Liquid Commodities In Time

“This is an instrument that has been asleep for almost 2,000 years, but all you have to do to awaken an instrument is to have an idea.

Musical instruments are to express human ideas. Therefore, the reconstruction of a musical instrument is in a class utterly different to the reconstruction of any other archeological object. If you reconstruct a cauldron, you’re not going to make a family dinner in it.* … If you reconstruct a musical instrument, find out how it works and use it, it is as valid as the moment at which it was first used.

Because music is timeless, as well as individual. It is a liquid commodity in time.”

John Kenny, on the reconstruction of the Carnyx

When contemplating other planets, there’s only so much we can bring with us, in our heads and our hands, of the sights we’ve seen before, and the things we’ve done. As anyone who’s tried to read the destructions that came in Engrish for assembling some piece of furniture or equipment knows, written instructions are chancy at best for transmitting information. (Thank G-d for youtube, and somebody deciding they were going to put “how to balance your fan blades” up as a video.)

But languages change over time, storage media decays, file formats change, and things are lost because they fell out of fashion for all sorts of reasons. So those who take delight in the obscure and the ancient may rediscover a treasure trove of What Came Before that someone, somewhere, somewhen long ago decided, for their own reasons, should go out to the stars and carried on.

What liquid commodity in time will you have them find?

*He doesn’t hang with the reenactor crowd, clearly. Because they totally do this. Up to 3-D printing roman relics and using them to knit gloves, because they can. But his point, in the main, stands.

21 comments

  1. Liquid commodity: fences. Because it turns out that fences and gates are a whole thing unto themselves. I had to build a fence to keep Maximum Maxwell from chasing the delivery man, and it is a lot harder than one might think. Gates particularly are a very interesting technology.

    In 10,000 years you’re going to find chunky fossilized gate posts in boggy spots on human worlds, and any old farmer guy who sees one will know immediately what it is.

    1. I’m still trying to figure out if I’m a good influence or a bad one. I mean, I kept you from writing, but I gave you a really interesting link instead! Either way, you’re welcome for the distraction!

  2. *He doesn’t hang with the reenactor crowd, clearly. Because they totally do this. Up to 3-D printing roman relics and using them to knit gloves, because they can. But his point, in the main, stands.

    He might be employing a bit of blarney– I can’t imagine he doesn’t get at least SPOKEN TO by the re-enactor/geek crowd, and he’s very likely to be familiar with the guys who went “Wait, if we’re trying out recipes from the middle ages…shouldn’t we use the equipment they would’ve been using? And spring water, not distilled water?” and such.

    But the poetry of the claim is…well, let’s just say I suspect the folks who made the horn in the first place would approve. 😀

  3. Given some of the long-term effects of cooking the way the Romans did . . . No thanks. I’ll be ahistorical and add a little sugar instead of using lead, or verjuice to draw the metal out of the pot. 😉

    Ancient instruments are amazing things, and so is the music. I heard an interview one morning with a gent from the Musica Antiqua Cologne, and the interviewer was lamenting the lack of audience for “ancient” music. Oh no, said the German conductor, not so. Today is the best it has ever been, because of radio, and the internet (this is the late 1990s [!]), and CDs. If someone hears something, they can find it now, and other people discover old music, or figure out old instruments, and it is easier than ever to find a musical niche. This was about the time that Naxos was coming into its own as a “label for off-beat classical music” and scarfing up anything people could find.

  4. Reenacators run all the way from the superficial to the hard-core. Cooking in a cauldron gets you — hmm — at least to the half way point?

    1. *laughs*

      You just twigged a memory– it’s not ancient, but I KNOW PEOPLE who do Dutch Oven cooking– not the coated kind, the cast iron “wagon train” themed sort, apparently the term was first applied to the casserole looking ones with the fitted lid being the selling point. Ceramic before that.

      I hadn’t ever thought about it, but they *are* basically cauldrons– and looking for “ancient bronze cooking pot,” the biggest difference is that the old stuff is a lot rounder while my stuff can stack to take up very little space. I’d guess it’s related to materials and that mine has a lid to keep ashes out.

      1. Well, the whole point of a Dutch oven of any shape (and the cover is part of the definition) is that it can be used on a stove, in a stove, and in/on a fire. Very, very versatile. With an iron frying pan and a Dutch oven, you could cook almost anything almost anywhere, from fried meats to bread and roasts and stews. (A fireproof rack helps for raw fire locations).

        This is not the case for a cauldron, which is only suitable for wet foods (and careless enemies), not fried or baked delights.
        —-
        Joking aside, I was once part of a Renaissance singing group, and for holidays we had to bring dishes that predated foods from the New World. That can be challenging, since the options of new foods tended to displace the older repertoire. Artichoke pies were always a challenge…

        1. I kid you not, the reason that I thought of the professional folks is that one of the ladies does a German chocolate lava cake in a cast iron dutch oven, on a campfire.

          From scratch, of course.

          One of her ‘things’ is to make SURE that people see that she isn’t pulling a fast one, and that is a really impressive one. (….which miiiiiight work to distract them from things like “are they actually cooking 65 gallons of beans out here?”)

          1. They’re actually particularly great for baking bread, since the loaf is fully enclosed in a restrained space, and the moisture makes for a great crust. You let it rise in a reed cloche on a floured cloth, and the whole process feels nicely primitive. And when you’re done, it’s a cinch to clean up. (Go for the enameled ones — easier to maintain). I have several of them, oval & round, different sizes. Wish the lids would stack, though… You’d think I’d have better biceps, the amount of cooking iron I sling round. 🙂

            1. I like the uncoated better, even though seasoning is a bit of a pain– every time I’ve gone off of them for long I start having iron problems. (Yes, we *do* cook a lot of tomatoes…. :D)

              1. For folks wondering about a *really easy* oil to season with: canola or sesame, depending on your style of cooking.

                And they make these freakin’ COOL chain mail dish clothes that are PERFECT for cast iron!

                1. Tru’ dat. I agree uncoated for frying — no comparison at’all, at’all — but for the Dutch ovens, what I make in them is indifferent to the surface.

      2. Dutch ovens are brilliant for making beer braised brisket.

        I mistakenly got one that was made for campfires, but it works fine in the oven. Just need to be aware of where the feet are and that they grab the racks pretty good.

  5. Well, the whole point of a Dutch oven of any shape (and the cover is part of the definition) is that it can be used on a stove, in a stove, and in/on a fire. Very, very versatile. With an iron frying pan and a Dutch oven, you could cook almost anything almost anywhere, from fried meats to bread and roasts and stews. (A fireproof rack helps for raw fire locations).

    This is not the case for a cauldron, which is only suitable for wet foods (and careless enemies), not fried or baked delights.
    —-
    Joking aside, I was once part of a Renaissance singing group, and for holidays we had to bring dishes that predated foods from the New World. That can be challenging, since the options of new foods tended to displace the older repertoire. Artichoke pies were always a challenge…

  6. I loved watching this, and such an interesting instrument, but only a musician would think that only re-creating a musical instrument is in a different category from anything else….
    “Therefore, the reconstruction of a musical instrument is in a class utterly different to the reconstruction of any other archeological object. If you reconstruct a cauldron, you’re not going to make a family dinner in it.”

    As a re-enactor, who writes research books for other re-enactors, I can tell you that there is a lot to be learned by creative experimentation and recreation in all areas, not just one. I bet he would have discovered a lot more if he had worn the same clothes and played it in an open field, instead of a large acoustically reflective hall where he was playing with the sound bounce off the walls, as well as the instrument.

    Historical clothing patterning and construction is my personal area of expertise, and it’s amazing the amount of information which has been lost to time because it wasn’t written down, or it was thrown out because it was out of date and therefore “useless”. Even in the last 100 years, we’ve lost a lot of the actual methods which were used to draft and fit corsets in 1900, for example. Yes, there’s research material out there, and it can be pieced together, slowly, but that’s not the same as having the information handed down directly. (I’m pretty sure it was mostly oral teaching anyway, so not actually written in the first place.)

    Key information which needs to make it to the stars:
    – How to draft patterns for non-stretch fabrics. It’s a lot easier to weave rough fabric out of some fiber than make a spandex stretch fine knit
    – How to draft pants. The crotch curve on a pair of pants is a thing of invisible art and beauty, especially ones you can move and fight in without ripping them.
    – Bust support. Bras are a form of modern architecture, and rely heavily on stretch fabrics at the moment. There are other historical methods without stretch, but it’s a lot nicer not to lose that info in the first place.

    1. Historical clothing patterning and construction is my personal area of expertise, and it’s amazing the amount of information which has been lost to time because it wasn’t written down, or it was thrown out because it was out of date and therefore “useless”. Even in the last 100 years, we’ve lost a lot of the actual methods which were used to draft and fit corsets in 1900, for example. Yes, there’s research material out there, and it can be pieced together, slowly, but that’s not the same as having the information handed down directly. (I’m pretty sure it was mostly oral teaching anyway, so not actually written in the first place.)

      Oh, goodness, my grandmother and her COOKING!
      She did write stuff down. Mom thought she was being sabotaged, then watched her mother in law cook….
      “Why did you add flour there? The recipe didn’t even use flour.”
      “It didn’t look right.”
      “What is ‘look right’?!”
      “That.” *points*

      I’d be shocked if there wasn’t the same sort of thing in sewing.

      Writing stuff down doesn’t convey “it looks right” any more than knowing you thump watermelons to find the ripe ones lets you know what it’s supposed to sound like.
      (Saw a horrible debunking of “test ripeness of watermelons” where they decided that something like a louder sound was the right thing, and even over the youtube I could tell they picked the wrong one. It’s not most hollow, it’s… that one didn’t sound right.)

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