Not satisfied with hearing this music once,
King Louis XI wanted the abbé of Baigné to
perform the entire thing a second time.
Following this reprise, whose harmonies
were completely identical to the first performance, the lords and all the other members of
the court turned toward the king, believing that
the abbé of Baigné had fulfilled his promise, and
began to shower the abbé with praise. A Scottish nobleman staying at the court of the French
king murmured, “Cauld Airn!” and grabbed the
hilt of his sword as he pronounced these words.
Before coming to a decision, King Louis XI,
who was by nature mistrustful, wanted to verify that he had not been tricked and that the
pigs were in fact pigs. He asked for one side of
the tent to be lifted in order to see. And when
he saw how the gray pigs and the boars had
been tied up, how the copper wires had been
arranged, with their iron spikes as sharp as a
cobbler’s needles, he declared that the abbé of
Baigné was a remarkable and very inventive
man, beyond merely a formidable champion in
the challenges he accepted.
The king said that he would leave him, as
promised, the sum that had been spent by the
royal treasury to buy the pigs and erect the tent,
the organ, and the seats. The abbé of Baigné
first knelt and thanked him, then, lifting his
head, murmured, “Sire, I taught pigs to say A.B.
in twenty-four days. In thirty-four years I have
not succeeded in teaching it to kings.”
King Louis XI, understanding that he
wanted to be abbé not only in name but also
by effectively possessing his own abbey, of-
fered him a convent that happened to be va-
cant at the time, with all the benefits attached
to it. The sovereign liked this answer so much
that he would sometimes quote it, not because
of its boldness, for this was evidenced by the
invention of a pig organ, but because it was
Pascal Quignard, from The Hatred of Music.
Born in northern France in 1948, Quignard published All the World’s Mornings, a novel about
seventeenth-century viol player Marin Marais,
in 1991 after discovering Marais’ music through
the recordings of Catalan musician Jordi Savall.
A concert organizer for many years, Quignard renounced music in 1994, feeling its meaningless ubiq-uity had rendered it a form of tyranny. “In hearing,”
he writes elsewhere in this series of treatises, published
two years later, “man is held captive.”
Organ-Grinder, by Eugène Atget, c. 1898.