Monday, July 09, 2007

Her Grandpa's Request

On Saturday I received via e mail what was probably the oddest request ever generated through my long association with WFMU. The internet country code on the address is the Netherlands, the syntax of the e mail is English not as first language. A sick grandfather asked that a piano piece titled, "The Storm." by Henry Weber, be played at his funeral. Apparently someone at a university library did web search, which turned up the 1972 album Piano Music In America Volume 1, 19th Century Concert & Parlor Music, performed by Neely Bruce. I aired something else off this album on a 2002 radio show. So a granddaughter contacted me. I haven't listened to it recently. It was never reissued on CD. I picked it up on eBay. The request is too strange for a joke.

This 19th Century concert & parlor music is light classical music, usually imitative of European late romantic music, intended as professional piano recital showpieces or for performance at home by fairly accomplished amateur pianists; the latter were abundant in the growing American middle class before the era of recorded music (& parties often did feature tedious musical performances). The music has disappeared, the good tossed out with the (mostly) bad. But I inherited my dad's proclivity for rooting around in the nooks & crannies of history, & his indifference to contemporary standards of taste (an indifference I proudly put on display every time I do a radio show). Why an ailing old man asked for this particular obscure piece of piano music to be played at his funeral remains unexplained. "The Storm" must have fallen out of the piano repertoire nearly 100 years ago.

My pc isn't equipped for vinyl-digital transfers & I don't miss it, except for right now. I could turn "The Storm" into an mp3 at WFMU or get someone there to do it for me, but I don't go up to Jersey City much. So what else can i do? In the meantime, I tracked down a couple of copies of the albums at eBay available as buy-it-now items & sent that link (there's only one available today....). But I'm not satisfied, not satisfied at all.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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