The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 17, 2014

OC student translates song from 500-year-old painting

EDMOND — Oklahoma Christian University student Amelia Hamrick appears to have unlocked a 500-year-old musical mystery.

The 21-year-old junior from Bedford, Texas, identified and transcribed a song based on an overlooked section of the famous painting, “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” European artist Hieronymous Bosch created the painting around the year 1500.

Hamrick, a student in OC’s Honors Program, is attending Oklahoma Christian on a music scholarship and plays the baritone, bass trombone and tuba. She is believed to be the first person to transcribe and play the song.

Hamrick learned about the painting in her OC Honors course, Western Thought and Expression.

“Another OC student and I were looking at the painting one night,” Hamrick said. “We noticed, much to our amusement, music written on the posterior of one of the characters, in an area that’s easy to overlook. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants from that time period.”

After recording the song, Hamrick posted the audio file on her personal blog, where it began to gain a lot of attention online and around the globe.

“I still can’t believe this took off like it did,” Hamrick said. “I just threw it together in 30 minutes at one in the morning.”

Hamrick is recording a second version of the song with assistance from Oklahoma Christian music professor John Fletcher, who is quite proud of Hamrick.

“It does not surprise me at all that she would jump in and do this,” Fletcher said. “She was simply interested in the joy of discovering something new.”

According to Hamrick, Fletcher’s Music History course helped her compose the song.

“We read about Gregorian notation and notation for other types of music during that period,” Hamrick said. “We were tested over a lot of recordings, so I had to listen to quite a bit of music that is very different from how music sounds today.”

Music has always played a big part in Hamrick’s life, despite her reverse-slope hearing loss. Her parents both earned music degrees from Oklahoma Christian. Her father has a doctorate in musicology and both are librarians.

Hamrick is following in their footsteps; she is double-majoring in music and information sciences, and hopes to become a librarian herself. Her parents are continuing to help as she makes a new recording of the song.

“I am pretty lucky that my dad’s specialty was music from the 1500s and 1600s,” Hamrick said.

Hamrick hopes to expand the project for additional academic and entertainment purposes. She would love to have the Oklahoma Christian Chorale and Band record the song. In addition, there are other unrecorded songs in Bosch’s paintings, though they’re located in less amusing places.

“I hope to transcribe those songs as well,” Hamrick said. “Plus, as an Honors student, I think this experience might make a great capstone catalyst project for research and creative activity.”

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