This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Music on Skis

20 December 2016

Zum Neuen Jahre
herzliche Glückwünsche!

To the New Year
hearty congratulations!

This charming illustration
of a horse pulling
a small band
of musicians on skis
comes from a vintage Swiss postcard.

It was posted
on 6 January 1938
and addressed
to Herrn Joh. Jos. Zihlmann
of Willisau, a small town
in the Lucerne canton, of Switzerland.
Herrn Zihlmann lived
at the landwirtschaftsschule
which was a vocational school
for agricultural occupations.

Salü Hanssep!
Habe deine Karte mit Freuden
erhalten. Bin immer lustig
u. fidel. Gerne wäre ich
am 3 Nov. in den 2 Kurs(?)
eingetreten, aber die Zeit erlaubte
es mir nicht. Wie lebst
Du immer, hoffentlich. bist  Du
gesund und fröhlich.
Viel Glück im neuen Jahr wünscht Du.
Alois Wechsler

Salut Hannseep!
Got your card with pleasure.
I am always funny and jolly.
I would be happy
on 3rd Nov. when the 2nd course
occurred but time
did not allow me.
Hopefully you always live
healthy and happy.
I wish you Good luck in the new year.
Alois Wechsler

{My thanks for any offers of better translations of Schweizerdeutsch}

The horse pictured on the card
looks to be stout enough
to pull three musical skiers
even while carrying a trumpeter.

 But horses come in different sizes
and even small ones
can trot pretty fast
through the snow.
Here is a thrilling video
a sport known as skijoring,that demonstrates what it's like
to ski behind a smaller,
but still very enthusiastic horse.
However the skier
is not playing an accordion
at the same time.



And for a special Swiss treat,
though without skis,
here is a video from August 2013
when 508 alphorn players
assembled on the Gornergrat ridge
to break the world record
for the largest alphorn group performance.



Click this link to hear
a more complete concert.

On the whole,
I think massed alphorns
are to be preferred
over massed accordions.
But that's just my opinion.

I wish everyone
much joy and happiness
in 2017!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
which celebrates the best photos of the Holiday Season!

The Snowman

09 December 2016

Fresh snowfall
is a timeless universal wonder.
Its sculptural and architectural qualities
surely stimulated prehistoric man
to roll balls of soft snow
into a giant pile.
Inspiring a kind of test statue
for the ancient megaliths
that celebrated the dark winter solstice.
 This monstrous snowman
probably lasted until the spring thaw.

Such a fierce man of snow
required a fanfare from the band.

It's the New Year!

Prosit Neujahr!

The artist's intention may have been jolly,
but this formidable snowman
seems chilling to me,
and not in a cold way.
His icy grin conveys foreboding,
dread, even menace.

And why the man in the lower corner
is cavorting with a sheep
must remain a mystery.

This postcard was sent from
Wien, Austria on 31 XII 1915.
It was the second winter of the Great War.
The writer, Theresia Božek, addressed it
to Wohlgeb. Frau Mize Zpiser(?)
of Bielitz, Schlesien,
a town which was then in Austria
but is now known as Bielsko, Poland.
The honorific stands for Wohlgeboren - Well born.
Which I believe is a mark of minor royalty or upper class.

The stamp on the postcard is of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). The postmark date shows 31 XII 1(5) with another penciled date of 2/I.1916.  The old Kaiser would not see another new year as he died on November 21, 1916 at the age of 86. Throughout his long reign, Franz Joseph remained a mostly aloof but benevolent figure to the people of his vast empire. Nonetheless his decision to seek retribution from Serbia for the assassination of his nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the spark that started the Great War of 1914-18. 

Physically he was hardly a menacing figure. But when his visage was chiseled into white marble, his bald pate, big ears, and bristly muttonchops do make him resemble a snowman. A snowman with medals instead of lumps of coal.

Bust of Kaiser Franz Joseph I.
2 December 1848 – 21 November 1916
Source: Wikimedia

For something more cheerful, watch this exceptional restored silent film which is accompanied by spirited march music. It begins with Kaiser Franz Joseph walking down a street with an entourage of men, all dressed in wonderful uniforms. Note the variety of hat feathers and plumes. In the middle is a charming group of schoolgirls doing a kind of precision march/dance, and I think they are also singing. Then the Kaiser reviews some cadets and rides in a carriage. There is a brass band at about 3:00. I believe the film was taken in 1910, a few years before the war, on the occasion former President Theodore Roosevelt's tour of Europe. However, the president is not in the film.

It looks better when expanded to full screen.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Snowwomen always get equal time.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum?

03 December 2016

'Twas a midsummer day
in the town of Loon Lake
when arose such a sound
only a melodeon could make.

The chords were all wrong
but old Jim didn't care.
He picked out a tune
that his cornet could blare.

The neighbors were startled
from their afternoon rest
by a horn blowing fanfares
with boisterous zest.

With a huff and a puff
that made people talk,
Uncle Gus loved to make
his clarinet squawk.

A trumpet and sax
joined in on the chorus
with a noise that wasn't
a little bit raucous.

Though deaf as a post
was poor Grandma Sadie,
she tightened her grip
on a very small pine tree.

Only one music instrument
Aunt Bertha could play.
It had just two notes
but it blew you away.

The clamor was much too much
noise for the dog
who howled in a key
that was not in the song.

It's like Christmas in July
when the band comes to play
in Loon Lake, Wisconsin
on a midsummer day.

* * *

The names of the musicians and ladies
on this photo postcard
are unknown. 

Only the photographer's caption
helps identify the time and place.

Loon Lake – Wis.

The rest of their story
is left to our imagination.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every day counts.


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