For Haydn 'A Problem Solved'
'Art and Science'
by Michael Cooke

ONE OF the worst things that can happen to a composer is "loss of inspiration". There cannot be one composer who has not suffered this malady at some time or other in his composing career.

It is said that Franz Joseph Haydn, when composing his sacred oratorio The Creation, had reached the end of the tenor Aria, In Splendour Bright, and had written the last two notes - the downward 4th C  G to the words "..... His power" - when, It Happened! He tried repeatedly to think of something, but to no avail. The music would come easily enough, but the next words proved to be an almost insurmountable problem. He decided to leave it for a week or two and to carry on with one or two of his other works, returning to it at a later date. Still no inspiration! He was beginning to despair when he suddenly remembered a concert tour of Western Europe, which he was to make in a few days time. This was a tour of all the major European capitals, culminating at Cardiff with a concert of his works to be held in Llandaff Cathedral.    

The tour was a remarkable success, in more ways than one. Upon his arrival at Cardiff, he was presented to the Mayor, Emlyn Evans, who gave him a reception, not at the Town Hall as one might expect, but at what was then, perhaps, Cardiff's most fashionable Seafood Restaurant, being provided with products of that city's own fishing fleet. The Main Course of the meal was "Poached Cod", during which Emlyn Evans remarked, "I have never tasted cod like this before - it is the very gateway to Heaven".    

"I agree", said Haydn. "I often have fish at home on Fridays but this really surpasses anything I have ever tasted." During conversation, the problem with Creation arose, whereupon Emlyn suggested that Haydn may like to visit Cardiff University where he would probably be able to solve it. On the way back to Haydn's lodgings Emlyn said, "I will meet you at the University at nine o'clock tomorrow morning and introduce you to the Principal, Mr. Morlais Evans, who, I've no doubt, will be able to help you."    

Morlais Evans was a kindly man and eagerly suggested that the Chair of Astronomy would provide the clue. Upon mentioning the Seafood Restaurant Morlais, too, was full of nothing but praise for that particular establishment. "Their Poached Cod is outofthisworld", he said. "Many of our students eat there at end of term and on other important occasions. Our Mayor, who took you there last night, has recommended a Good Food award for
them."    

From his office, Morlais led Haydn to the Astronomy Department and introduced him to the Dean of Studies, Evan Evans. Evan, too, had nothing but praise for the Seafood restaurant. "We celebrated our Wedding Anniversary there last week, I can recommend their poached cod to anyone."    

Upon Haydn's mentioning his problem, Evan led him into one of two huge circular blackedout rooms, the entire domed ceiling of each consisting of a skylight which had been covered with a plywood lining, upon which a lightlylined gridsystem had been painted, together with the four main points of the compass, and representing the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere - the ceiling of the other room representing that of the Southern. Haydn noticed that every now and again somebody, usually a student, would enter the room, take a large stepladder, climb up to the ceiling, take a few measurements in order to ascertain the correct position of a star, planet, or other heavenly body in the firmament, before carefully drilling a hole through the plywood lining allowing a speck of daylight to enter: the size of the hole being anything from small to minuscule depending on the body's distance from Earth. The overall effect was astonishing, many constellations being readily visible. Haydn was spellbound. "This is wonderful" he said, "Where do they get all the information from?"     

"Come with me," said Evan, "and I will show you," whereupon he led him through the door, through which the students were entering and leaving, into a large office, at one end of which was a long pigeon perch with feeding trays and nesting boxes. This is where the carrierpigeons would land bringing information from all over Europe and beyond. All this information was intersorted together with that sent in by mail from outstations all over the world, collated and catalogued, the co-ordinates of all the stars being entered on cards, plotted onto the ceiling of the rooms next door, andfiled.

Haydn was so thrilled that he seized a pen and some paper and wrote the words: -

"The Evans' are Telling The Glory of Cod. The Wonder Office-Work Displays the Firmament."

 

 

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