09-08: More Moondog 1956 | Story of Moondog 1957 - Gesualdo Madrigals / Christie - Alex North Spartacus 1960 - Beethoven Missa Solemnis Toscanini 1940 - Strauss Elektra Kleiber 1971

1613 – Don Carlo Gesualdo (Italian nobleman, lutenist, composer & murderer of his wife & her lover)
1637 – Robert Fludd (English mystic & doctor, debater with Johannes Kepler over harmonic theory of universe)
1706 – Romanus Weichlein (Austrian monk & composer)
1819 – Franz Stanislaus Spindler (German singer & composer)
1831 – John Aitken (Scottish-born American music publisher, silversmith, goldsmith & jeweler)
1838 – Pietro Rovelli (Italian violinist & composer)
1871 – Étienne-Joseph Soubre (Belgian composer)
1879 – Nikolai Zaremba (Russian music theorist & composer, teacher of Tchaikovsky)
1894 – Hermann von Helmholtz (German physician, physicist, psychologist & acoustician)
1899 – Václav Hugo Zavrtal (Czech conductor, composer & collector of Mozartiana)
1916 – Friedrich Baumfelder (German composer, conductor & pianist)
1917 – Charles-Édouard Lefebvre (French composer, pupil of Gounod, son of painter Charles Lefebvre)
1944 – Jan van Gilse (Dutch composer, conductor, pianist & organizer on behalf of Dutch composers)
1949 – Richard Strauss (German composer & conductor)
1960 – Jussi Björling (Swedish tenor)
1974 – Wolfgang Windgassen (German operatic Heldentenor)
1976 – Assen Karastoyanov (Bulgarian composer, conductor, teacher & writer on music)
1976 – Joaquín Zamacois i Soler (Chilean-born Spanish composer, teacher & writer on music)
1977 – Zero Mostel (American actor of stage, screen & musical theater)
1978 – Pancho Vladigerov (Bulgarian composer, teacher & pianist)
1984 – René Bernier (Belgian composer & teacher)
1991 – Jo Budie (Dutch Schlager orchestra leader)
1991 – Alex North (American soundtrack & stage composer)
1995 – Erich Kunz (Austrian operatic bass-baritone)
1997 – Derek Taylor (English journalist, writer, publicist & press officer for The Beatles)
1999 – Moondog [Louis Thomas Hardin] (American composer, street musician, poet & instrument inventor)

Well... I'm really sorry. I'm now 8 days behind. I really would need at least 2 or 3 other people working on this blog with me to be able to keep up with it the way I want to. Perhaps that will happen one day, but in the meantime, I'll have to make some changes around here. In the future, I'm going to be limiting my lists to just the most prominent figures on any given day - I hate to set an exact limit, but it will probably be in the area of 12 to 18 persons at the very most. It's kind of a shame, because I think some of the more obscure figures often have the most interesting stories surrounding them, but it really can't be helped. Further, the number of downloads will be curtailed a bit as well, to probably no more than 3 or 4 per day.

There's also something else. I'm going to be going out of town for about a week, so this blog will be on hiatus for about 8 or 9 days. When I return, probably on September 27th, I'll be doing a roundup of all the days up to that point that haven't been covered, i.e., Sep. 9th thru 26th - a period of 18 days! I'll be choosing just the very most famous musicians from each day - no more than 2 or 3 for any given day - it'll be a big post, possibly in several parts. Either tomorrow or the day after I'll be devoting a post specifically to an announcement of the hiatus...

So anyway... some very important musicians for September 8th. Two notable Bulgarian composers, curiously enough... perhaps the passings of Мистър
Karastoyanov and Мистър Vladigerov had something to do with the a little overindulgence on September 6th, Unification Day, which marks the ceding of Eastern Rumelia to Bulgaria in 1885? In any case, among the truly famous musicians on our list is Moondog, the Viking of 6th Avenue, an eccentric street musician and an icon in the world of "outsider music," a kindred spirit, in a way, to both Harry Partch and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, also building his own instruments as they did - and doing so blind, as Kirk did - who managed to get married, land a record deal on Prestige, and become a famous musician with an impressive cult following, all while he was intentionally living as a homeless man on the streets of New York City. He's a legend who continues to inspire to this very day... (Read more below)

Then there's Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, a composer of many madrigals and a fair amount of sacred music, who employed very daring chromaticism in his later works (which has attracted the interest of many 20th-century musicians, especially Igor Stravinsky), and who was also the most infamous murderer in music history (unless you count Charles Manson as a musician). Gesualdo suspected his first wife of infidelity, and managed to catch her and the Duke of Andria in the act, after having pretended to go away on a journey. With the help of his servants, he stabbed them both numerous times with both knives and swords, and shot the Duke in the head. Afterward, he displayed their mutilated bodies outside his palace, with the Duke given the further humiliation of being dressed in Signora Gesualdo's nightgown. Gesualdo, being a nobleman, was immune from prosecution for his crimes, but he kept a crew of bodyguards around him for the remainder of his life to protect him from any revenge the families of his victims might seek. Interesting... Cecil Gray and Philip Heseltine (a.k.a Peter Warlock) wrote a book in 1926 called Carlo Gesualdo Prince of Venosa, in which they detailed the police reports from the time, which make for gruesome reading even today. And guess what, Cecil Gray's deathday is just one day after Gesualdo's, on September 9th... (Read more below) ... see you on the other side of the crime scene ribbon...

Many other very important persons to mention. With the publication in 1863 of Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik ("On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music"), Hermann von Helmholtz basically single-handedly invented the field of music psychology... and that was only one of his many significant achievements as a scientist. Helmholtz's influence on music theory and musicology continues to be felt. Oh, and this is interesting... der Wikipedia sagt:
Helmholtz invented the Helmholtz resonator to identify the various frequencies or "tones" present in musical and other sounds containing by multiple tones. Alexander Graham Bell in particular was interested in how Helmholtz used resonators to mimic vowel sounds. Due to not being able to read German, Bell misconstrued Helmholtz' diagrams as meaning that Helmholtz had transmitted vowel sounds over a wire, whereas Helmholtz was merely using electrical stimulation to keep his resonators in motion without manual intervention. Bell reasoned that if vowels could be transmitted, then consonants also should be possible. He tried, and failed, to reproduce what he thought had already been done by Helmholtz. However, Bell was later to say that if he had been able to read German he would probably have given up the task as impossible, but in the event, went on to invent the telephone using the harmonic telegraph as the basis.
See, I like that story. You now have a really good excuse for not learning German. It's not because you can't remember for the life of you which of the 20-or-so different ways of forming a plural applies to any given noun. It's because Germans are so smart, they'll discourage you from trying to attempt the impossible and winding up with a world-changing invention..

The most famous musician on our list is of course Richard Strauss, the great composer best known for his operas and programmatic symphonic poems, whose death in 1949 brought to a close a 250-year lineage of Austro-Germanic orchestral masters, which began with Bach, Handel, and Telemann, reached a flowering in the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Weber, and continued throughout the 19th century in the music of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Brahms, and Bruckner, and finally into the 20th with Strauss and Mahler, and the early works of Schoenberg and his disciples.

It's fitting, or ironic, or perhaps both, that film composer Alex North should have the same deathday as Richard Strauss. The minute-and-a-half of music Strauss is best known for is his "Sunrise" from Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896), which is universally recognized today as the "theme" from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In fact, Kubrick had commissioned Alex North (who'd before written the score to Kubrick's Spartacus from 1963) to compose an original score for that film, and North completed the score and the recording sessions for it. It wasn't until the premiere that he realized Kubrick hadn't used a note of his score. He'd instead used recordings of works by Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss II, and, most egregiously, Aram Khachaturian, György Ligeti, and Krzysztof Penderecki - all of whom were still alive and whose works were still under copyright - without having even bothered to ask permission... (Read more about both Strauss and North below)

Finally, two great tenors... Wolfgang Windgassen, one of the great Wagnerian Heldentenors of the 20th century, seen above in one of his signature roles as Tristan. And the Swede Jussi Björling, seen above as Rodolfo in La bohème, who was ranked as the "greatest singer of the century" in the Classic CD (UK) "Top Singers of the Century" Critics' Poll in June 1999... (Read more about Windgassen and Björling below)

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