This Is What a 500-Year-Old “Butt Song from Hell” Sounds Like

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 13 2014 4:48 PM

This Is What a 500-Year-Old “Butt Song from Hell” Sounds Like

the_garden_of_earthly_delights_by_bosch_high_resolution_2
Making music in Hell is a painful experience.

Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymous Bosch

When Hieronymus Bosch painted The Garden of Earthly Delights some time between the years of 1490 and 1510, the man clearly had a lot on his mind. His triptych shows a hallucinatory landscape: There is Adam and Eve, for example, and there is a man flying on the back of a bird-lion grasping a bear in its talons. The three sections of the painting, all of which are currently housed in the Prado Museum, Madrid, have captivated viewers for centuries, and this week a university student in Oklahoma found another reason to take a closer look.

Amelia, “a hard-of-hearing music and information systems double major,” posted a close-up on Tumblr of “the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell.” The figure has a musical score stenciled across both cheeks, and Amelia translated it into modern notation and made a recording.

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So what does a 500-year-old “butt song from Hell” actually sound like? To my ears something like the creepy orgy scene soundtrack from Eyes Wide Shut—which, given the painting’s content, is oddly appropriate. But make up your own mind by listening here.

Lance Richardson is a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

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