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Posts from the ‘Music’ Category


As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relationships with this best and truest friends of mankind that death’s image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart wrote his first masonic work at age 16 (1772) when he was commissioned to write music for the Bavarian lodge “Zur Behutsamkeit” (translated: with Restraint). Twelve years later, at age 28, just three years after moving to Vienna, Mozart became one of 32 members of the Vienna mason lodge, “Zur Wohltätigkeit” (translated: Charity) on December 14, 1784. His rise amongst his fellow lodge brothers was swift. Within three weeks, on January 7, 1785, he ascended to the position of “journeyman” and in less than a month after that, on February 1, 1785, became a “master.” Lodges were composed of varying members of society and “Zur Wohltätigkeit” was a bourgeoisie lodge, consisting of middle class intellectuals and quite a few Illuminati.

Free Mason Lodge Book with Mozart as Visitor

Free Mason Lodge Book Documenting Mozart’s Visit to another lodge

A bit over two months after Mozart became a master in his lodge, his father, Leopold, also joined “Zur Wohltätigkeit.” But not even the connections that he no doubt secured through life as free mason, were enough to help accelerate Mozart’s income to keep pace with his increasing I-O-Us. By the summer of 1788 things came to a head when Mozart began appealing to his masonic brother Michael Puchberg, for loans. A letter in June 1788 from Mozart to Puchberg begins: “Dear Brother! Your true friendship and brotherly love embolden me to ask an enormous favor of you…” His letters begging for money continued on into 1791, the year when Mozart composed his final great work —the Magic Flute with references to many of the free mason symbols, rituals, themes and beliefs (more in next post: Mozart, the Free Masons and the Magic Flute).

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Around the same time, a mysterious stranger showed up on his doorstep as a messenger of a man who did not wish to be known but wanted to commission Mozart to write a Requiem for a person “who is and forever would be very dear to him.” The stranger paid cash and Mozart was in no position to turn it down. The composer had a law suit pending against him and his family for money he owed to Prince Lichnowsky — the equivalent of what today would amount to over 50,000 USD. In the end, however, the assignment plagued him and Mozart became obsessed with the idea that he was writing the Requiem for himself. Convinced that he had been poisoned with acqua toffana (an Italian-made arsenic that young wives liked to use to hasten their widowhood), Mozart told his wife, Constanze, that he feared he must die.

Just a a bit over a month after the premiere of The Magic Flute, in November 1791 Mozart became bedridden for 15 days. Family members reported that at first his hands and feet swelled, and then he was almost completely unable to move. This was followed by vomiting.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791. He was 35 years old.

On the day of his death he asked for the score to be brought to his bedside. ‘Did I not say before, that I was writing this Requiem for myself?’ After saying this, he looked yet again with tears in his eyes through the whole work. – Biographer Niemetschek

After Mozart’s death, the stranger came once again to fetch the unfinished Requiem. The mystery was apparently solved — the Requiem had been commissioned by a count for his dying wife. He had commissioned several works of music and had intended to publish them in his own name.

Nevertheless, many have theorized about the causes of the sudden death and poisoned-like appearance of the body of the seemingly healthy Mozart – amongst them Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin, in one of his short plays known as The Little Tragedies and written in 1830 and entitled Mozart and Salieri. Did fellow composer, Antonio Salieri, murder Mozart? The two seemed to get along so well. In fact, in October 1791, not even two months before he died, Mozart had even taken along Salieri and his mistress in his carriage to a performance of The Magic Flute, where they sat with Mozart in his box.

Conspiracy theories of Mozart’s death abound, including one that blames the free masons for killing Mozart for revealing free mason secrets in The Magic Flute.

Yet if Orations are any indication, Mozart’s Masonic brothers, did indeed seem sorry to see him go. The following text stems from the Circular Letter of the Lodge “zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung” (translated: Newly Crowned Hope) on Mozart’s Death, Read upon the Admission of a Master to the Venerable St. John.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Grave at St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

Mozart’s Grave in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

The Great Architect of the Universe was obliged to wrest one of most beloved, most deserving members from our fraternal chain. Who did not know him?— who did not cherish him?— who did not love him?— our worthy brother Mozart – It was only a few weeks ago that he stood here amongst us, that he glorified the consecration of our Masonic Temple with enchanted tones. – Vienna, April 1792

Mozart’s funeral service was held in Vienna’s grand St. Stephan’s Cathedral. He was buried, as was customary at the time for folks who were not upper class or nobility, in a mass grave in Vienna’s St. Marx cemetery.

Read more about the poison theory and Mozart’s death:

Want to read more about Mozart and the Free Masons? Check on this book: Angermüller, Rudolph. Mozart’s Masonic Music. Vienna: Mozarthaus, 2015. Print.

In Vienna? Pay a visit to the Mozarthaus Vienna which currently has an exhibit about Mozart, the free masons and the Magic Flute. From the room believed to have been his billiard room, Mozart would have been gazed into the cobble-stoned lane of the Blutgasse (Blood Lane), which is also tied to the tales of the free masons and Knights of Templar.



“ I don’t think–”
“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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Twenty kilometers south of Vienna is a 900-year-old town of about 18,000 residents named Traiskirchen. The name Traiskirchen, if you would translate it into English, would mean “Trais Church” and evokes images of a quaint lazy existence amongst the vineyards that have been cultivated there since the 12th Century.

There’s a town museum open on Sundays and holidays from 8:30 – 12:30, an observatory, a landmark castle that now houses a kindergarten and, of course, some churches. But it’s the old barracks that have been drawing the most attention in recent months. These serve as Austria’s initial entry point for the thousands of desperate but hopeful asylum seekers currently flooding into Austria and the rest of Europe from Northern Africa and Syria. The amount of migrants who have traveled to Italy and Greece by sea alone who be like the entire population of Madison, Wisconsin picking up their things and making their way, through the greed, grace or underhandedness of smugglers to get to Corpus Christi, Texas with only that which they can carry and their toddlers and babies in tow.

As someone who, for decades, has leaned positively towards the idea of a more united Europe, I have been sorely disappointed by the woefully ineffective response of countries touting their “unity” to this humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, Austria’s politicians have also been caught with their incompetency showing. While talking heads on ORF concerned about upcoming national elections battle out ad nauseam who is responsible and what should have been and should be done, families that have journeyed thousands of miles to flee the worst atrocities of war and hunger, are left to sleep on the pavement in record-breaking heat and merciless rain.

Seriously? This is the best we can do?

Fortunately, the citizens of Austria think not and have started their own efforts to counter the failings of those they elected to deal with exactly such issues. One of these commendable initiatives is from the Austrian artist, Raoul Haspel, who has posted a 60-second “Minute of Silence” (Schweigeminute Traiskirchen) on iTunes and Amazon. Users who pay .99 cents are buying more than 60 seconds of silence, their expressing their dissatisfaction of the current handling of the crisis and donating to the initiative to help the asylum seekers. According to news reports, in addition, Haspel is donating out-of-pocket the part of the purchase price collected by Amazon and iTunes. One would hope that some clever Amazon and iTunes executive would recognize the PR opportunity to step up to plate and donate the fees back again.

Haspel’s desire to bring worldwide attention to this tragedy and show solidarity with those who have gone to such great lengths to safely exist is sure to be heard.

Cum tacent, clamant.

Europe’s politicians would be wise to follow Raoul Haspel’s lead and the not-so-Mad Hatter’s advice. If you don’t think, you shouldn’t talk. Listen to the silence and act.

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Austrian Artist Raoul Haspel’s website

Very good BBC report on the current crisis: Why is EU struggling with migrants and asylum?

Cum tacent, clamant. (Cicero: With their silence, they cry out).

#1schweigeminute #1minuteofsilence





And you may find yourself in another part of the world…And you may ask yourself. Well…How did I get here? – Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

What you need to know before you read this: my best friend is Australian and sadly for us, she lives where the kangaroos are actually animals and not cars. What you also need to know, she usually has very good taste. But no one’s perfect.

 Best friend with questionable music taste: Getting ready for Eurovision Grand Final?! I’ll call you in (our wee morning) [two dancers pictured + fireworks or something that looks like an exploding piece of pizza.] Hope you’re covering it.

No. In fact. I had been gracefully ignoring it. All week. Stubbornly. Even through the steady stream of music flowing from the Eurovision Village through my open work window every single day. For hours on end.

Me: [non-committal smiley].

Didn’t want to rain on her parade — after all I heard somewhere (there was no avoiding news of the big event all week) that the Aussies were Eurovision Contest virgins which could partially excuse their oh-so-pink, squeaking giddiness.

Best friend with questionable music taste: [More smileys] [Equally stubborn]. Are you excited?

Me: I’ll be excited when it’s over [speak-no-evil monkey emoticon] You guys are nuts.

Eurovision Village - Rathaus Vienna 2015

Eurovision Village – Rathaus Vienna 2015

And then…

Before I could exclaim, “My God! What have I done? How did I get here?” I found myself in a room with a bunch of Eurovision song contest enthusiasts at midnight on Friday night, weighing in on the ill-placed shoulder pads of one country’s jury announcer, the unfortunate on-coming traffic background image of another’s (don’t they have better sites to show off to the world in Georgia?) and the all-too frequent navel-line (as opposed to neckline) trend in many of the dresses. Oh yeah – and let’s not forget Miss Poland’s bird-nest-in-hair-accessory.

Fate has a cruel sense of humor. When it comes to fashion. When it comes to me.

Twenty-seven countries. Two-hundred and fifty artists and 200 million people watching! 

I think I must have been the 200 millionth person to join in.

Me: U watching. I was forced… [see-no-evil monkey emoticon]

Best friend with questionable music taste: Isn’t it fantastic! [smiley] We got up at 4:45 am!! We can even vote this year [more smiley, martini glass].

Me: It’s horrible

Best friend with questionable music taste: Haha. 30 secs left. Are we ready !!!! (sic) [lots of icons that look like exploding dancing pizza slices]

Two minutes in and I digress to white-knuckling it with the Austrians. “Come on! 12 points for Austria!”

Ten minutes in and we are all in consensus that Austria needs just a point or two. “Slovenia! They like Austria! They’re bound to give us points!”

Twenty minutes in and it’s all about Austria at least getting a point more than Germany.

Me: No pts 4 AT. You guys are Austria’s only hope! [Help us, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope]

Best friend with questionable music taste: [two icons – no longer smiling – one looking more distraught than the next] What were we thinking? Poor Austria.

After an hour, entire room pleads with TV and we make a diplomatic concession. “Fine! No points. But none for Germany either. Ja?”

Vienna Subway Song Contest Map

Vienna Subway Song Contest Map

Best friend with questionable music taste: We have Conchita.

Me: Conchita Unstoppable! What is she doing?

Best friend with questionable music taste: Standing with that silver thing over her jumpsuit – why do people wear jumpsuits?

At 2 am, the buzz of Eurovision contest slowly waning, the roomful of Austrians and I evaluate the wreckage. After Conchita’s mind-boggling victory last year,  Austria’s anthem has diminuendoed into Estonia’s song entry: “Good-bye Yesterday.”

Zilch for Austria. Not one of the 27 countries voting gave Austria’s Makemakes a single point.

But Austria can proudly boast it now tops some other lists: Not only as the only country to achieve no points the most times in the 60 year history of the song contest, but also as the first host country ever to receive zero points from any of its guests. But Viennese are renown for their golden hearts and no doubt in an effort to save face for their guests, simply noted, “As good hosts, we didn’t want to take anyone else’s points away.”

Ahhh. Aren’t they as sweet as a Lebkuchen Herzerl?

And the Aussies? A not-too-shabby 5th place with 196 points! So deserved for ruffling themselves out of the hay to voluntarily (!) be inundated with glitter, glam and bubble gum music. Heaps of fun, eh Matey? And my friend deserved it – a point for every exclamation mark she texted me in the past week.

And the winning entry? Sweden’s Mans Zelmerlöw with the song “Heroes” with the lyrics “We are the heroes of our time.”

Austria slung herself back up onto the winning stage in my book, though. While Mans was no doubt nursing his hangover from a night of victory celebrations, Dodo, Markus and Flo were busy putting together their next video, which is destined to go viral: “We are the Zeroes of our time.”

How can you not love those guys?

All’s well that ends well.

Austria may have not gotten a single point but neither did Germany.


Everything and More – the Kaffeesiederball 2015 in Vienna’s Imperial Palace

Because life is too short to wait around for good times to happen. You have to make them happen. – KC

Recently I received a document from – I loathe to admit this – a fellow American — addressed to me in Vienna, Italy. I understand that Vienna begins with a “V” as does “Venice.” And both cities have six letter names containing an “i,” an “e,” and an “n.” But Vienna is not Venice and Venice is not Vienna UNLESS, you were one of 6000 guests at the Kaffeesiederball at the imperial palace this past Friday night.

The theme of this year’s ball was “A Night in Venice.” Vienna’s Kaffeesieder have mastered the art of making a guest feel like royalty and their 58th ball in the imperial palace was no exception. Footmen donning red coats and white satin vests with gold buttons and trimming flanked the sides of the marbled grand staircase. All ladies ascending the red carpet to the ballrooms above were welcomed with a small gift resting on a silver platter — a brightly colored Carnival mask.

Footmen at Kaffeesiederball

Footmen on the grand staircase offering arriving ladies Carnival masks

The cakes designed by each of the various coffeehouses and raffled to guests featured designs such as the Rialto Bridge and gondolas. Your raffle ticket didn’t land you a Sacher Torte? No worries. Mine didn’t either but I did manage to score two bottles of champagne, a six pack of beer and a gift certificate to a coffeehouse. After all, every ticket wins. Over 11 bands and orchestras played in 7 different dance and ballrooms – to every kind of music from waltz, to polka to traditional Austrian folk songs to ABBA. Waltzing couples followed in the footsteps of the 88 white-gowned debutantes who opened the ball with their white-gloved partners in the grand ballroom. The DJ playing at the bottom of the Ambassador staircase had a great mix of music to get even the most rhythm challenged attendees jamming. Guests who preferred to rock a bit of the night away 60’s style could do so with the Bad Powells on the top floor. ABBA not your thing? The stair climb or elevator ride is still worth the effort to just hang out at the sky bar and enjoy the panoramic view of the palace dome and Rathaus at night. Hungry? There’s oysters flown in from France on the top floor, Würstel at the passage near the Ambassador Staircase, Gulasch and so much more at the bars across from the grand ballroom, Viennese winery food and song tucked away in the bottom floor of the palace near the Josefplatz entrance and Apfelstrüdel in the room across from the coat check. Tired? Grab a quick espresso in the Meinl coffeehouse near the entrance.

Chandeliers in Ballroom

Chandeliers in Ballroom

Feeling dizzy from the hunger strike you embarked on two days ago to squeeze into your one-size too small gown or feeling a blister sprouting from your too expensive, too tight, too high, sparkly new heels? No worries, one of the balls two tuxedoed emergency doctors can rush to your side and save the day. Your partner not dance-happy? One of the 25 available “Taxidancers” hired by the coffeehouse owners is sure to keep your restless feet waltzing for a Strauss tune or two.

At the end of the evening, at 3:30 in the morning, we decided to call it a night. As we exited the palace, charming ladies in ball gowns placed a Damenspende – a bag filled with gift certificates, marmalade, tea, Campari soda, a porcelain coffee cup, Niemetz Schwedenbomben  and other goodies into each of our hands. As we waited in the queue for a taxi, a white stretch limousine pulled up next us, tempting us to accept Café Landtmann’s generous free ride to breakfast in Sigmund Freud’s most beloved coffeehouse. I eyed my friend who gave an indecisive pause both of us reluctant to let the night (morning) draw to an end. But a gust of biting wind, her jet lag and my lack of sleep argued that it would be better to put our aching feet to bed.

Paris Trip Giveaway

Paris Trip Giveaway

This year, a friend from NYC, Monique Patterson, who is an executive editor at St. Martin’s Press, flew into town for the weekend so she could come along. I had gushed about the ball at a conference we met at last year. I told her I didn’t understand why more people didn’t come to Vienna to attend the balls because they are so much fun. I mean, how often does one get to play Cinderella for a night and attend a ball at an imperial palace? She agreed and not even a half a year later, I was standing at Vienna airport early Friday morning, waiting for her red-eye flight to arrive.

Ballroom with Live Jazz music

Ballroom with live Jazz music

Sometime in the midst of the evening, after more than one random handsome tuxedoed man had stopped her to compliment her on her gorgeous gown, and a camera crew interviewed her about her experience, as we were sipping our champagne and watching a group of ball-goers dress up with French props to compete to win a free trip to Paris, I asked, “Was it everything you imagined it to be?” She answered, “Everything. And so much more.”

More images from the 2015 Kaffeesiederball from the Kaffeesiederball website.

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Missed Kaffeesieder? Try another one. Here’s the 2015 Ball Calendar.

More blog posts on Vienna balls:

Balls 101:

Renting a Guy to Dance for the Night:

Balls and Sex – Dr. Ruth meets Emily Post: