It is not our collector’s goal, but we have many duplicates of the sheet music ‘Over the Waves’ (Sobre las Olas in Spanish, Über den Wellen in German, Sur les Vagues in French, Sopra le Onde in Italian).
Not surprisingly the waltz, Sobre las olas, has sometimes been incorrectly attributed to Johann Strauss. But is was composed by a Mexican, Juventino Rosas (1868-1894). His life has been documented and filmed. Beware though, because many lies and fantasies have been written about him. What is true —and sad— is that he died too young at the age of 26.
We want to concentrate on the iconic representation of Sobre las Olas on all the above covers. Where does it come from? Why did the music publishers all over Europe apparently follow the convention to represent a young nymph, fairy or woman floating above foaming water, always with bare arms, twirling and undulating, wrapped in lots of light fabric? Send us a postcard if you know the answer, please.
At that time Art Nouveau is in full bloom, and the flowing gowns echo the characteristic whiplash curves employed by many fin-de-siècle artists.
What strikes us, is the graphical similarity with the representation of the famous Serpentine Dance created by Loïe Fuller at the Folies Bergère, as seen on posters around 1900.
Of course, seeing Loïe Fuller in action is another thing. Here she is, metamorphosing from a bat, in an original silent film by Segundo de Chomon. He was a brilliant Spanish film pioneer who worked in Paris and is often compared to Georges Méliès, due to his frequent camera tricks and optical illusions. The film is from 1902 (and not 1905 as indicated on YouTube). Although Segundo de Chomon hand painted some copies, this one is recently stencil-coloured.
In another Segundo de Chomon film The creation of the Serpentine (1908) Mephistopheles interrupts a peaceful evening of dancing in a French salon. Showing his real face, the demon creates a woman who multiplies in numerous Serpentine dancers, all twisting their robes until they finally explode into flames. Wow!
And here is an excerpt from La Danseuse a 2017 biopic of Loïe Fuller, played and danced by none other than I’ll Kill Her Soko. Perhaps not really a must-see, but it gives a good impression of the colour effects that were originally used and designed by Fuller herself.
Now back to our Sobre las Olas with an Uzbek interpretation. It surely beats kittens on Facebook.
Amusing double items, over the years we have grown to cherish these lucky finds. All of the graceful flavours of print and design become apparent: subtle similitudes, minor mistakes, lost details, delicate varieties in shade, colour or contrasts. However sometimes a duplicate is nothing but a gross replication. Take for instance the small Czech songbook, that would like to be an exact copy of the over-the-top incorrect but oh so cute Vertès illustration. A mediocre but bleak reproduction if you ask me.
Here is another example of how an ingenious and expressive design of Marcel Vertès is muddled, wasted and ruined. It is obvious that in the French version of the Passion waltz the red and green colour plates have ineptly been aligned…
Have a look at a similar debacle, this one from the workshop of Hawkes in London. What happened, was the red ink too thick or too thin? Shouldn’t the gold have been printed first? It may be that the red ‘Gold and Silver’ waltz was an ordinary printing press reject. Which we now ironically give the status of ‘collection item’. Anyway what a shame for the beautiful drawing by W. George.
Some ‘duplicate’ sheet music are just different. Having both versions in the collection is worthwhile, and brings on a few moments of delight. As does the gliding sound of the great-grandmother of all waltzes ‘Sobre las Olas’ (Uber den Wellen, Sur les vagues, Over the Waves) composed by Mexican Juventino Rosas in 1888.
Time now for a musical intermezzo: float and twirl over the ocean waves!
All the duplicates above show essentially the same drawing. It is more fun when the same theme is drawn differently, as with this chucklesome waiter.
A last surprising duplicate which brings joy is The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
The UK branch of American publisher Witmark resolutely chose for an extra row of bears.
German publisher Roehr on the other hand preferred chubby Teddies for its Baby-Bären Parade.
Strangely The Teddy Bears’ Picnic, copyrighted in 1907 by American composer John Bratton, was for many years just an instrumental number. Twenty-five years later, in 1932, Irishmen Jimmy Kennedy wrote the lyrics that beautifully accompany the two-step rhythm:
If you go down to the woods today You’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the woods today You’d better go in disguise!
For every bear that ever there was Will gather there for certain, Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.
Now comes the special moment: a scene from the Eighty’s serial drama The Singing Detective, wherein Michael Gambon plays crooner, detective, and psoriatic patient. Thank you Dennis Potter.