Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Many Talents of Robert Jenkins Hall

Today, July 21, 2019 marks the 100th birthday of Robert Jenkins Hall. He was introduced to George Edgar Selby back in the late 1950s.

RJH served in WWII and got his B.S. at the University of Maryland in 1951 on the G.I. Bill. He married Frances Lisk Corkran in 1954 and went on to work as an engineer at Bendix in Towson, MD.

He received numerous commendations for his work as an engineer at Westinghouse after joining the company in 1962 and worked on many projects including some for NASA in the mid-to-late 1960s, as NASA had contracts with Westinghouse.

Mr. Hall was a ham radio enthusiast and was versed in several programming languages for various categories of computers: mainframe, micro and mini. 

He is also remembered as an organist (like his brother Vernon) and cartoonist.

Below is his pen sketch for the cover of Checkers comics no. 40 (July 1969).

Monday, July 30, 2018

London - After the Romans (part two)

By Walter Besant

The following are the facts related by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

A.D. 443 - This year Britons sent over sea to Rome, and begged for help against the Piets; but they had none, because they were themselves warring against Atilla, King of the Huns. And then they sent to the Angles, and entreated the like of the Ethelings of Angles.

A.D. 449 - Hengist and Hora, invited by Verigern, King of the Britons, landed in Britain on the shore called Wippidsfleet, at first in aid of the Britons, but afterward they fought against them. King Vortigern gave them land in the southeast of this country on condition that they should fight against the Piets. Then they fought against the Piets, and had the victory wheresoever they came. Then they sent to the Angles, desired a larger force tob e sent, and caused them to be told the worthlessness of the Britons and the excellence of the land. Then they soon sent thither a larger force in aid of the others. At that time came men from three tribes in Germany - from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes. From the Jutes came the Kentish men and the Wightwarians, that is, the trib which now dwells in Wight, and that race among the West Saxons which is still called the reace of Jutes. From the Old Saxons came the men of Essex and Sussex and Wessex. From Anglia, which has ever since remained waste, betwixt the Jutes and Saxons, came the mend of East Anglia, Middle Anglia, Merica and all Northumbria.

A.D. 455 - THis year Hengist and Horsa fought against King Voritgern at the place called Aegelsthrep (Aylesford) and his brother Horsa was slain, and after that Hengist obtained the kingdom and Aese , his son.

A.D. 456 - This year Hengist and Aese slew four troops of Britons with the edge of the swaord in the place which is named Creeganford (Crayford).

A.D. 457 - This year Hengist and Aese his son fought against the Britons at a place called Creegan ford, and there slew 4000 men. And the Britons then forsook Kent, and in great terror fled London.

A.D. 465 - This year Hengist and Aese fought against the Welsh near Wippidsfleet, and there slew twelve Welsh ealdermen, and one fo their own thanes was slain there, whose name was Wippid.

A.D. 473 - This year Hengist and Aese fought against the Welsh, and took spoils innumerable; and the Welsh fled from the Angles like fire.

A.D. 477 - This eyar Aella and his three sons, Cymen and Wlemcing and Cissa, came to the land of Britain with their ships at a place called Cymenes-ora, and there slew many Welsh, and some they drove in flight into the wood that is named Andreds-lea. (Probably the landing was on the coast of Sussex.)

A.D. 485 - This year Aella fought against the Welsh near the bandk of Meareraedsburn.

A.D. 491 - This year Aella and Cissa besieged Andredscester (Pevensey), and slew all the dwelt therein, so that not a single Briton was left.

A.D. 495 - This year two ealdermen came to Britain, Cerdic and Cynric, his son, with five ships, at the place which is called Cerdicsore (probably Calshot Castle, on Southampton Water), and Stuf and Whitgar fought against the Britons and put them to flight.

A.D. 519 - This year Cerdic and Cynric obtained the kingdom of the West Saxons; and te smae year they fought against the Britons where it is now name Cerdies-ford (Charford on the Avon, near Fordingbridge), and from that time forth the royal offspring of the West Saxons.

A.D. 527 - This year Cerdic and Cynric fought against the Britons at the place called Cerdics-lea.

A.D. 530 - This year Cerdic Cynric conquered the Island of Wight, and slew many men at Whit-garas-byrg (Carisbrook, Isle of Wight).

A.D. 547 - This year Ida began to reign, from whom came the royal race of Northumberland.

The conquest of England was now vertually completed.

In the next installment we shall examine why there is no mention whatsoever of the capture of London in the Chronicle.

Friday, April 20, 2018

London - After the Romans (part one)

By Walter Besant

The only authorities for the events which took place in Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries are Gildas and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. There are other writers - Etherwerd, for instance, who copied the Chronicle, and adds nothing; Nennius, whose work, edited by on Mark the Hermit, in the tenth century, was found in the Vatican. The first edition was published in London in the year 1819, in the original Latin, by Rev. William Gunn. Nennius gives a brief account of King Arthur and his exploits, but he affords little or no information that is of use to us. The work of Richard of Cirencester is extremely valuable on acccount of its topography; it is also interesting as the work of the first English antiquary. But he belonged to the fourteenth century, and has added nothing to the history, of which he knew no more that we ourselves can discover. The book named after Geoffrey of Monmouth is not worth a moment's serious consideration. In Bede's Ecclesiastical History passages may be found which throw side lights onto this period but they are few.

St. Gildas, called Badonicus, is supposed to have been born about the year 520, in Wales. He wrote about the year 560 and is therefore contemporary with the events of which he speaks. His book contains a vast quantity of rhetoric to a very small amount of history. Unfortunately for him, he was called by his admiring fellow-monks in his lifetime, Sapiens - the Sage or Sapient. Perhaps in order to live up to this designation, he was fain to regard himself with so much respect as to assume the garb and language of a prophet, and with what he thought prophectic force, which we now perceive to be ecclesiastical inflation and exaggeration, he proceeded to admonish princes and people of their sins. Every age, to the ecclesiastical prophet, as to the secular satirist, is an age of unbounded profligacy; of vice such as the world has never before witnessed; of luxury advanced to heights hitherto untrodden; of license, wantonness, riot unbridled and unparalleled, insomuchas that Jerusalem, even under the soft influences of Ahola and Aholibah, was righteous and pure in comparison.

No doubt Gildas lived in a most trying and disappointing time. Things went wrong and things went from bad to worse. His own people were defeated and driven continually westward; they couldn not even hold together and fight side by side against the common enemy; religion was forgotten in the fierce struggles for life, and in the fiercer civil dissensions; Saxon, Angle, or Jute, all were alike in that none had any reverence for priest or for Church; the worst passions were aroused. Yet one cannont but think that a lower note might have been struck with greater advantage; and now that it is impossible to learn how far the prophet's admonitions brought repentance to the kings, one regrets that a simple statement of the events in chronological order as they ocurred was not thought necessary to complete a historical work.

As regards the alleged luxury of the time, the monk wrote from a dismal cell, very likely wattled, draughty and cold; his food was poor and scanty; his bed was hard; life to him was mere endurance. The roasted meats (and vegetables), the soft pillows and cushions, the heated rooms of the better sort, seemed wicked luxury, especially when he thought of the conquering Saxon and his ruined country. Of course in every age the wealthy will surround themselves with whatever comforts can be procured. We are in these days, for instance, advanced to an inconceivable height of luxury. One would like to invite the luxurious Cuneglass to spend a day or two with a young man of the present day. Those who were neither rich nor free lived hardly, as they do to this day; those who were young and strong, even though they were not perhaps trained to the use of arms, easily learned how to use them, and when it came to victory or death, they soon recovered the old British spirit.

This is not the place, otherwise it would be intersting to show what a long and gallant stand was made by these people, whom it is customary to call cowardly and luxurious - these ancestors of the gallant Welsh. It is manifest that a period of two hundred yeaers and more of peace almost profound, their frontiers and their coasts guarded for them by the legions of Rome, must have lowered the British spirit. But they quickly recovered. The Arthurian epic, it s certain, has some foundation in fact, and perhaps poor King Cuneglass himself, the bear and butcher, wielded a valiant sword.

In our next installemnt - the facts related by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Awakening

An editorial by James Frances Cooke

Prudery an Injury

Nothing could be more disastrous to American music and American drama than an ear of prudery. The kill-joy earnestness of the zealots continually seeking a Cromwell, to exchange bloody rebellion for some other form of mental and bodily activity, rarely lead to permanent forms of art. Every instance of narrow Puritanism, however necessary it may have been at the time, has been suffocating to higher artistic development. Contrast the products of our own picturesque William Billings, with those of his European contemporaries, Haydn and Mozart.

The enemies of prudery do not plead for licentiousness. They seek to secure decency coupled with common sense. They do not seek to evade the broad human problems that discipline the mind and fortify the soul. They do not strive to escape the vital sociological questions which since the time of Euripides and Aristophanes have been answered in the theater with the greatest possible force. The canyon between Ibsen's Ghosts, Pinero's Second Mrs. Tanqueray, Hauptmnann's Hanele, Henry Arthur Jones' Mrs. Dane's Defence, or even Brieux's unnecessarily clinical Les Avaries, and some of the hopelessly degrading musical shows of the last five or ten years is as wide and as deep as the Colorado.

How the Objectionable Song Is Popularized

How does the infamous song come into existence? Harry B. Smith, author of the libretto of Robin Hood, and dozens of other pieces, has given us a hint. The composer and the librettist hand in their completed work to the manager. The rehearsals commence and the stage door is besieged by representatives of microscopic publishers, all fighting like vandals to get a hearing for their songs. Sometimes the songs have real merit, sometimes they are absolutely worthless products of the cheapest kind of untrained intellect. Sometimes they are filled with the venomous virus of the social ulcers of the megalopolis. Never does the song have any direct bearing upon the subject of the libretto, or bear any relations to the composer's musical scheme. The manager is either moved by the personal persuasion of the publisher, the whim of one of his singer, a bribe or his own belief that the song may "carry" the piece. In the last point he has good precedent because some pieces have been "carried" by particularly taking songs. Even Robin Hood owed a lot to Oh, Promise Me.

False Success

The song gets on. The galley is packed with whistlers, claquers, etc., etc., all of them Hessian hirelings of the song publisher. The song is greeted with a kind of uproar from the gallery. It is demanded again and again. The people in the lower part of the house have little idea that they are being buncoed into taking part in making a worthless song a valuable property for some trifling publisher - soon lend themselves to the psychological influence of the mob and find themselves applauding sentiments they would be ashamed to think about in their own homes. The songs has a run - some publishers report that the run rarely survives six months. If the song is merely illiterate, meaningless, bathos or sickly sentiment it can do but little harm, but when it is reeking with the offensive allusions found in some of the songs of the day, it is time that a musical Board of Health be appointed to disinfect the whole nauseous matter. We do not believe that the people of this country want songs of the pestilential kind. We believe that the so-called hits of this order are entirely artificial. We are confident that the offensive musical numbers do not exist because of the genuine demand, but because they are pounded into the people with theatrical sledge hammers by the panderers that the respectable publishers of New York and every other city are all anxious to annihilate.

How You May Help

Reaching the eyes of many people, Manor Selby Journal may become a great force in safe-guarding the spirit of decency. Its readers may take an active part in exterminating the bad influence of the questionable song. How is it to be done? Certainly it cannot be accomplished by muck-raking. Denouncing special songs advertises them. Their publishers count such notoriety. In England audiences have a custom of booing and hooting anything which does not meet popular approval. In this country we resort to the deadly silence. Theatrical performers virtually live upon applause. Let self-respecting people lose no opportunity to show their attitude toward music and plays surrounding suggestive ideas and the managers will soon have their ears to the ground.

- edited by Boulevard Denim

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New review for Conversations with George Edgar Selby

The soundtrack album to Beside the Manor Selby, Conversations with George Edgar Selby has a new review by noted musicophile Russell Hammond, of New South Wales, Australia. We present it here along with an earlier review by critic at large Boulevard Denim.

The album available as CD and digital download is available from 
Melodic Revolution Records
and also features composer Ellsworth Hall's Piano Concerto No. 1 in addition to the soundtrack material.

Conversations with George Edgar Selby (music CD - includes music from the soundtrack to Beside the Manor Selby)

On the Composer's Oeuvre

By Boulevard Denim

Ellsworth Hall occupies a peculiar place, entirely of his own creation, in the field of contemporary music.  He is a seeker after the realities of shadowy and dim illusions, an artist in grays and greens and subtle golds while still dabbling in opulent purples. Mr. Hall is of the "children of revelry," a weaver of dreams. For him, indeed, shadows and dreams are the invincible realities, and from them he derives a compelling music; music which serenely rebukes dissection.

That serenity, that innocence of intention, are indeed remarkable. After the plangent splendors, the torrential rhetoric of his earlier works, Mr. Hall's contemporary oeuvre, owing something of the subdued and elusive beauty of antique tapestries, addresses the spirit with a unique appeal.

His is music in which the emotion conveyed is the emotion of remembered rapture, the beauty, "the surviving beauty of gathered dreams;" seldom the emotion and beauty of that which is actual and present. Mr. Hall is most urgently aroused by such moods of longing and remote enchantment as find jeweled expression in Beside the Manor Selby for which he has written unforgettable music.

At times his habit of artistic  speech tempt him to such outbursts of passionate lament as fill the movements of his Piano Concerto No.1 with so insupportable a poignancy. There is the driving rhythmic asymmetry of the opening movement; the decorative flourishes surrounding the resurfacing primary theme in the second;  the modal and jazzy harmonies of the third; and the adroit use of fortspinnung (along with recapitulations of a leitmotif from the second movement) in the fourth.

Mr. Hall perceives his world with as rapt a gaze, with as complete an absorption in its emotional panorama, as the most vivid and declamatory of the moderns; but the issue of his understanding is certain veiled and continent intensity, an interior passion, a conviction implied rather than than declared. That is, finally, the peculiarity of his art.

Track by track review by Russell Hammond (with gracious permission)

There is light and darkness together with tension and release within the same track
and if not, then with the next track. I have not seen ‘Besides the
Manor Selby’ and I can only comment on the music:

Lento e Allegro – my favourite instrumental track from the album and a
worthy opener. I love its length, the way it ebbs and flows, the
different instrumentation, the drive behind the track and how you
simply stopped it. Not a wasted note and it didn’t overstay its

Andante e Presto – This one seems to have the kitchen sink thrown in
it. Quiet start and then deviates all over the place following little
themes here and there and some interesting percussion thrown in. You
definitely won’t be dancing to this track.

Allegro Moderato – Just great to sit down and let the track wash over
you. I liked the stripped back nature with enough ‘Selby’ thrown in.

Andante – the beginning didn’t win me over at all with the synth out
front. But then that was just the warm up and with different
instruments and with then the strings to round the track. Love the
piano section in the middle (a breather) and then it builds on itself
a number of times to its climax and final release – I love the
clapping at the end too.

Besides the Manor Selby Overture – This was the only track to touch me
and I wiped my eyes. To me it was thought provoking and made me
reflect on my life today.

Newsreel – this track that didn’t agree with me but it might be down to context.

After Ferdinand – Another track that starts off with drive but doesn’t
resolve itself for me – that context again. Way too short.

Round About the Garden – I can imagine what this track is trying to convey.

The Archduke Earsworth – Love a good waltz. Pleasant.

The Tower – This track took me on a not too long enjoyable journey.

Gather the Heirlooms – rather down beat track but nicely layered with
a real presence.

La Masque a Enleve – A hymn? My French is non existent but the track
gathers a real church atmosphere with that deep organ.

Verdun – Lovely piano and atmospheric (eerie?) vocals. Reminded me a
bit of a Rick Wakeman track in Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Undone in Verden – Hard to believe this follows the last track. Mostly
pastoral with that orchestral part in the middle. It could have wound
away for a few more minutes for me.

Here Lies a Wretched Corpse – If the name of a track can determine the
soundscape of a track then this is it. A bit of ‘Selby’ reprised and
it is very well layered and I could see this being at the end of the
movie or as the end credits are rolling.

In Grief Unbound – simply stunning and could have been released as a
single. Your standards for the choice of vocalist are very high – to
my ancient ears.  (editor's note - the vocalist here is the remarkable Dyan Brown)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In honor of author Frances Corkran Hall's 100th birthday 
(September 13, 1916) we present one of her short stories from 
the late 1960s.

Mrs. Hall taught nursing in the 1950s 
(and received her M.S. degree) in Baltimore, MD. 
Her career led to writing about some intriguing 
experiences. Forthwith we present -

Overripe Apples

By Frances C. Hall

The corpse blew soft puffs of sweet stale air in my face; wet gurgles 
from her chest rumbled in my ears as I turned the warm heavy body 
to prepare her for the undertaker.

Outside a blizzard was throwing a blanket of snow over the sleeping
city. Everything was quiet but the wind. It was moaning and groaning;
it shook the creaky hospital and jingled and jarred the glassware in the
dim-lit sick room. My heart raced with the wind and my teeth chattered
with the rattling windowpanes,

As I gently released the body blood seemed to flow in her face and
neck. Startled, I checked the patient's pulse and felt fast throbbing
beats. Swaying from fright, I grasped a chair for support as I sought my
mirror and held it to the corpse's face. The glass was free of moisture.
I sighed with relief, but in the next instant the nauseating fruity odor
came again from the corpse, enveloping and suffocating me. I was sick.

My post-mortem care procedures had made no mention of these occur-
ences. I shuddered at the thought of the next step, stuffing her mouth
with cotton from the mortuary basket. What should I do? What if Mrs.
Corey were still alive?

This was my sixth month in the nurses‘ training school and my second
look at a dead person. But Mrs. Corey looked alive! Her body was warm
and pink, unlike the first corpse I had viewed, all pale, bony and cold.

I ran to find the charge nurse or the night physician. Hurrying 
down the gloomy hall, I heard the clanking elevator. "Oh no, it couldn't
be the undertaker," I thought, as an intern stepped from the grating 
vehicle. He half listened as I poured out my story, then shrugged and 
asked,"Dr. Post's diabetic patient in room 313?" I nodded.

"She was pronounced dead, wasn't she?" he huffed and then swaggered
down the hall muttering something about student nurses.

Even so, I was not reassured. I vividly recalled stories of reopened
coffins showing deep fingernail scratches from struggles to escape. My
fright heightened even more by these thoughts; I ran blindly up the 
corridor and collided with the chief medical doctor.

Listening to my disorganized story, Dr. Burke gently said, "Mrs.
Corey is not alive. She had no pulsations, you only felt your own heart
pounding away." He eased my mind about people being buried alive as 
he recounted the discovery of the stethoscope and its use in listening to
body-generated sounds. He added some information about embalming.

Using layman's terms because of my inexperience, Dr. Burke briefly
compared Mrs.Corey's living body to an engine containing fuel of incor-
rect mixtures of glucose and fat. The combustion products from burning
this mixture lead to unconsciousness or diabetic coma. The acetone
breath scent came from these products and is characteristic of the disease. 
But a basket of overripe apples in a closed room will give off the
same saccharine revolting stench.

"Now," Dr. Burke continued, "the dying woman was too weak to exhale
all the stale air, but after death the movement of the body brought the
air forth. Other bodily complications caused a stagnation of blood in
face and neck to give the pink coloration."

Thanking Dr. Burke, I resolved to write a nursing manual and include
the rare occurrences that student nurse may encounter in post-mortem
care. I did.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Why The Masters Died Poor

By Chas. Doran

It has been said that the great composers, with few exceptions, have left the world no other inheritance than their compositions, and yet many of them received princely sums for their latter works and fabulous gifts from crown heads, to say nothing of the generous provisions made for them from the the treasuries of the states in which they lived. Yet they died poor.

Perhaps Chopin's words to a lady admirer, in reply to her question as to whether he was wealthy: "My only wealth is in the richness of my musical notes," may shed some light upon the subject, if we interpret the remark to mean that most of the noted composers cared not for any other kind of riches than that in which they could endow their works. We know that Verdi gave away much of his earnings to the poor of his native city, and that Schubert was so good to others that he was frequently reminded of his too great consideration of the needs of the poor by his bankers returning to him his order upon the bank with the words "No funds to your credit" written across the face of the paper. Schubert's generosity was proverbial and once caused him to write to a friend: "I suppose you are right, my charity to others has made a mendicant of myself."

One of Mozart's highest aims in life was to live to see the day when he had dipensed in philanthropic works a hundred thousand florins, and we are told by one of his biographers that before the great maestro closed his eyes in death he had given away three times this sum to the poor of the country of this birth. Beethoven loved money, and was very exacting with his publishers in the payment of royalties due him, holding them to account for the last penny, and his earnings must, too, have been very great, for like Verdi he was the idol of the hour, yet he left to his heirs but little money.

He wrote to one of his pupils who asked him for some advice: "Love money, but only for the good you can do with it, and save every mark you can until you have accumulated enought money with which to do some substantial good." Mendelssohn dreamed of the good he could do with the money he received from the royalties upon his compositions, and it is said carried out many of his dreams. He, like other great composers, left to the world little inheritance besides his marvelous musical creations.

Donizetti died poor, yet he could have gone to his grave a weathly man for his time. Liszt gave away money, but never without seeing first wherein it would accomplish the greatest good, and when he was on his deathbed he turned to his spiritual comforter and said: "I have given away my silver and leave to the world as an inheritance but the works that have brought me the silver."

Gounod classed composers among dreamers. "They live in an atmosphere laden with music, to them the world is either a waltz or a dirge, gladness or sorrow," and Gottschalk wrote of his own life: "A dream, the air about which has been music, today the softness and sweetness of a nocturne, tomorrow possibly the power and majesty of a requiem." And the composer of the "Last Hope" was no exception to the rule, he died a poor man, leaving to the world much wealth, but like other great composers a wealth of sublime music. He is said to have earned a fortune and yet he left not enough money with which to raise a fitting monument over his grave. Great musicians, like poets, have nearly all been very visionary; "they have lived in the world and yet been no part of its material advancement," as Von Bulow put it, when writing of the lives of two of his fellow composers.

The world has been a beautiful dream in which they have produced the music with which to enchant the forms that have appeared in it. Money, worldly possessions have been but as the means to sustain the body while the mind dreamed and the fingers penned the sublime notes that inspirations brought forth from the heart.

Fame seems to have had no other meaning to the most of the world's greatest composers than as the wherewith, so to speak, with which they were to meet the physical needs, while the spiritual, seemingly, was given sway that the world might be endowed with a riches of song and melody for which it was forever after to pay its tribute of gratitude to their creators.

One has but to read the biography of a great composer to see that his life was a living proof of the saying, "Music makes man love man," and agree with Liszt when he wrote of Chopin: "He was kind, noble and generous, Chopin, giving to his fellow man whatever he could spare of his earthly goods and leaving to the world no other inheritance than his music." Yet one endowed his name with as much love as the other has endowed his name with and endless fame.