Treasure Island

gershon hepner

(5 3 38 / leipzig)

tale of violins

The Mongols used the hair of horses’ tails
to make the ancestors of bows of violins
which move across the strings when playing scales
like fish that skim through water with their fins.
Music that’s the food of love has forces
which move men with its airs, all made of Luft,
to love far more than any long-maned horses,
as I do, lucky Luftmensch who's not hoofed.

Edward Rothstein writes about horses in the NYT, May 16,2008 (“Man’s Best Friend, Hoofed Division”) :
Without horses, where would we be? Trousers might never have become fashionable. The violin might never have come into existence. The Aztecs might have thrived another few centuries. The Industrial Revolution might have sputtered out before its time. No one would have to get off his high horse, and no political race would have a dark horse candidate. And the American Museum of Natural History would have had to find another subject for its sprawling, charming and illuminating exhibition that is opening on Saturday: “The Horse.” The opening festivities will include demonstrations of horseshoeing and horse grooming; an appearance by Thumbelina, a creature billed as the world’s smallest horse (17 1/2 inches tall) : and a visit by a vintage horse-drawn ambulance. But the exhibition itself relies far less on country fair spectacle and far more on a provocative history of the ways in which humans and horses became, as the show says, “powerfully linked.” Those links may be as slight as fashions in clothing (trousers, we are told, developed specifically for the riding of horses) and as important as the fate of empires (“Next to God, ” Cortés is supposed to have said about the conquest of Mexico, “we owed our victory to the horses”) . The exhibition is suggestive about the evolution of the arts. (The 13th- and 14th-century Mongols, who held their immense empire together with the aid of the horse, also used hair from its tail to create the ancestor of the modern violin bow.) And it invites speculation about the course of technology. (The Industrial Revolution ultimately displaced horse power with horsepower, but not before horses shared the burden with machines: on display is a horse-drawn, steam-powered firetruck from 19th-century Pennsylvania.)


Submitted: Friday, May 16, 2008
Edited: Friday, May 16, 2008

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