Here’s a stranger-than-fiction story about music lost and regained. Actually, it’s more like nonfiction-inspired-by-improbable-fiction. If you saw Blade Runner, you may remember how Deckard zoomed around a digital photograph with his computer until he located a tiny but critical detail with a ridiculous level of magnification. A similar scene occurs in the funny but less memorable High Anxiety by Mel Brooks.
Now for the nonfiction part: someone finally took the time to look closely at a well-known picture and often-published picture of ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s piano. There, in plain view, was an unknown rag. The Rag Time Ephemeralist has the whole story of how the music was recovered. Here is the picture in question, and here is the (fragment of) recovered music. Knowing the story gives the music a haunting air. Lost but not lost, like a musical fossil, it had been floating in information limbo for a century. Give it a listen. As a curious side note, the Ragtime Ephemeralist article was written by the inimitable cartoonist Chris Ware.
Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of the new science of paleo-photography, or photoforensics, or maybe archaeo-archivology, in which lost worlds are recovered from their inadvertent appearance in someone else’s archives. With gigapixel projects like the modern View of Delft, how much of your life is already documented on someone else’s hard drive? Would you pay to see a gallery of distant or departed loved ones if those pictures were taken by security cameras?