Monday, April 02, 2012

Odd Bedfellows

From left to right: Marja Molewijk, Steven Mackey, William Colvig (Lou Harrison’s boyfriend at the time), Henryk Górecki, Janis Susskind and Lou Harrison, taken 27 June 1993 at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, during the Holland Festival.

Odd bedfellows, indeed.

A psychiatrist might have a field day addressing the spatial preferences of the persons in the photograph.

My sister-in-law, a psychiatrist, says it is crystal clear that Górecki wanted absolutely nothing to do with the other persons present in the auditorium.

My sister-in-law also says she would guess, from the photograph, that Colvig and Harrison, with empty seats between them, must have fought like cats and dogs (and such was their reputation).


The morning after Harrison’s farcical demise at a Denny’s in Lafayette, Indiana, Donald Harris, Professor Of Composition And Theory at Ohio State University, sent the following email message to numerous recipients:

Last night, while traveling from Chicago to Columbus, Lou Harrison passed away. We had sent Adam Schweigert and Joe Panzner, two students in Composition and Theory, to Chicago with a University van to greet Lou and his traveling companion, Todd Burlingame, and drive them back to campus for the Festival. Lou does not like to fly and took the train, the California Zephyr, from near San Francisco to Chicago. The train arrived at about 5:15 PM. While en route to Indianapolis, their overnight destination, Adam, Joe, Lou and Todd decided to stop at a Denny's restaurant in Lafayette, Indiana, for some dinner. Lou stumbled and fell upon getting out of the vehicle and apparently suffered a heart attack. He had great difficulty breathing. Paramedics were called and they arrived within minutes. Lou was transported to the hospital but was unable to be revived.

He passed away around 9 or 9:30 PM. We are awaiting the coroner's report for final confirmation of the cause of death.

Lou Harrison will be cremated today; his remains shipped back to California. He was eighty-five years old.

Todd Burlingame, identified as a “traveling companion” in Harris’s email message, was Harrison’s boyfriend at the time of Harrison’s death.

Contrary to the statement in Harris’s email message, the Indiana coroner did not perform an autopsy on Harrison.

Harrison’s remains were cremated, near instantly, because his estate had insufficient funds to arrange for a proper burial.


Harrison was, of course, a very, very strange man.

The photograph below shows Harrison in 1939, when Harrison was 22 years old. One may see from the photograph that Harrison, as a young man, was already a social misfit—although one would be unable to guess from the photograph alone how truly bizarre Harrison would become only a few short years hence.

Any cursory reading of Harrison’s letters, published and unpublished (many are available online), puts his sanity—as well as his intelligence—into question. He was, all in all, a rather frightening creature.

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