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Speaking Scores: What’s It Like To Be Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

In the Speaking Scores series, we interview inanimate musical scores to get a perspective on what it's like to be a revered piece of musical notation.

Hey there,

I'm the score of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Actually, that's not entirely true. It's just how I introduce myself nowadays. When Mozart composed me in 1781, he actually called me Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman", based on a French folk song. Ever since, you would have heard that melody used all over the place: in songs like Baa Baa Black Sheep and the Alphabet Song , in Cantonese pop tunes like Joey Yung's Lucky Star, or Miriam Yeung's Little Star, or advertising jingles for Twinkles nappies and other baby products. 

But I digress. I guess you want to know what it's like to be the score of one of Mozart's most famous works. 

I should stop you right there. I'm not just any Mozart score. I'm handwritten, old school, not like those fancy, clean machine-printed versions you get nowadays. I might be a facsimile, but I take pride in being a copy of the handwritten original. I'm rare and, at least I like to think, I've got a bit more character, a bit more of the composer in me. 

For example, every now and then, I imagine Mozart sitting before me, quill in hand, meticulously penning each note, ruling each bar line. Every composer had their own manuscript style. Mozart's was one of orderly precision. Many music experts describe his style as one of textbook precision. You wouldn't see that from my Beethoven counterparts -- those guys are just so chaotic. I like that, in me, I think you kind of feel the careful hand of Mozart in each stroke (which is interesting, because, as you might know, he was quite a fiery, hyperactive, impulsive man). 

Of course, I am the finished article. It took several sketches for Mozart to get to me. He'd do early sketches of ideas that were much more casual, and then do more advanced versions with more details included. It's only when he got to the final draft that he brought out that masterful precision you see in me.

I can't play myself, of course, but I do feel some pride when someone puts me on the piano and plays me. And it's fun to watch. That cheeky little right hand scampering around when we I get flipped to Variation 1. That bouncy staccato melody in Variation 9. The majestic relief when we get to the Adagio. 

So the next time you hear my familiar melody, remember where it came from. And if you ever see me lying around, please, do play me: it makes me feel alive.

Notating Beauty that Moves: Music at an Exhibition
3-29 March 2018

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