on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2015 1 Mai

The Hapless Child And Other Inscrutable Stories (lost classics, no. 10)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 3 Comments



I stumbled on memories about this old album by chance when reading a traveler’s guide about Cape Cod. When the record was released decades ago, I first read about its forthcoming release in a magazine that printed the cover and listed the names of the musicians. Both did not only ring a bell, but bells and bells, a whole circus of bells.

Two reasons. One being that I knew the illustrator and painter whose stories were a springboard for the imagination of composer Michael Mantler. EDWARD GOREY. I had a big book from the Diogenes Verlag (now long out of print) with a lot of Gorey’s stories including „The Doubtful Guest“ and other tales that mixed echoes of Victorian ghost stories with whimsical existenzialism. It was the best picture book I ever owned, filled with desaster and death, premonitions of darkness, and the loss of all exit signs. Nevertheless humour was part of the game, too. Edward Gorey must have loved the novels of Samuel Beckett. He also was a famous book cover designer, specialised on horror novels, mystery and crime.

The other reason was the cast of musicians and voices who contributed to the album. Robert Wyatt was the singer, at his side his wife Alfreda Benge, Carla Bley, Norwegian guitar player Terje Rypdal, drummer Jack DeJohnette, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and bass player Steve Swallow. So I couldn’t wait to hear the album. As it happens quite often when your imagination runs wild, reality comes along with a short breath: on first listening I was disappointed, not by Robert’s singing, but by the dense textures of the compositions with the guitar very much in front of the mix. It seemed all a bit under pressure, the mood never seemed to change. Not much space in it, to be honest.

I think I first started getting deeper into this album (leaving its surface structures behind) when I lost it, a long time ago, and it has now been out of stock and trade for eternities. Yes, you can download it, but you will have to spend a fortune to get your hands on the physical object. Now, finally, in my memory, the prevailing zones of anxiety, imminent catastrophies and merciless tension make sense and apparently seem to transport the stories from their post-Victorian surroundings to a contemporary landscape of noirish colors and bleak electricity. In my memory, it has now  become a little masterpiece (well, I have no idea if a second real encounter would proove me right). This all happened because I read that there exists an Edward Gorey House Museum on 8, Strawberry Lane, in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. I’ve been there this morning. It was full of strange things (and two nice people with a lot of knowledge and good humour). I bought (among other things) a  book  titled „Floating Realities“.

This entry was posted on Freitag, 1. Mai 2015 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Gregor:

    Mist, das kommt davon, wenn man CDs kauft. ´Habe nämlich die CD von Mantler natürlich auch, auf der in großen Lettern der Titel etc. zu lesen ist, aber das von dir abgebildete Cover bekommen nur die LP-Käufer zu sehen. Unglaublich!

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Yep, aber kannst du mir die CD mitbringen?

  3. Gregor:

    Klar doch!

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