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The Lost Art of Funerary Violin
February 24, 2014 2:57 AM   Subscribe

The book An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin, published in 2006, tells, for the first time, the story of a lost art and one that was eventually supressed by the Church.
"During the Protestant revolution in Europe, a new kind of music emerged, one that ultimately sought to recognize the deceased and to individuate the sense of loss and grief. But the tradition was virtually wiped out by the Great Funerary Purges of the 1830s and 40s. Kriwaczek tells the fascinating story of this beautiful music, condemned by the Catholic Church for political as much as theological reasons, and of the mysterious Guild of Funerary Violinists that, yes, defends its secrets in our time."
The 220-page book is written in an academic tone and outlines the entire history of the Society along with biographies of some of its key figures - George Babcotte and Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss and even Paganini.

The NY Times soon pointed out that there are a few "niggling details" about the book: "There is no such thing as a funerary violin, said several leading violin scholars. There were no Great Funerary Purges. And Mr. Kriwaczek did not graduate from the Royal Academy of Music in 1974, as his biography claims, or receive a lifetime achievement award from the International Federation of Funeral Directors, an organization that appears to exist only on the author’s personal Web site."

Niggling details aside, the Guild has a website and YouTube provides some examples of the classics of Funerary Violin:

The Erroneos Dirge of George Babcotte

The Softly Spoken Wanderings of Death (scratchy recording)
posted by vacapinta (8 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bought this for my wife when we were courting, and we were both pretty gutted to come to the same slow, inevitable conclusions as the NYT.
posted by Shepherd at 3:00 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


I’d forgotten all about this book, and am scratching my head as to whether I’ve read it, or part of it; or if I’ve just read about it. I have a vague recollection of hearing about it back in the ’90s, via the Gothic Society’s magazine Udolpho, but that can’t be right if it was published in ’06.

Also by Rohan Kriwaczek: On the many deaths of Amanda Palmer
posted by misteraitch at 3:31 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


I quite liked this remix of The Sultry Dance of Death by Greynaab over at MeFi Music.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:06 AM on February 24


If this is all of it fictional non-fiction (a Lemiad?), it's impressive. Did he compose and record all the music, or are the recordings appropiations of some obscure but already exisiting work?
posted by Iosephus at 4:29 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


The entire book is a coded insult to the Jubilant Accompanists of Marduk, which you may have heard parodied as "Justified Ancients of Mummu" in the last round of vituperation between them and the Palace of White, a loosely affiliated complex of musical societies which influences liturgical music by way of secular dominance in popular entertainment.

On the one hand, you have the Palatials, which control the entirety of commercial classical radio and musical theater, a seemingly unconquerable force. On the other, you have a lockstep coalition of rappers and accordionists joined in a mesopotamian elemental-worship cult. The book was commissioned to celebrate the public split between the Water and Wind factions of the Jubilants in the late '90s, which backfired, as it instead caused the immediate reconciliation of the JAMs, evidenced by the release of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" in the same year.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:42 AM on February 24 [6 favorites]


I bought this a while back and was pretty thrilled when I came to the same slow, inevitable conclusions as the NYT. Just because it isn't "True" in any conventional sense of the word doesn't make it any less meaningful or inspiring. As a ludibrium its worth transcends pesky details like 'did it actually happen'. Now it just needs a cult of true believers to make it have happened despite having not happened.
posted by Perfectibilist at 6:06 AM on February 24 [4 favorites]


Pretty much like most classical music historiography, then?
posted by spitbull at 7:03 AM on February 24


The entire book is a coded insult to the Jubilant Accompanists of Marduk, which you may have heard parodied as "Justified Ancients of Mummu" in the last round of vituperation between them and the Palace of White, a loosely affiliated complex of musical societies which influences liturgical music by way of secular dominance in popular entertainment.

Those arcane musical factions have been at it far longer than the public generally recognizes, participating in cultural skirmishes that are largely mistaken for further advances in pop art. Kick out the JAMs, indeed.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:10 AM on February 24


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