin word salad, chosen for sound without regard to meaning (sort of like the fake German in a Danny Kaye movie, or Dudley Moore's hilarious sendups of art songs) and reflecting the Marxist attitude that it's all just mumbo jumbo anyway. It had't occurred to me that it referred to a specific work, but it sounds characteristic of Prokofiev to have thrown in a jibe like that.
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Old 6th August 2008, 01:35 PM   #12
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That's exactly what I had thought. Word salad. Fantastic description. That's what most sensible programme notes imply, just meaningless chanting representing a meaningless religious ritual.

And of course that's exactly what it is. It's just more than that, also.

Rolfe.
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Old 6th August 2008, 04:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Success with AllExperts! I posted my follow-up yesterday from my work computer rather than from home, and this has worked. It's on another page - the original ridiculous answer is still the one following the question - but now there is another link below it reading "View follow-ups", and clicking that gets you my little essay.



Rolfe.
Eeep... I'm not getting a "View follow-ups" link when I go there.

If I can find someone interested here at the University I work at, I'll pitch your post at them and see what they say. We do have a Musicology department in our Music School, but the drawback is that I know exactly zero people there. My only contacts are folks associated with the opera house, and they're all on the technical side (I worked on the electric & lighting crew as an undergrad). But still, I'll see what I can come up with.

In the meanwhile, you have a link for the followup? I don't have the link on that page, and I even tried searches through their search function. No go.
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Old 6th August 2008, 11:36 PM   #14
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I loved the story, Rolfe! Thankyou very much for sharing it.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Mildly funny anecdote. (snip)
We got to the part (I think it's in the Battle on the Ice) where the Teutonic knights (full chorus) simply yell "Vincant arma crucifera, hostes pereat!". And I mean yell. I was absolutely totally used to shouting it at the top of my lungs, always making sure to make the final "t" a syllable of its own on the beat at the end. I had utter and absolute confidence that everybody else in the room would do exactly the same thing, so that my voice would just be one among many.

My autopilot did exactly that at the first Brighton rehearsal of the piece, where everybody else was still feeling their way, and the choirmaster hadn't got anywhere near the point of calling for full-throated yelling.

Boy did I feel stupid.
Just to say - I would have DIED if it happened to me - to me the idea of suddenly attracting everyone's attention in this way is my worst nightmare...

ETA: I nominated Rolfe's OP, as I thought it was brilliantly written, like most of Rolfe's posts

Last edited by Tanja; 6th August 2008 at 11:56 PM. Reason: to add...
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Old 7th August 2008, 06:08 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ElMondoHummus View Post
Eeep... I'm not getting a "View follow-ups" link when I go there.

If I can find someone interested here at the University I work at, I'll pitch your post at them and see what they say. We do have a Musicology department in our Music School, but the drawback is that I know exactly zero people there. My only contacts are folks associated with the opera house, and they're all on the technical side (I worked on the electric & lighting crew as an undergrad). But still, I'll see what I can come up with.

In the meanwhile, you have a link for the followup? I don't have the link on that page, and I even tried searches through their search function. No go.

Eeeeekkkk! It was there yesterday!

What have they got against me???

I'd be very grateful indeed if anyone was able to bounce this off some musicology people. The Usenet discussion is the only place where I've seen any independent discussion of the matter.

Rolfe (off to try againat Allexpertscom)
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Old 7th August 2008, 06:19 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Eeeeekkkk! It was there yesterday!

What have they got against me???
I saw it yesterday too... Very strange they removed your answer.

I notice that answers can be rated at Allexperts. I gave the other answer already a "not helpful at all" rating. If you manage to get your story up again at Allexperts, post here so we can all give your story a "very helpful" rating and get it to first page.
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Old 7th August 2008, 03:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Eeeeekkkk! It was there yesterday!

What have they got against me???

I'd be very grateful indeed if anyone was able to bounce this off some musicology people. The Usenet discussion is the only place where I've seen any independent discussion of the matter.

Rolfe (off to try againat Allexpertscom)
I'll give it the old college try, but I unfortunately can't guarantee anything. I'll bug some of the folks I know and see if they in turn know anyone in the music school who's 1. Willing to give me the time of day , and 2. Willing to consider this thesis.
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Old 8th August 2008, 03:34 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
I saw it yesterday too... Very strange they removed your answer.

I notice that answers can be rated at Allexperts. I gave the other answer already a "not helpful at all" rating. If you manage to get your story up again at Allexperts, post here so we can all give your story a "very helpful" rating and get it to first page.

It's there again. Carry on, troops!

en.allexperts.com/q/Latin-2145/Medieval-Latin.htm Original question and answer here, best to follow link to "View follow-ups"

But here's the actual page just in case it vanishes again.

Rolfe.
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Old 8th August 2008, 04:54 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
It's there again. Carry on, troops!

en.allexperts.com/q/Latin-2145/Medieval-Latin.htm Original question and answer here, best to follow link to "View follow-ups"

But here's the actual page just in case it vanishes again.

Rolfe.
And it's gone again . Your link to the actual page with your explanation doesn't work anymore either. This begins to reek of foul play. You may also note that (nearly) all answers in the category Latin are given by the same expert, and among the first ten or so I looked at I couldn't find a single one with a second answer.
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Old 8th August 2008, 07:43 AM   #20
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Oh well, I'll just enter it again!

From what they say, the thing is mainly done by an automated robotic system. However, I got the impression that the robot screens answers before posting them rather than deleting them after the event.

It's very odd. The posted reasons for answers not appearing are,


Quote:
.... to maximize the quality of the answers we make available to the public, the system filters out answers ...
  1. If you post a question instead of an answer.
    If you'd like to ask a question, use the other link at the bottom of the answer page.
  2. If your answer looks like SPAM.
  3. If your answer contributes to the delinquency of a minor.
  4. If your answer is not helpful.
It's not a question, it doesn't look like spam, and I can't see how it would contribute to the delinquency of a minor. How could anyone imagine it wasn't helpful? I can't see how it's possible to challenge the basic premise, especially given Prokofiev's own statement that "the Teutonic knights sing Cathiolic psalms". The only debatable part is just how strongly Prokofiev intended to attack Stravinsky, which doesn't really detract from the basic answer at all.


OK, "Maria" didn't get it - but the problem was that she was asked as an expert in Latin, when the question wasn't about Latin it was about musicology. More embarrassing for a musicologist not to have got it, I'd think! Could they really be deleting answers that make their experts look bad?

I don't see any way of contacting the site directly.

Rolfe.
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Old 8th August 2008, 08:37 AM   #21
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You could try the Feedback page for Support, since disappearing content looks like (though it might not be) a technical issue.

http://www.allexperts.com/user.cgi?m...bject=Feedback
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Old 12th August 2008, 02:30 AM   #22
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Well, I sent a message from that feedback page, leaving my email address, but it hasn't been answered.

I put the little essay up again last night, and as of at this moment in time it's there again, but of course it may vanish at any moment.

Well, the glitches have allowed me to flesh out and improve the essay (nod to Bruto in there), but that's not much good if it keeps being deleted. It now reads:

Quote:
The words chanted by the Teutonic knights in 'Alexander Nevsky' (Peregrinus - expectavi - pedes meos - in cymbalis) are not meant to be translated. They do make perfect sense, but not that sort of sense.

Received wisdom, and the explanation found in most programme notes, is that the disconnected, nonsense chant is simply Latin word salad, with syllables chosen for sound rather than meaning, reflecting a Marxist attitude to the Crusaders' meaningless, mumbo-jumbo religion. However, the source from which Prokofiev mined his 'text' raises interesting issues.

Prokofiev himself, in an article for 'Pioneer' magazine in 1939, the year after the release of the Sergei Eisenstein film, remarked that "Those [readers] who saw the film will remember that the Teutonic knights sing Catholic psalms as they march into battle." This casual turn of phrase suggests that he imagined the provenance of the text would be obvious, however it seems rarely to be spotted. The words are indeed from the Psalms, specifically from the Vulgate text chosen by Igor Stravinsky for his 1930 cantata 'The Symphony of Psalms'.

The exact passages are as follows:
First movement, text of Psalm 38, verses 13 and 14; "Quoniam advena ego sum apud te, et PEREGRINUS, sicut omnes patres mei." - For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
Second movement, text of Psalm 39, verses 2, 3 and 4; "Expectans, EXPECTAVI Dominum, et intendit mihi .... et statuit super petram PEDES MEOS, et direxit gressus meos." - I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me .... and He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
Third movement, text of Psalm 150; "Laudate eum IN CYMBALIS bene sonantibus." - Praise him upon the loud cymbals.

Stravinsky and Prokofiev had been rivals as well as colleagues for many years, with a history of quarrelling, mainly sparked by criticism of each other's music. Prokofiev is on record (in his autobiography) as despising Stravinsky's musical idiom as archaic, backward-looking "pseudo-Bachism". In addition, while Prokofiev returned to live in the Soviet Union in 1935, Stravinsky remained living and working in western Europe, and indeed he was to emigrate to the USA at the outbreak of war in 1939.

When composing the musical score for Eisenstein's 1938 Soviet propaganda film, Prokofiev plucked four random words/phrases from one of Stravinsky's best-known works and put them into the mouths of the monstrous, baby-burning enemies of 13th century Mother Russia. Given the history of their relationship, this was undoubtedly intended as a personal attack, both on Stravinsky himself and on his music. Even the musical setting - percussive, repetitive notes, set with little regard for the meaning of the text - may be interpreted as an attack on Stravinsky's idiom. In a post on Usenet dated March 2008, a "Mr. D" elaborates:

For, psychodynamically speaking, P[rokofiev] has actually found a way of having it all:
1. He's jealous of S[travinsky], so he steals something of his;
2. At the same time, he protects his own musical pride by stealing from the text rather than from Strav[insky]'s actual music;
3. He also renders what he steals incomprehensible and meaningless, and so revenges himself upon the work it comes from;
4. He then dangles his theft in front of people -- whose failure to spot its derivation inevitably reassures him: obviously "they don't really know" the great S[travinsky] work as deeply as he's afraid they will!;
5. He blends his psychology with the film plot's psychology: Stravinsky and his massively successful masterwork are condensed with the invading Germans as 'the threat from the West';
6. By associating Stravinsky with German culture he achieves the supreme Russian musical insult -- since for about a hundred years Russian music had been struggling to assert an authentically 'national' identity in the face of Austro-German artistic and theoretical domination. Thus Stravinsky even ends up as being a 'traitor' -- "and we know how the film says we should treat traitors, don't we...?", says Prokofiev's Unconscious. "And it's the film that says that, not me...!!"

So please, let's have no more about pilgrims waiting with their feet on cymbals! The real story is much more interesting than that.

I expect it to go.

That's what I get for using Jerome's stupid "I rule!" smilie.

Rolfe.
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Old 12th August 2008, 08:55 AM   #23
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Well, nearly lousing time, and it's still there. I don't think it has lasted so long before. Perhaps there really was a glitch and the feedback notice got it sorted even though they didn't return my message.

This thread, and that page on Allexperts (if it stays), and the Wiki entry (which I haven't referenced properly yet!), might just raise the profile of this little conundrum.

Rolfe.
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Old 13th August 2008, 03:26 PM   #24
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Well, the last word on the matter seems to be that the follow-up answer is staying, at least it has lasted 48 hours now. I suspect there was some glitch causing their robot to delete it, and when I sent the message an actual human being had a look-see.

One day, every Prokofiev student will know about this....

Rolfe.
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Old 16th September 2008, 02:02 PM   #25
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Update, regarding the mystery of Allexperts.com.

The follow-up answer didn't stay. It kept disappearing, with 48 hours tending to be its longest sojourn. I kept putting it back every time it vanished.

I went on holiday at the end of August, and of course it had gone again when I came back on 1st September. I put it back up and again it lasted about 48 hours. However, when I put it back again on the evening of 4th September, it appeared to be staying. It was still there on Saturday evening (13th September), when a friend helped me put the references into the Wiki article.

I didn't check it on the 14th, but when I looked on the 15th, it was gone. Ten days is a record though.

Back up on the 15th, there on the morning of the 16th, gone again on the afternoon of the 16th.

I have never had any communication from Allexperts to the email address I have given when posting the article. This has to be a glitch with the Allexperts software, but I'm damned if I know what to do about it.

Rolfe.
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Old 16th September 2008, 03:45 PM   #26
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That's too bad. It just seems so like Prokofiev to have done this on purpose to twit Stravinsky that it's a shame not at least to point out the "coincidence" of the word choice.
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Old 16th September 2008, 04:43 PM   #27
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Well, I'm going to keep on re-posting it and we'll see who rusts first.

By the way, I found out two more things. One is that the page relating to the official publication of my Musical Times letter has changed, and it seems that the price has come down to $5. Still too expensive but certainly more reasonable than the $12 it was at before.

The other is a second example of someone asking about the meaning of the word salad on a discussion list (Listserv), and being answered by a reference to the letter. In this case there is a guy involved with musicology affiliations.

Quote:
Giampaolo Gandolfo wrote:
> In Aleksandr Nevskij's cantata (Prokof'ev) the invading crusaders sing a song in Latin, where two lines don't make sense to me:
>
> Peregrinus expectavi
> pedes meos in cimbalis
> Vincant arma crucifera!
> Hostis pereat!
>
> What is the meaning of the first two lines? They dont make any sense to me, neither grammatically nor logically; and how do they relate to the first two?
> Any idea? Thank you.
> Giampaolo Gandolfo

From: SEELANGS: Slavic & East European Languages and Literatures list on behalf of William Ryan
Sent: Sat 8.3.08 21:43
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SEELANGS] Nevskij's cantata

The words don't make sense as a continuous text in Latin, as has been
noted in a number of places on the internet, but in a letter 'Prokofiev
and his Cymbals' by Morag G. Kerr, in the The Musical Times, Vol. 135,
No. 1820. (Oct., 1994), pp. 608-609 (available via JSTOR), it is pointed
out that the words are separate phrases from the text chosen by
Stravinsky for his Symphony of Psalms and may have been a bit of a joke.
It is the most plausible explanation I have seen.
Will Ryan

The Musical Times, Vol. 135, No. 1820. (Oct., 1994), pp. 608-609.

Date: Sat, 8 Mar 2008 22:57:11 -0000
Reply-To: "SEELANGS: Slavic & East European Languages and Literatures list"
<[log in to unmask]>
Sender: Slavic and Eastern European Languages <[log in to unmask]>
From: Chew G <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Nevskij's cantata
Comments: To: [log in to unmask]
Content-Type: multipart/mixed;
Morag Kerr in the letter quoted by Will Ryan, stressing the bad blood between Prokofiev and Stravinsky, doesn't mention another dimension. Prokofiev, while still in Paris, sent Stravinsky scores to his friend Myaskovsky in Russia, at a time (the 1930s) when contacts with western music were reduced. And the Symphony of Psalms was, oddly enough, one of the scores acquired by the Moscow Composers' Union in 1933, so it wouldn't have been difficult for Prokofiev, now back in the Soviet Union, to refer back to the Stravinsky, once he'd decided that real medieval Latin hymns were too outre even for the Eisenstein film. (See Caroline Brooke, "Soviet Music in the International Arena, 1932-1941", in European History Quarterly, 31/2 (2001), 231-64, esp. p. 235.) The text of the cantata can only, I think, be a reference to Stravinsky's "Catholic psalms".

Geoffrey Chew
Institute of Musicology, Masaryk University, Brno
[log in to unmask]

Department of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London
[log in to unmask]

The stuff about Myaskovsky is out of my league, but certainly the musicology buff seems to accept my general thesis. It's interesting that this exchange seems to be entirely independent of the one on Usenet that I referred to above, but the two conversations (the only two places anywhere which refer to the 1994 Musical Times letter) seem to have been going on at almost exactly the same time (OK, three days apart). Eddies in the space-time continuum?

Rolfe.

PS. I found Will Ryan. I'm flattered.

Quote:
Biography: Will Ryan, D.Phil., FBA, FSA, is Emeritus Professor in the School of Advanced Study, University of London and Honorary Fellow of the Warburg Institute. His research and publications have been mainly in the field of the history of magic, divination and science in medieval and early modern Russia. He has just been elected Doctor Honoris Causa by the Russian Academy of Sciences, mainly for his book The Bathhouse at Midnight: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia.

And Geoffrey Chew. Ditto.
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Old 17th September 2008, 04:36 PM   #28
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I just sent another message to the Allexperts technical boffins. I'm not convinced anybody is reading their mail though.

You know, finding that second reference to my 1994 letter, this time attached to verifiable academic credentials, has finally convinced me that nobody noticed this before. Or if they did, they didn't tell anybody or write it down.

I find this quite amazing. The same people sing and play and study both pieces of music, including professional musicians. The "cymbalis" in particular is a very unusual word in choral music. Prokofiev even told the world, or at least the Young Communist part of it, in 1939.

And yet nobody twigged at all?

Even after the Internet was common currency, and a Google search on the words would bring up a mixture of pages relating to both works, nobody seems to have got it.

When the penny dropped with me, my main reaction was, "just shoot me now!" It was so obvious I felt silly not to have noticed it sooner. This is just plain weird.

I also think that my initial opinion on the implications of the discovery was correct. I thought it illuminated the relationship between the two composers, in particular showing Prokofiev to have been really quite bitter against Stravinsky (in the late 1930s at least). It really was a nasty, mean trick to pull. To, in effect, have the baby-burning enemies of Mother Russia chanting Stravinsky as they advanced on the patriotic defenders.

The tone of Prokofiev's autobiography really reinforced that impression for me. Not just the specific digs at Stravinsky and the "pseudo-Bachism", but the whole unwitting self-portrait of an unpleasant, opinionated man who always believed himself to be superior, and in the right.

However, I'm not a musicologist. I was reluctant at the time to spell that lot out, because I didn't want to be faced with real experts telling me I'd got the wrong end of the stick and his motivation was entirely different. There was also Oleg Prokofiev to consider. I had hoped he might have replied to my letter, clarifying the relationship between his father and Stravinsky, but when he didn't, I didn't feel justified in presenting my own conclusions. So I confined myself at the time to suggesting Sergei was just having his little joke.

No, I don't think it was like that at all. I think he really had it in for Igor when he wrote that film music. I think it was a nasty, snide, personal attack.

I still like his music though! (I'm a major-league Wagner fan, so I suppose that's consistent. Insufferable bastards for sublime music.)

Rolfe.
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Old 19th September 2008, 03:41 PM   #29
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Oooh, the AllExperts saga heats up!

I was quite convinced that the repeated deletion of my supplementary answer was a software glitch, despite ddt's suspicions. However, note the following email exchange.

From me to them.

Originally Posted by Rolfe
I can only assume you have a strange bug.

For weeks I have been posting a follow-up answer to a question on your site (question at http://en.allexperts.com/q/Latin-214...eval-Latin.htm). The answer usually appears on schedule, but then it invariably vanishes again. Usually this happens after about 12-48 hours, although on one occasion it stayed for 10 days.

Your Latin expert's answer is unfortunately unhelpful in this case, because the question is not a Latin one at all, but a musicology one. My answer was published in a music journal in 1994, and has been acknowledged as correct by a number of musicologists.

I am trying to attach this correct answer to the question, however your software seems to be programmed to delete it. I wonder if it is doing this to all follow-up answers?

My answer, when it is visible, is at http://en.allexperts.com/q/Latin-2145/f_3528321.htm.

This is the second time I have reported this to you, but the fault continues.

From them to me.

Originally Posted by AllExperts.com
The expert who answered that question can delete the feedback. I would like to encourage you to apply to be an expert in that topic.

Thanks for Contacting AllExperts Customer Support,

YongFeng
Allexperts.com

From me to them.

Originally Posted by Rolfe
I am not an expert in Latin, the subject under which the question was asked. I have only intermediate school Latin.

I am not even an expert in 20th century musicology, which is the subject the question should have been asked under. It just so happens that I know the answer to that particular question.

If your "expert" is determined to delete, repeatedly, the correct answer to a question which she unfortunately did not understand, then I would respectfully suggest that she is not the calibre of person you might wish to be associated with your web site. Any "expert" who cannot accept that she doesn't necessarily know everything, and is not prepared to accept that in some cases (particularly when answering out of her subject area) someone else might actually be better informed, is not worthy of the designation.

As it happens, I published the answer to this question some 14 years ago. The reference is
Morag G. Kerr, "Prokofiev and His Cymbals", Musical Times 135 (1994), 608-609.
The official web access to this publication is at http://www.jstor.org/pss/1003123, with a price tag of $5, however the text is available free at http://www.b5-dark-mirror.demon.co.uk/nevsky.html. This page has been on the Internet since 2003.

The Wikipedia page on the work concerned, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexand...sky_(Prokofiev), now also contains a section on this matter, complete with full references to supporting documentation. As I said to you in my original email, the topic has been discussed with a number of expert musicologists, who agree that this is the correct explanation for the meaning of the Latin words.

I obviously cannot stop "Maria" repeatedly deleting the little essay I wrote for you. I would, however, suggest that if this continues you might want to reconsider your relationship with her. I'm sorry if this sounds a bit snippy, but I'm quite genuinely shocked by this.

Well, well. Somebody's nose seems to be out of joint. The essay was deleted so quickly after I first posted it, that I suspect the "experts" are sent notification whenever any supplementary answers are posted to their sections. The page was over four years old, and I don't imagine she checks all her answers every day!

I don't think much of the web site, if that's the calibre of "expert" they have.

The problem is that if you Google the Latin words, as someone searching for the explanation might do, that page comes out top. (My 1994 letter is second, but it's behind that pay-wall.) Well, as I said, we'll see who rusts first.

Rolfe.

PS. On reading the Wiki biography of Sergei Prokofiev more carefully, I see that Oleg Prokofiev died in 1998, at the age of 70. (His older brother Sviatoslav would seem still to be alive, though he'll be 84 now.)

Originally Posted by Obituary
He (Oleg) kept a huge correspondence with artists, musicologists, performers and film directors working on Prokofiev and Soviet music. Deeply modest, he would always make time for anyone genuinely interested in his father's music.

Damn, I wish he'd answered that letter!
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Old 21st September 2008, 11:13 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I was quite convinced that the repeated deletion of my supplementary answer was a software glitch, despite ddt's suspicions.
There are times I'd rather not be right

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Well, well. Somebody's nose seems to be out of joint. The essay was deleted so quickly after I first posted it, that I suspect the "experts" are sent notification whenever any supplementary answers are posted to their sections. The page was over four years old, and I don't imagine she checks all her answers every day!

I don't think much of the web site, if that's the calibre of "expert" they have.
This kind of behaviour certainly paints "Maria" in a corner. The lack of response from the side of AllExperts technical team does not reflect very favourably on them either.

For fun, I checked out some Q&A in other sections, and I'm not very impressed in general with the level of either.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The problem is that if you Google the Latin words, as someone searching for the explanation might do, that page comes out top. (My 1994 letter is second, but it's behind that pay-wall.) Well, as I said, we'll see who rusts first.
Have you submitted your own webpage to Google? You might then also consider replying to the Usenet and Listserv posts with a link to it; that would certainly increase then its Google ranking and maybe have it outrank the AllExperts page.
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Old 21st September 2008, 02:55 PM   #31
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I thought Google picked stuff up on its own. And it's ONE PAGE, dammit. Hardly a web site.

Rolfe.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 02:51 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I thought Google picked stuff up on its own. And it's ONE PAGE, dammit. Hardly a web site.
Yes and no. If Google (or for that matter, any other search engine) could find and index each and every web page, that would about constitute a proof of God's existence (at least the omnipotent and omniscient parts of it ).

In reality, Google indexes at most 20% of all web pages. It cannot find web pages or sites that are not linked from other sites. Submitting your page or site to Google (at this page) helps. Having links from other sites helps - the more the merrier - and Google also accounts the quality of the sites the links originate from. Whenever people access a web page from a Google search result, helps too (so, don't click on the AllExperts link from a Google search ).

BTW, this thread is now second on a Google search for the complete Latin quotation; your page is somewhere on page 3. So make sure you get more links to your page - and not just from this thread, because that won't help much.

(I tried answering to the Usenet thread, but it was already closed because it was more than 60 days old...)

</end of derail>
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:13 PM   #33
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Oh, I'm not sure we're at the end of the derail at all!

The trouble is, when a page comes up first in a search, people are inclined to click on it. Which makes it a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, as you noticed, Google has indeed indexed my page (though I think it took a long time). So how would submitting it to them help in any way?

This thread was indexed within minutes of my posting the OP.

Maria is still deleting the essay. Since I returned from holiday I've checked almost every day. I've had to re-post on 1st, 4th, 15th, 16th, 20th and now 22nd September.

I'm going to America on the 26th (very early morning) and won't be back till 6th October, so she'll have it all her own way during that period. After that, if she's still at it, I intend to email AllExperts again. I can see why they would give their people the opportunity to delete supplementary answers - after all, one of the reasons they give for an answer not appearing is "it is unhelpful", and they have to have some way of checking that and actioning it. However, deleting helpful answers doesn't seem very smart, and I'll see if I can make a big enough fuss.

The entire site looks very flaky. I wouldn't give a damn if it weren't for that Google return. Which is why I say, derail not closed. Am I making it worse by reloading that page every day? It's the only way I have of checking up on her though (well, I could check by reloading my page, and only go to her page if she's deleted mine, but that wouldn't really cut the hits by much).

Any semi-relevant musings gratefully received.

By the way, I've had a very nice email exchange with Jerry Kohl, the first person to find my explanation and pass it on. It seems he only Googled the subject in response to the question in that thread, and because he works at an institute with a JSTOR subscription he was able to access my letter instantly, from its second place in the Google returns. And recognised the right answer when he saw it. His Wikipedia editor profile shows him to be an eminent musicologist with a particular expertise in Stockhausen. I'm very impressed.

Now for a real digression. I was thinking again about the day when I spotted the Nevsky-Stravinsky connection. Something else happened that day. It was really very traumatic at the time.

Rewind to the previous Christmas. I'd just been made a partner in the firm, and got a new car. A Fiesta XR2. Sounds naff, I know, but I liked my old Fiesta and just wanted something with a bit more get-up-and-go. All was well until Easter, when I got pulled over for speeding. I was on an empty six-lane motorway late at night, and had wrongly assumed the speed limit was 70 mph when it was actually 60. And due to an error in the court papers, I was actually stated to have been speeding in a 50 mph zone, which made the magnitude of the offence greater. I didn't have the nerve to challenge the error (should have, I know), and I ended up with 5 points on my licence. Then in very quick succession I got pulled over twice more, on these occasions from the middle of streams of traffic all doing the same speed. Result, 3 more points for each occasion, that is 11 in total. You get 12, you get a driving ban. I resolved to be extremely law-abiding for the next three years, which is how long it takes for the points to expire. (For the avoidance of suspense, I will now reveal that I actually succeeded in doing this. I later realised that these cars are simply cop magnets, and got fed up with being pulled over by cops who just seemed to want to check I hadn't stolen the thing, and eventually changed it for an even faster Peugeot which I still have, but which doesn't attract jam sandwiches.)

That August evening, only three months after getting all these points, I was hurrying to get to choir practice, when a white Vauxhall Senator very rudely refused to let me move into a stream of traffic where two lanes merged and the lane I was in effectively disappeared. I got in somehow, and that car then started hazing me. He overtook me very fast, and so close that I thought he was going to scratch my paint, then cut in front of me and jammed on his brakes. More than once. I decided he was a certifiable nutter.

This went on for several miles, and I just tried to stay out of his way. Then he suddenly pulled in front of me again and sprouted "POLICE STOP" flashing lights. His mate in an identical car did the same behind me. (I don't know if there had been two cars hazing me in turns or not, actually.)

I was pretty sure I hadn't done anything wrong. I'd been very careful about my speed, for one thing. But I was absolutely terrified. The two cops came over to my car and started lecturing me about my driving. Apparently one of them had taken offence over the incident at the lane merge. They also made great play over a later part of the journey where I'd been in the inside lane when that had been moving faster than the outside lane (perfectly legal according to the Highway Code), and accused me of overtaking on the inside.

I was hideously tempted to criticise their driving, which had clearly been designed to provoke me into doing something illegal, but a little voice inside my head told me not to. Instead I did the "really very sorry indeed officer" bit, repeatedly, and was waiting for them to demand my licence (complete with 11 points!) and invite me into their car for legal procedures.

Didn't happen. They finally finished lecturing me and let me drive on. I suppose they knew I hadn't committed an offence but were just trying to scare me. Well, they bloody well succeeded! My stress levels were through the roof. I was visualising spending the worst of the winter weather cycling to work, and having no social life at all. Blue-pencilled bastards. I guess I could have taken their numbers and made a formal complaint but it would just have been my word against theirs so what was the point. Maybe if I'd had a clean licence it would have been worth it, but as it was I was only too relieved to be allowed to go.

I was still shaking when I got to choir practice. Stress hormones were doing completely unmentionable things. I just wonder if that chemical environment made my brain just that little bit more alert for connections or patterns or something?

Rolfe.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:23 PM   #34
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Just a thought. The Wikipedia page I edited to insert a short note about this matter is now in seventh place in the Google returns. That one seems a better bet as regards promotion to the top of the list. Now, how might one achieve that?

Rolfe.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 08:38 PM   #35
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Oh, I'd forgotten about this thread. Rolfe, sorry, but so far my presentation of this to folks I know has gone nowhere. I've gotten a raised eyebrow (in interest, not in expressing doubt), and a "that's interesting", but that's it. My earlier inquiry has sort of just petered out.

I'll see if I can find anybody else who might be able to comment towards this, but I'm not too hopeful.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 08:47 PM   #36
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It might be a drop in the bucket, but maybe putting the link to your page and the Wiki page in your sig might help.

Have you thought about asking one of the music experts at that site about it? Maybe one of them will be willing to post the correct answer in the correct section.
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Old 24th September 2008, 02:57 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by ElMondoHummus View Post
Oh, I'd forgotten about this thread. Rolfe, sorry, but so far my presentation of this to folks I know has gone nowhere. I've gotten a raised eyebrow (in interest, not in expressing doubt), and a "that's interesting", but that's it. My earlier inquiry has sort of just petered out.

I'll see if I can find anybody else who might be able to comment towards this, but I'm not too hopeful.

Thanks anyway, and not to worry. I've now had enough reinforcement from enough musicology types for me to realise that yes, nobody else spotted it, and yes, it is accepted this is the correct interpretation.

I think it's something you pick up on if you've previously been puzzled by the text - especially if you've actually performed it, I suspect. If you've never thought about it before, I can well imagine the reaction would be approximately "so what?"

Originally Posted by rdaneel View Post
It might be a drop in the bucket, but maybe putting the link to your page and the Wiki page in your sig might help.

Have you thought about asking one of the music experts at that site about it? Maybe one of them will be willing to post the correct answer in the correct section.

Oh, I think my sig is long enough as it is. And it would probably be against my vows as an anti-homoeopathy illuminati to reference something that wasn't medically-related! I have a feeling that the Wiki page will gradually assert itself. That site has enough general brownie points that its pages tend to do that.

I'm probably not helping by checking the AllExperts page every day. Maria seems to have upped the ante. Last two days, the essay has apparently not appeared at all, which suggests she's deleting it very soon after it shows up. They say they post the new answers at 1am, so she may be making it her first task of the day.

I wonder why? I mean, I haven't criticised her translation or her Latin expertise. She just didn't get it. Like 99.9 repeating % of the entire known universe, including lots of people who were in a position to have spotted it, which she probably wasn't. I can't see any reason to be so touchy.

I suspect the entire site is pretty down-market. I doubt if anyone contributing to other subjects will be of any stature either. However, having checked the music category, they do have one person who says his main interest is in Russian and Soviet composers, and another who is into choral singing, so I may try that idea once I get back from the States, if Maria is still being obstructive.

Rolfe.
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Old 25th September 2008, 08:29 AM   #38
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Ok. I did get another response from an actual musicologist in a blog I play around in. Unfortunately, the opening sentence was that Russian music was outside his expertise.

He did have this to say:

Quote:
I was aware of Prokofiev's dislike of Stravinsky. I was also aware of Prokofiev's dislike in general.

Given that, the sly insult by Prokofviev against Stravinsky that Rolfe uncovered makes perfect sense...

I knew that the Teutonic Knight "Psalms" in Nevsky are dog-Latin. I always assumed that they were sound effects, intended for an audience who would have no knowledge of real Latin. That they are also parodies of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms is slyly funny and entirely plausible...

... Rolfe has done a nice piece of musical detective work, and uncovered what is undoubtedly a brick tossed at Stravinsky's noggin by Prokofiev.
There's a "but" here, though (and keep in mind this fellow is criticizing academic musicology, not you Rolfe):

Quote:
... academic musicology won't care, either, because this discovery isn't seen as important.

Unless, of course, a post-structuralist could discuss how the interactions in Krazy Kat provide the framework for the derivation of a metalanguage with which to deconstruct the means of parodic intent from the standpoint of progressive musical artists of the Soviet Era in conflict with derivative and reactionary émigrés wallowing in the adulation of the élites of the proto-Fascist West of the time.

Oops, all this talk of musicology caused me to slip into academy-speak. Anyway, you can see why poor Rolf's discovery might languish unnoticed by those who practice this trade.
Which is sad, because I too think this is a nice piece of work. But unfortunately this fellow's opinion leads me to believe that it would only be of interest to Prokofiev's or Stravinsky's biographers, and few others. Here's to hoping that someone in the field finds it interesting enough to do further analysis on. I personally think you've hit things square on the noggin, and it'd be a shame for this to go without further notice.
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Old 25th September 2008, 12:49 PM   #39
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Well, I wasn't expecting academic musicologists to care, really. If you've never been puzzled by the choice of words, then your reaction is likely to be "so what?" It's hardly the secret of the universe after all, it's just a curious observation.

It would be nice if Prokofiev's biographers noticed though, and it would be nice if enquiries about the meaning of the words (which are multitude) were answered correctly. It would be extra-special nice if programme notes for performances sometimes included the information.

Actually, that first quote is highly gratifying. It confirms my opinion of Prokofiev's general character and attitude to Stravinsky in general, from someone who clearly knows something about it. I've just been reading too many hagiographies of the chap (mostly down to his elder son Sviatoslav) saying what a good egg he was and how he really got on well with Stravinsky. Which made me wonder a bit, could it really just have been tongue in cheek? Until I remembered the revelatory language of the autobiography, and came back to the original conclusion.

I have to say, I do slightly wonder if the reason Oleg Prokofiev ignored my letter in 1994 was that the whole thing was rather too revelatory of his father's real attitude towards his colleague and rival, and maybe he preferred not to acknowledge it? But maybe that's being mean.

Rolfe.
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Old 25th September 2008, 03:27 PM   #40
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Never liked Stravinsky.
And often when I think I like Prokofiev, it turns out to be Shostakovich.

So the story is not one to shake my world. But I was interested to hear about the speeding tickets...

...still- it does seem odd that nobody noticed before. Drop an Email to yon numpty Mellor on Classic FM . They love obscure musical facts on there.
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