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There is a figure on a painting of Hieronymus Bosch, the famous 15th-century triptych Earthly Delights, crushed by a giant lute.

On the backside of this figure, one can clearly see a four-line musical staff that seems to have been tattooed on his butt. For years it has been a total mystery how this music may seem like. Several musical historians have attempted a transcription into modern musical notation.

Early before last year, Amelia Hamrick, a student from Oklahoma, noticed the musical notes printed on the backside of the sinner in the painting.  This made her decide to transcribe the Gregorian staff into modern notation.

She played the tune on her piano and posted it on her blog. Here is the music composition based on her transcription.

Before Amalia knew it her recording had been shared and listened to worldwide (people found her 600-year-old «butt song from hell», as she called the song both hilarious and fascinating). Several media, including British newspapers The Guardian and the Daily Mail and the Dutch regional news station Omroep Brabant, reported on Amelia and her recording.

Amelia’s idea was then picked up by many other creative minds, each adding their own interpretation of the musical notes (there is even a heavy metal version).

However, Amelia was not the first who had a go at playing the musical notes in the painting. Back in 1978, the Spanish monk Gregorio Paniagua had already translated the notes shown on the sinner’s buttocks and the song has been played by his music ensemble Atrium Musicae.

PS Music geeks may have noticed that the staff on the man’s butt has only four lines. It seems likely that this is an older form of notation used for Gregorian Chants.

What: The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, Oil on oak panels, 220 cm × 389 cm (87 in × 153 in)/ the real painting is housed in Museo del Prado, Madrid since 1939

Where: At the exhibition «Hieronymus Bosh. Visions Alive», at the Alten Münze, (6.7.2016 – 18.6.2017), Berlin

When: 2.6.2017