The Ghostly Songs of Othmar Schoeck

Alex Ross at The New Yorker:

The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck, who lived from 1886 to 1957, is little known outside his native land, but his moments of fame have been as striking as they are strange. For one thing, Schoeck gained the admiration of several leading writers of the twentieth century. Hermann Hesse ranked Schoeck’s songs alongside those of Schubert and Schumann; James Joyce considered him a rival to Stravinsky; Thomas Mann also thought highly of him. A further quiver of notoriety followed in the nineteen-seventies, when, as Calvin Trillin related in this magazine, students at Amherst College launched an absurdist organization called the Othmar Schoeck Memorial Society for the Preservation of Unusual and Disgusting Music. The group is best remembered for having precipitated the meeting of the illusionists Penn and Teller. At the time of their fateful encounter, Penn was riding a unicycle and Teller was selling pencils emblazoned with Schoeck’s name.

more here.