X-Ray Reveals 216-Year-Old Opera Aria
Stanford lab able to read scrubbed-out notes of Luigi Cherubini
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2013 1:08 PM CDT
This is the title page from the 1797 opera 'Medee' by Luigi Cherubini.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Stanford physicists have made it possible to listen to a renowned opera in full for the first time in more than 200 years, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Scientists at the university's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory used X-rays to reveal the closing aria from the 1797 opera Medee that composer Luigi Cherubini had scrubbed over in charcoal. (Critics had complained the piece was too long, according to music legend.) The scientists used powerful rays from a device called a synchrotron to zero in on the iron (from the ink used by Cherubini) and zinc (from the musical staffs printed on the paper) hidden beneath the charcoal, explains Phys.org and Wired.

"It's similar to a dot matrix printer," says one researcher. "Whenever we saw iron we would put a little digital red ink blot down, and whenever we saw zinc we'd put a little green dot down." The newly illuminated notes were then transferred to a computer screen. "It is indescribable," says the Berlin music scholar who suggested the experiment. You can listen for yourself to the recovered music here.

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Jun 16, 2013 11:49 PM CDT
Next week, the same device decodes the missing 18 minutes of the Nixon tapes. I'm sure it will go like, "Well Henry, I've got myself into a fine mess." Henry replies, "Ves mistur pleasadent, you have really f-ed up things real good." Nixon then says, "Hey Pat, have you found a good plumbing company to look into why the western White House has so much water in the gates? Pat replies, "Well snickerdoodle, I asked Sprio to hire some plumbers to look into the water in the gate." Then Henry, listening from the other side of the room, "Mlister pleasident, you don't have to worry any more about that vatergate ploblem, I've got the best prumbers on it right now."
Jun 16, 2013 8:32 PM CDT
Not a problem. This is what plays as everyone collects theirs burlap sacks they used to carry the rotten fruit and head out to their buggies, donkeys, horses, and ox's. The only people in the theatre that hear the sforzando are the maidens that clean up all the rotten fruit from the stage and orchestra pit.
Jun 12, 2013 2:05 PM CDT
Listened to the recording, the critics were right. It was repititious and uninspiring. Just when it picked up around 4:50 it ended at 5:02. Interesting use of technology to rediscover that which it's creator wanted destroyed.