Mahamadou  Daffee

                     The Ofterdingen  Gesellschaft

         Introduction by Professor Pelog Slenderoso

Rain is falling in a steady drizzle late one afternoon as I sit at my desk, pondering in
dejection the loss of the greater part of our dear group of friends.  Peter Ceniti, Pelle
Bono Caridad, and even the redoubtable Pablo Cookie  all have vanished, and the
Ofterdingen Gesellschaft is in disarray.  Beside me Pietro Kennedy pulls at his beer as he
gazes absent-mindedly out the window: he has not written anything in months, sunk in
irremediable  malaise.  

I am startled by a rap at the door: without awaiting a response, an energetic man in his
mid-forties strides in and places a manuscript on my desk.  Kennedy, his interest piqued,
rouses himself and comes to my elbow, while our visitor seats himself comfortably in an
armchair, folds his hands upon his lap, and invites us by his silent stare to peruse his

That was three weeks ago.  Since then Dr. Mahamadou Daffee has officially been
inducted to the Ofterdingen Gesellschaft; he makes his public debut with the present
Domenico Zipoli and the Fountain of Youth. The unfamiliar style of this
work, as well as its controversial contents, may perplex the reader.  I therefore add here
some brief clarification.

In a nutshell:  The professor identifies himself with the Italian Baroque composer
Domenico Zipoli (?1688-1726?), and claims, in his voyage to the New World, to have
discovered the Fountain of Youth, long sought by Spanish adventurers.  For 300 years
the musician managed to keep secret his immortality, periodically changing locations,
names and occupations (We glimpse him fleetingly:  there, in 19th century Austria, as
Cornelius Funfholler, there, at the dawn of Impressionism, an Italian / Japanese half -
breed, Ichigo Scracci...), but in the end, Postmodernism proved too much for him: the
artist witnessed his work deconstructed beyond repair, his very life fragmented into a
series of mutually exclusive propositions and biased assumptions, until, in the absence of
anything firm to hold on to, he  felt himself slipping away.  And so he has decided  to
reveal the miraculous nature of his fate, and to share the wisdom of his accumulated

The form adopted by Professor Daffee is most unusual, though I believe justified by the
circumstances.  The text consists of substantial excerpts from a biography on Zipoli,
found in the Preface to his great
Sonate Intavolature; this Preface was composed in 1957
by the Italian scholar Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini.  To this biography Daffee interpolates a
series of glosses, an extended commentary, emending the text, supplying missing facts,
and sometimes digressing in an alarming fashion.  The impression we are left with is of a
man no longer certain who he is, a man who has endured too many lifetimes, too many
political systems, too many wives, too many changes in musical taste - in short: a perfect
fit for the Ofterdingen Gesellschaft.  

And so it is with joy and excitement that I introduce the reader to our newest member: I'd
wish him long life, but that would be superfluous.

Pelog Slenderoso

March 23, 2006.

                             THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

(The following is taken from the Preface to the
Sonate d'Intavolatura of Domenico Zipoli
published in 1957 by the musicologist  Ferdinando Tagliavini.)

It is due to the new researches of G. Furlong
 (a bore), L. Ayesteran (a quack) and V.
(a musicological god) that the figure of Domenico Zipoli has been brought
forth from obscurity and that the pertinent information concerning his life and works has
for the most part been established.  
(Not so, my dear Tagliavini, not so!)  Born in Prato in
Tuscany on October 16, 1688, he took up residence on Rome, where in 1712 and 1714
he performed two oratorios,
S. Antonio and S. Caterina virgine e martire.  In 1715 he
became organist of the Jesuit church, a title which he himself added to the title page of
Sonate d'Intovolatura per Organo e Cimbalo, published in 1716.  It is not known
whether the statement of Padre Peremas, that Zipoli was Music Director of the
, is correct.  (I honestly don't remember myself - I had so many odd jobs back
De Backer and Sommervogel mention  a work of Zipoli published in Rome in
January, 1716,
Principia seu Elementa ad bene pulsandum Organum e Cimbalum;
although various scholars consider that this concerns a theoretical work no longer extant I
hold that it is not unlikely that this supposed title may be taken as nothing other than an
inaccurate Latin translation (
Note here the distorting influence of  Roofridge  the
confounder, whose hope it is to confuse, to mar and despoil,  Roofridge, who has
hounded me down through the years, leaving a stain on all that is lovely, casting a
shadow  on all that is bright. )
 of the title Sonate d'Intavolatura per Organo e Cimbalo,
published in 1716.
 (Sommervogel: she would know!  Her name means "summer-bird",
she is, I suspect, the incarnation of a girl I knew rather well in those days, and the work
she mentions I composed for her on a whim, little knowing what I was starting, little
suspecting I'd be finding that girl again and again, eternally re-making her sonata!   As I
recall she was very good with her hands - I mean she used to make things, decorations
and such, so that her rooms were always lovely and festive, despite her being far from
well-off.  Once, on my birthday, she gave me a painting done in the colors of rich, ripe
fruits, an image of some magical kingdom seen from afar; I named it,"What Wild Hope."  
It hangs, a little tattered on the corners, in my room to this day.  

It was about that time, soon after I received the painting, that I began to hear those
secret sounds I still seek.  It was also at about that time a voice would come to me, in
that snoozy  state I'd find myself in after lunch - a voice calm and pure, instructing me
patiently, unlocking profound mysteries, but in a language too rich for me to take back,
so that, as I would rise to consciousness, its meaning would slip away.  I call him  my
Tutelary Spirit; he returns from time to time, and though I can't quite grasp his words, he
is the guiding light of my work, an earnest of that  magical realm beyond an enchanted

In the same year Zipoli proceeded to Seville (without the girl) a became a novice in the
order of the Jesuits; on April 5 of the following year he sailed as a missionary to the
province of Paraguay and took up residence in Cordoba, studying theology and
philosophy, at the same time devoting himself ardently to his occupation as composer.  
(Actually I was lured to America by stories then popular in Spain of treasures and
wonders  (including tawny beauties)
, but especially by a legend of a Fountain of Youth.  
That's not to say I wasn't hoping to serve the Church at the same time: it's just that, as I
see things now, serving God and seeking the Fountain were the same quest, or at least
related, as was my continuing search for the sonata I dreamed of but ever failed fully to

In fact I've been searching countless years for a forgotten land, a hidden time, a soft,
elusive music, and it is the curse of that immortal fountain that I must search forever for
that which can never exist.  Sometimes, in an unexpected turn of melody (as when my
eyes move down her neck to where the breast begins to blossom) an enchanted forest
shimmers, and we can almost begin to believe that nothing less than all things can be,
at once and forever... Bewildered, we ask of such music, does it point to something,
somewhere else, or is it the thing itself?  And the answer we receive is: both and
neither.  The sounds are symbols, not of other things but of abstractions: signs of
coherence and continuity.  Yet these abstractions can only and always be known in
those or similar forms.  

But if you ask me whether we construct this meaning from our need, or whether we need
it because it's already there, again I answer that I suspect both and neither of these
propositions are true.  And if you demand of me why it is that I reason in riddles, I reply
that a residue of mystery abides in us, and that the inconclusiveness of our lives
beckons us out from ourselves, though toward what I do not know, contenting myself
with imagining and pursuing  a soft music, a forgotten land, a hidden time.)

Zipoli's fame and artistic influence must very soon have gone beyond the limits of  
Cordoba, since, as Padre Peramas states, church music was commissioned from him by
letter from countries abroad, and even the Viceroy of Peru at Lima asked for his
compositions.  At the height of his career, at the completion of his theological studies and
shortly before his ordination to the priesthood, on January 2, 1726, Zipoli died.  
I didn't - in fact I couldn't, and to this day I still can't (die, I mean).  I was up early one
morning and found myself drawn uncontrollably from my room by the untamed song of a
bright red bird (or was it an Indian maiden with oval eyes and a voice like running
water?).  Rounding a bend in the woods I  found myself in a clearing, and, well, there it
was: the Fountain of Youth, so what else could I do but drink from it?  (What would you
have done in my place?)

No further light can be thrown on the life of Zipoli, since the youth and musical education
of the Tuscan composer are obscure.  Recent researches of mine into the manuscripts of
Padre G. B. Martini preserved in the monastery of S. Francesco in Bologna, which are at
present being reorganized, led me to the fortunate discovery of a document which,
although very short, gave valuable information on the life story of Zipoli, hitherto
shrouded completely in darkness.  It is in the form of a draft of a biographical-musical
dictionary of which only the last volume (N to Z) is available, in which, in Padre Martini's
handwriting, are notes on the lives and works of several musicians and theoreticians.  
The little volume, which carries on its spine the title
Scrittori di Musica  / Notizie storiche
e loro opere  / Tomo piccolo in piedi / F. G. B. Martini M. C.,
 contains on page 557 the
following entry about Zipoli: "Domenico Zipoli of Prato studied the first rudiments with the
Music Director of the cathedral at Florence and was then sent by the Archduke to
Alessandro Scarlatti at Naples whom he soon left on account of strong differences of
opinion; in 1709 he went to Bologna, where he was received by P. D. Lavinio Vannucci, a
monk in the monastery of S. Barbaziano, and was finally sent by the Archduke already
mentioned to Bernardo Pasquini in Rome.

(The business with Scarlatti is the kind of thing you've heard before.  He was like a
second father to me, in other words: a pain in the ass.  Back at home when I was a kid
my mother used to say  that the two of us, my  father and I, were too  much alike, both
stubborn as mules.  I needed to get away from there: with my pop always berating me,
how could I pay proper attention to the quiet music I was dreaming?  My father objected
to my wish to explore the New World, suspecting quite accurately that adventure
counted for more with me than piety back then.  

Anyway, with Scarlatti the situation was transposed and the argument was renewed, you
could say, in a new key.  It's our fate, I guess, to carry our parents around with us, visibly
or invisibly, all our lives, and, when you think about it, in my case that's forever.   Now,
after so many years and so many transpositions of this dispute, I get confused about the
nature of our argument: was it the one about modernism vs. conservatism in musical
style, or was it the one about religions as taught by the Church vs. personal revelation,
or was it the one about falling in love with a girl from the wrong town or the wrong part of
the world?  Anyway, we argued.

The situation there in the Scarlatti household was further complicated by the presence
of Alessandro's son, Domenico, three years my senior, and, frankly, a greater musician
than both his old man and I.  Not that we had a rivalry, or if we did, it was a friendly one.  
But the preferential treatment given the natural son - his laundry all washed and folded
for him, and larger servings of pasta at dinner -  understandably caused some
resentment on my part.  Besides this, the older Scarlatti's teaching methods I found
stultifying: the results I managed to produce were "correct" but formulaic, riddled with

As for the younger Scarlatti, he was no fool: he escaped and landed a great job in Spain
composing and playing for the queen, with complete artistic license - and just look at the
results!  The sonatas are as forward-looking for his day as the music of Liszt was to
seem a hundred years later.  This is because, from where I stand, Scarlatti is Liszt, that
is, the musician of the future, the free-thinker.  And the virtuosic showman as well,
believe me.  They used to say the queen loved to listen to him play, and also to watch to
rapid crossing of his hands, a technique he developed that made it seem that two
people, not one, were playing.

But it was more than a case of mere display: the skill at execution  was inseparable from
the bold expressive content of the music.  (I'm speaking of Liszt here as well as
Scarlatti.)  And sometimes in a quiet moment, as when, in "Vallee d'Obermann," the
theme inverts and begins to rise, I'd feel again that inexplicable hopefulness, that sense
we might break through the opacity of it all and find ourselves in another place.  Say
what you will of Liszt: that he could be a tawdry showman, or vulgar, or bullied by foolish
women, he puts to shame our urbane cynicism and our modernist posturing, though,
mind you, he knew full well the futility of it all, as did Byron whom  he quotes:

                      Could I embody and unbosom now
                      That which is most within me - could I wreak
                      My thoughts upon expression...into one word
                      And that word were Lightning,I would speak...

This is the source of our hatred of Liszt: that his artistic sincerity is more convincing than
our scientific knowledge.  We may be right, but he is true, and we envy him his
imaginary kingdom.  Meanwhile he has his followers, long-haired charismatic epigones:
the modern rock stars.  But in them the impulse to vulgarity is triumphant, and they have
substituted, for love, mere sex, for social transformation, escape through drugs, for
beauty, noisy abandon.  

So I've seen it all unfold: seen Scarlatti reborn as Liszt reborn as rock star, and I realize
now that each freedom gained entails a loss.  At this point my father - I should say, my
fathers - start to seem wise in their insistence on discipline and restraint, clarity and
coherence, and I have to stop, drink a glass of red wine, and think about something else.

ipoli's  present-day reputation as a composer is founded almost exclusively on his
Sonate d'Intavolatura published in Rome in 1716 and later again in London in two
volumes.  In addition to this only a cantata for soprano and figured bass
, Delle offese a
preserved in manuscript in the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin and a
piece for violin and figure bass, in manuscript  in the Sachsiche Landesbibliothek, are
known.  (
(That's the melody I wrote for the girl whom I mentioned earlier; it's the
prototype for all the later violin sonatas I was to compose, just as she, my indelible first
love, put her stamp on all the women I would later come to know.  To be honest, I can't
keep them straight, not from lack of respect, or because there were so many,  but
because their actions toward me and the feelings they brought out seem so many
variations on a theme.  

Don't assume I mean that in a completely positive sense, though: we were anything but
a perfect match.  In truth, I wasn't nearly as attentive as I could have been.  (If you're
looking for an easy way to get a woman angry, just make it clear to her that your work is
more interesting than her hair-do. )  She had this way of shopping - I mean for
something trivial, let's not even talk about a big deal like buying shoes - that would
begin with, "I'm just going to pop into the store; can you double-park?" and become
forty-five minutes; then, when she arrived home, it  would be, "Oh, this is no good: we'll
have to return it!"  (Meanwhile I'd have been standing in some store with my hands in
my pockets, staring up at the ceiling like the Count of Monte Cristo contemplating his

On the bright side, she had light brown eyes with a little green in them, and with these
she could search your soul; she had a way of making you feel good about yourself
simply because she was paying attention to you; and she possessed the faithfulness of
a Saint Bernard.  I got in the habit of calling her "Mrs. Cardinal"; she is, I guess, my
soul-mate, and I expect to find her again.

Which is why I keep trying to make the sonata.  Over the years I've adopted various
strategies, such as, in the Faure A major, how I take the opening theme from the piano
and, in giving it to the violin, alter it so thoroughly that you're left with a couple of
themes, suggesting that both are approximations of some unutterable melody.  Then
there's the Vinteul Sonata in Proust, but I admit this one's a little cheap: it's easy to
describe an imagined work of beauty compared to the task of making one.  And the
Arriaga Sonata - that's mine again (in spite of the extravagant editorial claims of Prof.
Bono) including the themes borrowed from Lodyzhensky (I'm him too.).  This last piece
is where I get closest, the idea being to pull together an accumulation of influences and
let them flow through the organizing agency of my mind.   I sincerely hope she'll  like it.  
(You can listen to it and read more about it in "Publications - Music Out of Time -
Arriaga y los Pajaros.)  But that silent something I call distant  music eludes me still,
and I could despair at all the notes, all the effort.  We're still outside the magic gate.  

Unfortunately, nothing has come to light of Zipoli's work in America.  Incorrect information
published in
Catologues Genreal des Livres de Musiques, Paris, 1729, throws a veil of
doubt and mystery over the musical output and also the personality of Zipoli which must
be cleared away; the above-mentioned catalogue lists on page 15 as Zipoli's works the
following pieces:
Pieces d'Orgue, Six Ouvertures et Concerts pour le Violon, l'Apollo;
this concerns compositions which, as Marpurg and Gerber have established, are
probably works by Michel Corrette.  Whether this is an error in the catalogue or, as
Marpurg and Gerber conjecture, Corrette allowed his pieces to appear under the name of
Zipoli in order to make them more attractive to the purchasers, remains uncertain; in any
case these works have without doubt nothing to do with the Tuscan composer.  However,
this led some authors to directly confuse Zipoli with Corrette; since in addition the life of
Zipoli was completely obscure until a few y
ears ago, a few scholars were even dubious
about the actual existence of Zipoli and the authenticity of his output.   

There you have it: the evil Roofridge caught in the midst of his  machinations by the
trusty beam of Signor Tagliavini's scholarly light.  Roofridge disguised as Michel
Corrette, Roofridge down through all my years, a dark, distorting shadow, Roofridge,
humanity's bane.  Only recently has he taken on this name when he appeared,
surreptitiously , in the bowels of the website program, despoiling with subtle malice the
efforts of the Gesellschaft.  (See "Contact - Letters from Kitezh"!)  Oh, you know him
well, humankind: he is the Shadow that falls between what we envision and what we
accomplish, the Demiurge despised by the ancient Gnostics, Architect of the false world
in which we find ourselves, struggling to escape, in need of deliverance, yearning for the
Blue Flower.  Note (oh, note!) the ironic parallel; the Pretender becomes man in the form
of Corrette, who pretends in his turn - to the point where people forget there ever was a
Zipoli, forget about their True Homeland in the Kingdom of Light: and then his triumph is

Or is it the other way around?  Is he Pain and Conscience, and Beauty and Truth,
beckoning us from complacent slumber, summoning us to judgement?   Is he our Hope,
our true Friend, behind whose stern admonitions lies the specter of Transcendence?  

Or is he God and Satan, shadow and light, canker and jewel, depending on where you
stand?  For I suppose, to the Tutelary Spirit, whose sublime simplicity I degrade in every
effort at translation, I must appear no less than Roofridge incarnate, Roofridge myself.  
Call me Roofridge.

The volume of sonatas by Zipoli is an important, systematic work, permeated by an
unmistakable stylistic uniformity and convincing evidence of the personality of its
composer.  The clarity and logic of the musical language, the balancing of the supple
contrapuntal linear development and the vertical harmony, the variety and lightness of the
rhythms and the richness of the melodic invention, as particularly evident in the two
Elevatione and the slow movements of the suites for cembalo; these are a few of the
exclusive hall-marks of Ziploi's style.  

And I'm glad you like it, Signor Tagliavini.  As for me, I go back and forth.  One day the
unbearable weight of conventional gestures and forms oppresses me, and  I think: this
must be a fallen world, where nothing fresh can blossom.  But I've been around long
enough to know where such thinking lead: it leads to subjectivity, personal expression,
the cult of the individual, the renunciation of consensual language - in a word, to
Modernism.  And here's the dilemma of the modern artist: the long-awaited moment of
emancipation is the moment of incomprehensibility; at last fully himself, the artist is
completely alone.  

So the next day I rebound to the point where I can admire the "clarity and logic"
Tagliavini speaks of.  At such times I seem to stand on the shoulders of so much worthy
accomplishment; my creativity assumes a long, impressive buildup.  In attempting to
reconcile these mood swings I can only conclude, sadly, that our hope lies in our
mortality: in dying we both escape the curse and join in the legacy of our fathers.

Or perhaps my ambivalence is an indication that all these voices -  father and teacher,
lover and friend, guiding spirit and shadowy nemesis - are competing inside my head,
are aspects of my single self, my self itself being an entire world of beings, microcosmic
mirror of a world of countless selves.  In that case the unknown cities I sense, and that
soft, elusive thread of melody, may be nearer than I had imagined, while death, which
I've come to seek so eagerly, may be but another beginning.