Sunday, April 01, 2012

“It’s A Shame It Ended After An Hour And A Half” Or “Throw In A Gamelan And Call It Modernism”

Below is reproduced the funniest news story of the last decade.

I recall falling over with laughter the first time I read this news item almost nine years ago.

My reaction remains the same today.


Columbus, Ohio, June 6, 2003—85-year-old American composer Lou Harrison died after collapsing in a Denny's parking lot in Lafayette, Indiana, while on his way to Columbus, Ohio, to be honored at Ohio State University's Contemporary Music Festival 2003.

Joseph Panzner and Adam Schweigert, who serve as production assistants for this year's festival, were excited by the opportunity to meet the renowned composer.

Harrison was in Chicago when he received the invitation to the festival. Harrison usually traveled by train or car—he did not want to fly to Columbus. With this in mind, Panzner and Schweigert volunteered to drive Harrison to Columbus.

"We were looking forward to spending six hours in the car with him,” Panzner said. “It's a shame it ended after an hour and a half.”

"Thankfully, the Denny’s was only 12 blocks from a hospital. I'm glad I was there to help," Panzner added.

Schweigert said many who had crowded around Harrison as he lay dying in the Denny's dining room did not know who he was and what his life had added to American culture.

"It was really ironic," Schweigert said.


No, the irony is that anyone ever took Harrison seriously (and few did).

The man had rejected modernism, for crying out loud. He was a complete boob.

Even more ironic is that Harrison had been a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, yet Harrison had never bothered to learn the elements of harmony from the great master, surely one of the all-time crassest cases of opportunity wasted.

Death at Denny’s: can there be a more ignominious end for a more ignominious man?


And patrons of a Denny’s franchise in Lafayette, Indiana, had been expected to recognize this old fool?

Harrison could have died onstage at Carnegie Hall, and no one would have recognized him.

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