… my head is such an eerie place. It’s always been that way. Much of the spookiness is linked to summer. Summer is a haunted time, and always will be. Something about the leisure. The space, the hours you have to do nothing. To talk to others or remain in silence.
I run a weird Twitter account with friends, @manual_txt. Of late, I’ve begun composing odd bits of music and making sound collages for it. They are always strange, and they are incredibly fun to make. Here are two.
They are both purposefully understated and impressionistic. The latter is called “Ted’s Trance” because the quote sampled for use in the piece was from an interview with serial killer Ted Bundy, a particularly haunting and unsettling quote given the speaker and what he was talking about.
I feel like these particular pieces are leading me toward something creatively, but not 100% sure what that is yet. Whatever it is, it will be multimedia and hopefully just as spooky as can be.
At midnight on June 22, 1914, an august party of dignitaries gathered atop the Eiffel Tower to, according to the following day’s New York Times, “salute sunrise on the occasion of the Summer solstice.”
The gathering was not the first of its kind (it was the eleventh) and perhaps not of historical importance, but the famous names mentioned in the Times article imbued the account with a certain gravity.
The assemblage had a banquet, at some point Flammarion gave his speech and the Times reported everyone enjoyed “an ‘astronomical burlesque.'”
Then, at 3 a.m., American dancer Loïe Fuller took center stage and performed a “sunrise dance.”
Fuller, a true pioneer in dance, had left America many years before to find her fame in Europe. She became a star in Paris, and it remained her home till her death in 1928. She was a true innovator in style and lighting, famed for her “Serpentine Dance.”
Aside from newspaper accounts, there isn’t much of a record of Mme. Fuller’s appearance on the Tower that solstice, nor of how she choreographed her 1914 “sunrise” steps. This silent short from 1902 of her performing the “Serpentine” illustrates her style.
A sense of what those assembled atop the Eiffel Tower that night may have felt watching the performance can be gleaned from a quote by her contemporary Arsène Alexandre, who described Fuller as a “marvelous dream-creature you see dancing madly in a vision swirling among her dappled veils which change ten thousand times a minute.”
As for the speaker, Camille Flammarion–he was a forerunner of the likes of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, popularizing astronomy the best way he could at the time, through lectures as well as scientific and speculative writing. Some idea of Flammarion’s way with words can be found in the Augusta Rice Stetson translation of his novel Uranie. In Chapter 3, describing the protagonist’s fanciful flight across several other worlds, Flammarion portrayed a moment among human-like creatures with glowing eyes:
On another globe which we crossed during the night […] human eyes are so constructed as to be luminous, and shine as though some phosphorescent emanation radiated from their strange centres. A night meeting comprising a large number of these persons presents an extremely fantastic appearance, because the brilliancy, as well as the color, of the eyes changes with the different passions by which they are swayed.
Imagine that night, with a cool breeze up there above the hustle and clamor of Paris, that “marvelous dream-creature” turning wildly in her shimmering silks before the crowd. The lights of the city below like Flammarion’s fantastic night meeting of glowing eyes, watching the tower and the sky beyond. It was a moment, a pause.
The violin is named for the Polish virtuoso Karol Lipinski, who played on this instrument from approximately 1818 until his death in 1861. Lipinski was given the violin by a student of the legendary Giuseppe Tartini, the instrument’s first known owner. Known in his lifetime as a violinist, composer, concertmaster, and pedagogue, Lipinski associated with some of the most famous cultural figures of the time, including Franz Liszt, Nicolò Paganini (with whom he had a certain “rivalry”), and Robert Schumann, who so admired Lipinski that he dedicated his famous piano work “Carnaval” to him.
After Lipinski’s death the instrument eventually came into the Röentgen family, which included several violinists and the celebrated composer Julius Röntgen In the 20th century the violin changed hands several times, in 1962 arriving in the possession of the Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, who passed away in 1996.
Almond goes on to write that he had been playing the Lipinski since 2008. The Kickstarter was for a recording project (if you’ve watched the video above, it explains this) consisting of music that played a role in “the extraordinary history of this violin and its associations.” The project was successfully funded by July, 2012, and was featured on Kickstarter’s blog noting projects in the news.
Almond has kept the names of the violin’s owners anonymous. In this April, 2013 interview regarding the release of “A Violin’s Life,” Almond said the owners had “strong ties to Milwaukee.”
It’s hard to not wonder who the hell might steal a Stradivarius. What happened to Almond doesn’t sound like simple street robbery, either, though details are admittedly sparse. My immediate guess is the thieves knew exactly what they were after.
But as David Krajicek wrote in a 2004 New York Daily News article about another stolen–but later recovered–Stradivarius, the instrument’s unique properties along with its relative rarity (there are perhaps 500+ true Stradivariuses still in existence) make them “fetish theft objects, like the stolen Rembrandt painting that can never be openly sold.”
If someone were dumb enough to try and sell the Lipinski, how much could they get? Some sources say as little as a $1.5 million, as much as $3 million dollars.
Chances are the robbers who attacked Frank Almond haven’t put the Lipinski on Craigslist, then.