Harpsichord motto

''Occultae musicae nullum esse respectum"
-Does anybody know of a historical Italian harpsichord (false inner-outer, longest string CCC=740mm) with this motto? which is attributed to Suetonius writing of the emperor Nero (there is no repect for music which is concealed- so why not play? Lives of the Caesars 6).

There is an instrument for sale on English Ebay, built by David Garrod in the 1980s which has that motto, I think taken from the original, so identifying the motto would help to identify the instrument he was copying. I have no connection with the vendor but am curious about what instruments Garrod was copying in the 1980s. He seems to have been using Röslau wire except for the bass strings.


To find search “Beautiful Handmade Single Manual Harpsichord by Donald Garrod”

Michael

I thought Italian harpsichords generally had no mottoes, this aspect of the decoration being a mostly Flemish fashion? And having it on the nameboard seems strange to me. But I am no expert on Italian instruments. Seems early ones had some inscriptions.

But this seems a possibility - an article by Edgar Hunt from 1977 about inscriptions, the last paragraph of which he quotes his favourite Greek, pointing out we have not seen Greek inscriptions, and giving the one he likes, translated into Latin by Suetonius, ‘occultae musicae nullus est respectus’, which looks more correct Latin to me. Perhaps Garrod read this article – the timeline makes sense.

I have never seen such a motto in historical instruments so I say nothing about that (and I second Andrew’s perplexities about Italian harpsichords mottoes, but I’ll leave this to more expert people than me).

However, I’d be surprised if the motto was to be found in any historical instruments, though, as it’s wrong, language-wise. Andrew is right.

The Svetonius original is indeed: “[…] prodire in scaenam concupivit, subinde inter familiares Graecum proverbium iactans occultae musicae nullum esse respectum”, which is to be translated literally: “[…] he wished (ora craved) to get on stage, often reciting to his family a Greek proverb which says that no care is given to hidden music”.

The part of the sentence, “occultae musicae nullum esse respectum” is called an “infinitive”, and indeed “esse” is an infinite verb, “to be”. It’s used with “verba dicendi”, such as “to say, to declaim, to tell”, etc. In Italian there still is an infinitive sentence, albeit very formal, but I don’t think there is one in English, so it’s difficult to translate literally. However, the sentence “occultae musicae nullum esse respectum” would be translated as “to be no care for hidden music”, which is plain wrong. In Latin, a standalone sentence should be plainly “Occultae musicae nullum est respectus”.

Yes, “respectus” and not “respectum” because “respectum” is right in the infinitive sentence (which has the verb in the infinite form and the subject in accusative), but in a plain sentence the subject goes in nominative and the verb in indicative. (sorry I use the Italian/Latin words for the verbs and substantives forms because I don’t know exactly how they are in English).

As for “respectum”, it could mean “respect”, but it’ first meaning is “care”, and moreover the substantive “respectus” derives from the verb “respicio”, “to look after, to care for”.

Sorry for the long message, probably useless for the Latin-savvy reader.

Dom.

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for the reference to Hunt, which looks very useful! Yes, Garrod might have found the motto in Hunt and corrected “est” back to Suetonius’ original “esse”, or he might have found it on a harpsichord or other source that quoted the form used by Suetonius. The motto exists in both forms.

There is an inscription on the nameboard of the 1521 instrument by Jerome of Bologna, in the Victoria & Albert museum, and Garrod also built a copy of that.

With the inscription on the nameboard, it is for the edification of the player rather than the listener, and that makes sense for this motto.

Michael

Hi Domenico,
Yes, the Latin text quoted by Garrod has Suetonius’ infinitive that marks an indirect-speech form, so it is incomplete or, perhaps, “faulty” (elliptical) as it stands. And you are right- It isn’t really possible to do this indirect-speech infinitive construction correctly in English. Something like “[he claimed there] to be no respect for secret music”.

Michael

Domenico.

Yes the Latin structure troubled me too:”esse" is the imperative of “est = to be” and the translation bothered me. I am trying to find out the proper translation from my brother who was a Gymnasium teacher in Latin and Greek in Germany.

domenico.statuto Domenico Statuto
September 1

I have never seen such a motto in historical instruments so I say nothing about that (and I second Andrew’s perplexities about Italian harpsichords mottoes, but I’ll leave this to more expert people than me).

However, I’d be surprised if the motto was to be found in any historical instruments, though, as it’s wrong, language-wise. Andrew is right.

The Svetonius original is indeed: “[…] prodire in scaenam concupivit, subinde inter familiares Graecum proverbium iactans occultae musicae nullum esse respectum”, which is to be translated literally: “[…] he wished (ora craved) to get on stage, often reciting to his family a Greek proverb which says that no care is given to hidden music”.

The part of the sentence, “occultae musicae nullum esse respectum” is called an “infinitive”, and indeed “esse” is an infinite verb, “to be”. It’s used with “verba dicendi”, such as “to say, to declaim, to tell”, etc. In Italian there still is an infinitive sentence, albeit very formal, but I don’t think there is one in English, so it’s difficult to translate literally. However, the sentence “occultae musicae nullum esse respectum” would be translated as “to be no care for hidden music”, which is plain wrong. In Latin, a standalone sentence should be plainly “Occultae musicae nullum est respectus”.

Yes, “respectus” and not “respectum” because “respectum” is right in the infinitive sentence (which has the verb in the infinite form and the subject in accusative), but in a plain sentence the subject goes in nominative and the verb in indicative. (sorry I use the Italian/Latin words for the verbs and substantives forms because I don’t know exactly how they are in English).

As for “respectum”, it could mean “respect”, but it’ first meaning is “care”, and moreover the substantive “respectus” derives from the verb “respicio”, “to look after, to care for”.

Sorry for the long message, probably useless for the Latin-savvy reader.

Dom.


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In Reply To

mshields
September 1

''Occultae musicae nullum esse respectum" -Does anybody know of a historical Italian harpsichord (false inner-outer, longest string CCC=740mm) with this motto? which is attributed to Suetonius writing of the emperor Nero (there is no repect for music which is concealed- so why not play? Lives of th…


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Well, the imperative of esse is
Present:
es (you singular)
este (you plural)

Future:
Esto (you singular)
Esto (he, she, it)
Estote (you plural)
Sunto (they)

So, esse is just the infinite of “sum, es, fui, esse”…

Dom

"To be nor not to be, that is the question." is the closest I can come to the construction.

David

Domenico is right about the Latin being an indirect statement in the original and that it should be “est respectus” if taken outside that context. In English we do still sometimes use a structure similar to the Latin indirect statement; one can say, for example, “I believe this to be true.” But that is very formal and not used much anymore. The ordinary English equivalent for Suetonius’ statement would be “mentioning among his friends [not family] a Greek proverb that there is no respect/consideration for hidden music.” When translating indirect statement into English one can include ‘that’ or leave it out, whichever seems clearer: “he said [that] this is a very erudite mailing list.”

David Perry (Latin teacher for 37 years)

Thanks David! For both the “I believe this to be true” (so English HAS an infinitive) and for “familiares”=“friends”. Thanks for correcting my mistake.

Regards
Domenico

If Respectus, then also nullus .

This is Publius Syrus’s version :

OCCULTAE NULLUS EST RESPECTUS MUSICAE.

Which means sonethin similar to Ovidius’s sentence :

Tu licet et Thamyram superes atque Orphea cantu,

Non erit ignotae gratia magna lyrae.

(Ovidius)

Martin GESTER

+33 (0)661 79 47 75 (mob)
www.martingester.com

www.leparlementdemusique.com
http://www.hear.fr/academie/index.php

mGester Martin Gester
September 1

If Respectus, then also nullus .

Of course! Sorry, my fault, and thanks Martin for correcting me.

Dom

I forgot the translation :
“there will be no great benefit (benefaction) for an unknown song”

Non erit ignotae gratia magna lyrae.

Hi Martin,

Your Ovid quote is nicely ambiguous. Is the lack of beauty (or: thanks, reward) due to the music’s not being heard, or the fact that the melody (or: the singer) is not well known? Like the Suetonius quote, it would be suitable for putting on a harpsichord nameboard, to be seen by a player who wants to be thanked or paid, or reminded to play well-known tunes.

There are also lovely mottoes that say roughly the opposite: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter” (from John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn). Similar ideas can be found in medieval Europe (Dante, I think) or earlier: inaudible, merely suggested music is more heavenly and the music of the spheres (or their spirit) is inaudible. According to the sinologist Richard Wilhelm, the I Ching (Book of Changes, 1000-750BC) has similar ideas on the potentiality of music (and song) in silence.

But returning to my original question: it seems we do not know of a harpsichord that uses anything like the Suetonius motto. So did Garrod adapt it from Edgar Hunt’s article on harpsichord inscriptions, as Andrew suggested? Then he has deliberately gone against the use of “est”, which makes proper sense, to take the implied indirect-speech form “esse”. Maybe this is deliberate: the incomplete phrase is left hovering mid-air. To me it feels less dogmatic than “occultae musicae nullus est respectus”. In fact, the missing (hidden) sentence opening might be an imitation of ‘hidden music’. On the other hand, Garrod might just have been transcribing faithfully what Suetonius wrote, without worrying about the sentence construction. I don’t know how well he knew Hunt, maybe they too indulged in Latin pub talk about mottoes.

Michael

I understand :
Though you are singing better than Orpheus or Thamyris, if your song (your music) is ignored (doesn’t meet an audience), no benefits.

Moreover :

OCCULTAE NULLUS RESPECTUS MUSICAE

Is perfect without “est”
But as an infinitive phrase, it wouldn’t work, “esse” is necessary.

But I don’t know what people would understand out of context.

Martin GESTER

+33 (0)661 79 47 75 (mob)
www.martingester.com

www.leparlementdemusique.com
http://www.hear.fr/academie/index.php

Message parfois dicté / possibly dictated…

Moreover :

OCCULTAE NULLUS RESPECTUS MUSICAE

Is perfect without “est”
But as an infinitive phrase, it wouldn’t work, “esse” is necessary.

And “nullum” instead of “nullus”.

I like Michaels idea:
“Maybe this is deliberate: the incomplete phrase is left hovering mid-air. To me it feels less dogmatic than “occultae musicae nullus est respectus”.”

Maybe the original phrase with a leading ellipsis could convey the incompleteness of the phrase without seeming wrong to the Latin-savvy:

Sorry, my post has been cut by the system.
Here it is:

Moreover :

OCCULTAE NULLUS RESPECTUS MUSICAE

Is perfect without “est”
But as an infinitive phrase, it wouldn’t work, “esse” is necessary.

And “nullum” instead of “nullus”.

I like Michaels idea:
“Maybe this is deliberate: the incomplete phrase is left hovering mid-air. To me it feels less dogmatic than “occultae musicae nullus est respectus”.”

Maybe the original phrase with a leading ellipsis could convey the incompleteness of the phrase without seeming wrong to the Latin-savvy:

“… occultae musicae nullum esse respectum.”

With both the leading ellipsis and the final full stop. And “occulta” all in lowercase. What do you think?

Dom

From which I understand: “Dont play the harpsichord at home alone!”

My personal favorites include “Gratias par non fumar”, “Ruckers alterum clavicembalum meum fecit”, and “Nihil significat nisi oscillat”. As I always say, Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum videtur.

WG

What does the first one (Gratias . . . ) mean?