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musicologists (and poker buddies) in founding the microbrewery “Baton Sinister,” which became hugely successful in large part due to the popularity of its Valencia Orange Ale, a summer brew whose recipe is rumored to include cardamom and fenugreek. Toward the end of his life, he bought a winery in California, with a church built in the shape of a wine barrel. The tiny cemetery there holds only one grave, and upon the simple slab which marks the final resting place of Morris Schmetterling are the words: “Beer and cards were my bread and butter.” The story of the Suite Sérielle 94, by Octave Coppel (1915-???), is surely one of the most unusual in modern music history. Octave Coppel was a prolific and respected Parisian composer and clarinetist, whose chamber works for winds were frequently performed in France during the years following the Second World War. Of particular note among his early compositions are his wind quintets La Belle et la Bête and Tableaux de Metsys. In the 1950’s, Coppel began to compose a series of works for diverse instrumentations, all employing to varying degrees the twelve-tone technique, and all entitled “Suite Sérielle”. Concurrently he developed an interest in the occultist society La Pyramide, and his acquaintances assert that by 1960 he had undergone a religious conversion. In April 1963, Coppel and the other members of the society vanished; evidence suggested that they had arranged a private flight to French Guiana, but efforts to locate or contact the “pyramidistes” were fruitless. At the time of his disappearance, Coppel had finished ninety-three “Suites Sérielles”. But in the summer of 1974, a package containing his Suite Sérielle 94 arrived by courier at the Lyons office of French-American musicologist and bibliographer Erma Lou Chandelier. The massive wind ensemble score, wrapped tightly in jute sackcloth imprinted with coffee company logos, was hand-engraved on 255 sheets of banana paper. The margins of each page were crowded with thousands of intricate figures and designs: unicorns, scallop shells, crystalline structures, illustrations from the Wirth Tarot, a flock of striped cuckoos with crests in display. A detailed and faithful reproduction of a pre-war map of the Amazonian basin served as the frontispiece to the eleventh movement, entitled Laborynthus, and below the opening measures of this movement sprawled the most dramatic and disturbing image in the score. The subject of some speculation by musicologists, the figure was later described by Chandelier as “the body of a tiger or a bull in which teeth, organs and heads seem to monstrously pullulate in mutual conjunction and hatred.” The score was accompanied by a hand-written cover letter, authenticated by experts, which said simply: Un petit peu de musique pour vous. - O.C. The chamber opera Cette faucille d’or dans le champs des étoiles (“This Golden Sickle in the Field of Stars”) was composed by Philoxanthe Schapska (b. 1930) for first performance at the Besançon Festival in 1975. Its Entr’acte is a fascinating study in that its third section combines the melodies of the first section with the harmonies of the second. The work was intended to be an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Booz endormi, which concerns the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz. However the premiere was to be televised throughout France, and the producers convinced Schapska and his librettist to change the setting to Florence in the time of Petrarch, at the twilight of the Medieval Era and dawn of the Italian Renaissance; they contended that such a modification would preserve the ancient exoticism of the tale while allowing for a more sumptuous and television-friendly set design. By the first rehearsal, it had become evident that the final production would be garishly extravagant. The set for the infamous bathroom scene featured floor-to-ceiling silver champlevé mirrors; a low, 41-square-meter bathtub, made of basalt and lava; ivory combs and bronze hairpins with gold inlay; and the mounted heads of various North African mammals including a young male lion, an addax, and a trio of Dorcas gazelles. A reproduction crespine adorned with citrines and a curiously anachronistic guilloché egg were carefully arranged upon the side table in Ruth’s drawing room, beside a 13th century enameled glass goblet and wine decanter. The opulence of the production was of great effect, and no doubt contributed to the phenomenal success of Schapska’s opera. However, on the evening of June 23, 1975, during the live television broadcast of the premiere, the diamond brooch which was to be worn by Lucia Popp (as Ruth) in the Third Act was stolen from the backstage repository where the most precious props were being guarded. The Swiss cat burglar Giorgione Jarry had eluded both armed guards to obtain the brooch, and had then escaped through a duct via one of the metal panels in the ceiling. Within days, Jarry was apprehended at a campsite in the foothills of the Jura range, and with his capture the surging career of Philoxanthe Schapska suffered a serious setback – for Schapska had been Jarry’s co-conspirator in the robbery attempt. After serving an eight-year sentence in Fleury-Mérogis, Schapska found it difficult to resume his career as a composer; his final compositional project, a companion ballet to Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes, was commissioned in 1992 but left unfinished. During his time in prison, however, he had developed an interest in anatomy and history, and by the end of the century he had become a respected scholar of mid-19th century physiology. Today he devotes his time to researching, writing, and exchanging letters with the foremost medical historians of Europe. Incertum, op. 74, by French composer Pierre Block (b. 1942) is a brief composition which is rhythmically derived entirely from his friend Svend Grundtvig’s composition Crossed Words. A strikingly original thinker and father of renowned algorithmic artist Glenn Block, Pierre Block is best known for his vast catalog of vocal music. His earliest pieces vividly combine text drawn from short stories with musical gestures which are inspired by or taken directly from pre-existing works by other composers. Examples of his pastiches include Fragments d’un rêve, his nightmarish setting of excerpts from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” using themes from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and La Parure, an ethereal combination of Maupassant’s short story and Orlando di Lasso’s Sicut Rosa. His 1979 opera All the King’s Horses, which opened to glittering reviews and is perhaps his most acclaimed work, employed an orchestra of several hundred found percussion objects and freely drew upon Vonnegut’s short story of the same name. He found success again that same year with his absurdist chamber opera Carrot Juice, which employed as its libretto a pataphysical short short by Alfred Bruegel based on the life of Beau Brummell. But according to Block’s memoirs, it was in the spring of 1983 in the Gardens of Hamilcar at Megara, an outskirt of Carthage, that he grasped the inevitability of the next step in his evolution as an artist: the rejection of authored text. He began to set entries from an abridged desk dictionary, and names from a local telephone directory. Later, his lyrics were supplied at random by two word-generating devices: one a simple algorithm written in FORTRAN, and the other a complex formula whose discovery was instrumental in the development of flame retardants. His increasingly experimental and radical explorations into computer-assisted musical composition were less popular than his earlier works, but as a result of his new artistic trajectory he was appointed to a teaching position at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Music Composition. Emmanuel de Dinteville (1810-1849) was a contemporary and friend of Liszt and Chopin, known in his time for the mischievous playfulness of his music. Although a member of an important family in diplomatic circles, and descendant of Louis XIII’s ambassador to Italy, Dinteville abandoned his legal studies at the age of 19 to write chamber music and frequent the musical salons of Paris. His many piano miniatures were undoubtedly influential on Erik Satie; his use of quirky performance indications like avec l’air d’un poisson indifferent (in “La Vieille au Blouson á Carreaux”) and comme un cristal qui songe (in “L’écharpe jaune”) predated Satie’s compositional witticisms by 70 years. His works were also remarkably adventurous stylistically; of his song cycle Theoxenia, the noted critic Napoléon du Pape wrote: In between the gargling sounds, shouting, and clucking effects that Mme. R___ brought to the evening’s performance, there were occasional snatches of song. These, and the intermittent cymbal crashes provided by her accompanist M. F___, made such a horrid noise that you would have sworn heaven had been tumbling about our ears. The three other occupants of the couch where I was seated were unable to endure the entirety of the work, and retired to the anteroom to recover with the aid of a sizeable bottle of cognac. Alas, they were unconscious by the time M. Liszt concluded the evening with his magnificent Douze Grandes Études. (Le Figaro, March 3, 1835, trans. by the composer) Dinteville’s waltz La Toupie is more conventional in style, but compositionally it is unique in that it is constructed entirely from fragments of the music of Chopin. Although he expressed little interest in the political background of his family, Dinteville was nevertheless a polymath and a man of many pursuits: he published six novels during his lifetime, won several major archery competitions, and conducted extensive medical research. He published no fewer than 34 technical reports on the use of cactus juice, raffia wine, and mountain laurel extracts to treat ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Long forgotten to most medical historians, Dinteville’s brief but fascinating medical career has recently been the subject of a book by none other than Philoxanthe Schapska.

Profile for Carl Schimmel, composer

Oulipian Episodes, by Carl Schimmel (for wind ensemble)  

(visit http://www.carlschimmel.com to order score and parts) "Oulipian Episodes" was inspired by the novel "La Vie mode d’emploi" by George...

Oulipian Episodes, by Carl Schimmel (for wind ensemble)  

(visit http://www.carlschimmel.com to order score and parts) "Oulipian Episodes" was inspired by the novel "La Vie mode d’emploi" by George...

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