Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hervararkviða, or the Incantation of Hervor

Sea Tangle: Songs from the North

You might find this difficult to believe, but I am primarily a composer and not an amateur historian or archaeologist or theater builder/owner or whatever. To prove it, this year I wrote some music? Actually quite a lot of music, if I put it all together, although I am still way behind in my goals, because I will never be good enough and yes I do hate myself for it although I am trying to work on unrealistic expectations of myself in therapy thank you.

One of these pieces is being officially birthed into the world today (that is, Wednesday, December 21, 2016)! And if you are in the Philadelphia area, you are welcome to come witness its emergence in person, which will be beautiful and non-bloody and not at all like a real human birth. This piece was conceived way back in January, when I was approached by dreamy mezzo-soprano Maren Montalbano, she of the gorgeous silver curls and even prettier velvety silver voice, whom I knew through her work at Opera Philadelphia (we performed together in ANDY: A Popera),  Choral Arts Philadelphia (I wrote O Oriens for them last Christmas), and Twitter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Murder and Mayhem in the Messuages Next Door

If a property has been around for long enough, someone is going to die on it. Given enough human habitation, the chances that someone has been murdered on the premises are pretty decent, because humans are shitty creatures that murder each other a lot. Some locations, though, seem to attract violent crime more than others. While I was researching the history of 103 Callowhill Street (a.k.a. 21 Callowhill Street before the Ordinance of 1856), I noticed something odd: in the Philadelphia newspapers of the late 19th Century, there was a disproportionate number of mentions of the houses next door, 105 Callowhill Street and 400 Front Street (the corner of Front and Callowhill Streets). As it turns out, during this period my poor building was sandwiched between a flophouse and a saloon in one of the worst parts of Philadelphia.

As an aficionado of true crime since puberty, I want to bookend this history with two contemporary Philadelphia-related incidents which became media sensations, one that you probably haven't heard of and one that you probably have (or at least, will probably hear of soon). Public fascination with murder and true crime was really coming into its own in America around this time.

Engraving of Antoine Probst, from The Life, Confession and Atrocious Crimes of Antoine Probst

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Benjamin Mifflin, shady-ass property developer

I have more things to blog about than I have time to blog, but here's a quick hilarious thing.

If you have been following closely my research into 103 Callowhill Street and you have a very good memory, you might recall that in my first history post, I wondered if the original deed contained a measurement error. In 1745, the width of the property was listed as 20 feet, but in all subsequent deeds, the property is described as 16 feet wide. Why? After hunting down early deeds for the lot next to ours, I finally have an answer!

Benjamin Mifflin's original four lots on the north side of Callowhill Street, 1745.