Search View Archive

The Miraculous

The Miraculous: Music

6. 1955, Los Angeles

A Spanish-language parody of the TV theme “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” becomes an unexpected hit, especially in a subsequent English version that sells some 500,000 copies. This is a departure for the musician who a few years earlier had provided the soundtrack for the Pachuco subculture with recordings like “Marihuana Boogie” and “El Pachuco.”

The Miraculous: Music

7. January 7, 1955, the Metropolitan Opera House, New York

The first African American to sing a leading role with the Metropolitan Opera is cast as Ulrike in Verdi’s Un ballo in mascara. A century earlier when the opera debuted in Italy, the composer was compelled by censors to repeatedly change the setting, first from Sweden to Poland, then from Poland to the United States, specifically to Boston.

The Miraculous: Music

8. March 4, 1955, Broadway just above West 52nd Street

A quintet (sax, trumpet, piano, bass, drums) led by a legendary saxophonist is booked for two nights at a midtown jazz club. The first evening gets off to a bad start when the piano player, who has a long history of alcoholism and mental health problems, tells the sax player, who himself has struggled with heroin addiction, “You ain’t playing shit no more.”

The Miraculous: Music

9. November and December, 1955, Paris

A German composer, who was deported from the United States seven years earlier for being, as one right-wing politician put it, “the Karl Marx of music,” is hired by a French director to score a documentary film about the Holocaust. From Paris, he writes home to his wife in East Berlin: “The film is grandiose, horrible, showing monstrous crimes...regrettably, the film people here are putting me under pressure to finish the whole thing in ten days even though the film is barely finished.

The Miraculous: Music

10. 1955, Paris; 2016, Bregenz, Austria

A museum on the Austrian shore of Lake Constance invites a Scottish sound artist to create a new work. The project she conceives of involves making recordings of five different instruments performing passages from the soundtrack to an early Holocaust documentary. On each of the museum’s four floors, a single instrument can be heard: a bass clarinet on the ground floor, a clarinet on the first floor, a horn on the third and a violin on the fourth.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2022

All Issues