Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Schweinwald Journal of Harrison Harty

Today's episode in the serialization of The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, my latest “classical music appreciation comedy-thriller,” is the final installment of the mysterious journal kept by a young composer named Harrison Harty when he was a student at the famous Schweinwald Academy in Bavaria back in the summer of 1880. The other installments had been major parts of the previous novel in the trilogy, The Lost Chord, which largely took place at the present-day Schweinwald Festspielhaus not far from the Old Falkenstein Castle that once housed a great music school.

Since this is one aspect of the earlier novels finding continuity in the present novel, I thought I would include links to the other installments for any of you wanting to read the rest of it. The original journal was in the possession of members of the Harty Family – LauraLynn Harty and her cousin, the composer Roberston Sullivan – and passed on to Dr. Kerr following Sullivan's murder. Only then is it discovered the last few pages were missing.

Basically, it begins innocently enough as young Harrison decides to go off in search of more advanced training in music and especially composition than he can find in his hometown in what is now Northern Ireland. When he arrives there, he joins other young composers he meets and forms a close circle with Gustav Mahler (who was then 20 and had not yet begun taking his composition studies as seriously as his future reputation would imply), Hans Rott and another English composer, Ethel Smyth who, because she was a girl, had to prove to everyone that girls could be composers, too. They prepare to study with the likes of headmaster Professor Dudley Böhm, organist Rainer Knussbaum (who would later write down his recollections of Beethoven and the Immortal Belovéd), theorist Heinrich von Hammerschlag and his wife, the pianist Elisabeth von Hammerschlag, taking classes in solfege with Lotte (“Doe”) Ramey, counterpoint with Emilio Fabbro and also with the Dean of Students, Nikolai Kashcheievich Bezsmyertnikov who was offering a seminar called "Nuance and Mockery in the Critique of New Music." It had been announced that Brahms, in the area for the summer, would pay them a brief visit and that Franz Liszt, passing through the region, would offer them an impromptu recital.

The school was seriously divided along political lines – the pro-Liszt faction of Bezsmyertnikov, arch-Romantics of the Futurist Persuasion, and the pro-Brahms faction of Fabbro and Hammerschlag, intent on preserving the Classical ideals without which the Future would be mere rubbish.

Then things take a serious turn when they discover one of the older students dead in front of the statue of the Academy's founding director, Simon Sechter (a teacher to both Schubert and Bruckner), an apparent murder that is immediately brushed aside as an accident. But Harty and his friends know better and try to identify the murderer without placing themselves in danger.

At this point, Harty starts writing his journal in code which, once he figures it out, Cameron proceeded to decipher. The intrigues and in-fighting which Harty and his friends discover not only places them in danger, by the end of The Lost Chord, a valuable statue of Beethoven entrusted to them has been stolen, Ethel abducted, Harty conked on the head and Mahler, imagining himself chased through the woods by vampires, has a magical epiphany as dawn approaches.

It culminates in a great battle between the pro-Liszt faction and the pro-Brahms faction during which Hans Rott, who has been trying to get Brahms to look at his new symphony, is pushed over the steps, falling to what could only be his death. The narrative breaks off at this point in The Lost Chord but it turns out, in Installment #21 of The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, Frieda F. Erden (the F. standing for Falkenstein) has the missing segment in her possession, and it is that which Cameron now proceeds to decipher.

You can read the previous installments of Harrison Harty's Journal from The Lost Chord by following these links:

Installment 1 (part 1
Installment 1 (part 2
Installment 2 (part 1)
Installment 2 (part 2)
Installment 3 
Installment 4 

It wouldn't take a genius to realize the whole Harty Journal is a parody of Harry Potter and his life at Hogwarts. In fact, Schweinwald – incidentally, a real place in Bavaria – is German for “Hogwood.” While I'm not sure who Mahler approximates, one could argue Hans Rott, red hair aside, is probably the Ron Weasley character and Ethel Smyth (as she probably was in real life) would be Hermione Granger. Harrison Harty's family are very much alive and he possesses no demonstrable scar. It would be easy to imagine Reiner Knussbaum as Hagrid and Professor Böhm as Dumbledore but beyond that I wouldn't look for too many similarities. One is never quite sure about Percival Porlock who is always creeping around interrupting people at inopportune moments (like the Person from Porlock who ruined Samuel Taylor Coleridge's “Kublai Khan”) so in a sense he becomes a Snape-like individual but is, instead, the chaplain rather than the Professor of the Dark Arts (though some may see a similarity).

I regret that, in the movie version of The Lost Chord, there is no reasonable role for Maggie Smith though I have, in my fantasies, imagined her playing Frieda in The Labyrinth. Now, to carry on the parodistic elements of Downton Abbey into the world of Phlaumix Court would require a whole separate post.

- Dick Strawser

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