October 31, 2017

Pied Pipers, Ghosts and Devil Tales

A Few Haunted Tunes
Blues guitarists (acoustic and electric) are famous for selling their souls to the devil, usually at crossroads, but this turns out to be an old tradition for musicians.
Giuseppe Tartini (8 April 1692 – 26 February 1770) was a violinist and composer. He once dreamed the devil appeared before him and asked for a violin lesson. After the lesson was over, the devil played the most beautiful music Tartini had ever heard. When he woke, he attempted to recreate the music. The result was the Devil's Trill Sonata though Tartini said it was nowhere near as beautiful as the music in his dream.
Niccolò Paganini (27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840) was a violinist and a composer. People said his mother had made a pact with the devil when he was 6 and traded his soul for his virtuoso violin skills. Others said he was the devil himself. His concerts were said to enthrall his audiences and render them insensible to anything other than his playing.
Philippe Musard (1793 - 1859) was composer and conductor. His conducting was so wild (jumping up and down, kicking, throwing his baton into the audience) that people believed he must have made a deal with the devil.

"He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune"
There are several stories dating back to the Middle Ages of a musician stealing children away with music. The piper is usually dressed in multi-colored (pied) clothing and strikes a deal with the town of some sort. The piper completes the task but the town refuses to pay. And so the piper plays music that causes the children to follow him out of town and disappear.
In the "Pied Piper of Newton", the piper is hired to get rid of a hoard of rats with his music. When the town refuses to pay him, he plays a new tune and the children follow him up Silver street and down Gold street and into the forest outside of town where their laughter echos in the green shadows and the piper's brightly colored clothing flashes in the dark.
In Hamlin (made famous by Browning's poem) the earliest reference to the piper is a stained glass window (now destroyed). The window showed the piper who was said to have come to town in 1284. Some versions of the story say one, two or three children escaped and stayed behind. They described the music they followed and the joy they felt as the children were lead into a hilltop that opened and swallowed them or as they were lead to the river to drown. Even today, it is forbidden to play music on Bungelosen street (the street without drums), where the children danced after the piper.
In Korneuberg, Austria, the piper gave his name as Hans Mousehole. Here, the people not only refused to pay but threatened to turn the flute player over to the witches court. This time, the children were led onto a ship and sailed away.
The musician is usually a piper or flute player but in Brandenburg, it was a hurdy-gurdy player who led a group of children away, never to be seen again.
Meanwhile, in the city of Erfurt in 1257, over 100 children suddenly gathered and danced their way to Arnstadt where they were rounded up and returned home. No one ever learned why.

Some say these stories may be about groups of young people migrating to Eastern Europe. There were people known as lokators who traveled Germany recruiting people to travel east. They sometimes dressed brightly and were considered to be silver-tongued. Some of these "settlers" were on ships that sank before they reached their goal.
Others say these stories are about children being recruited for military campaigns or even the Children's Crusade. Since criticizing these campaigns was not allowed, the people told a more fanciful story to remember the children who never returned.
And still others say these stories are about an out break of dancing mania in the 13th century that caused people to lose themselves in dance and music, possibly even dancing to death.
And some people say the Piper was Death himself and the children drowned or died in a landslide or during a plague.

The Flute in the Cemetery
Around 200 years ago, a German musician named Casper Dielman came to America. He wrote music for several presidents, led symphony orchestras in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore and taught music at Mount Saint Mary's College in Maryland. He want his son, Larry Dielman, to be a composer and musician too. He even gave Larry a flute. But Larry wanted to play banjo and became a grocer instead. After Casper died (1880s) Larry pulled out the flute his father had given him which Larry had taught himself to play it in private. He went to his father's grave on Christmas and played in honor of his father. He did this each year and the neighbors soon noticed. They began waiting for the flute music to drift through the night and would go out and follow the piper to the cemetery, dancing. Larry died in 1923 but people said that each Christmas night they still heard flute music coming from cemetery. Sometimes the flute made dogs howl and other times ghostly laughter would follow the music around the gravestones.