Jazz in Scientific World

In the New York Times, November 16, 1919, prof. Charles Lane Poor, professor of Celestial Mechanics at Columbia University, explained Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity:
When is space curved?
When do parallel lines meet?
When is a circle not a circle?
When are the three angles of a triangle not equal to two right angles?
Why, when Bolshevism enters the world of science, of course!
In the early days after Einstein's discoveries, people were very confused about the meaning of the word "relative" in that scientific context. It simply did not mean that "anything goes" or that "there are no rules" (just as bolshevism was confused with anarchy). Similarly, jazz was interpreted as "chaos in music", although jazz bands always were integrated in particular historical and cultural contexts, and therefore as relative (in the true meaning of the word) as the laws of physics.
"For some years past," Professor Poor said the other day, after reading the cable dispatches about the Einstein theory, "the entire world has been in a state of unrest, mental as well as physical. It may well be that the physical aspects of the unrest, the war, the strikes, the Bolshevist uprising, are in reality the visible objects of some underlying, deep mental disturbance, world-wide in character. This mental unrest is evidenced by the widespread intent it social problems, to throw aside the well-tested authors of Governments in favor of radical and untried experiments."
Professor Poor dismissed Einstein's theories as "psychological speculations and fantastic dreams". He compared them to some rivals of Newton, who had tried to find other explanations for the moon's motions than the forces of gravitation - "during a time of profoud mental and political unrest". Newton had prevailed, and he would prevail against these new "speculations" as well, was the Professor's conviction. Einstein's notion of a fourth dimension was the final blow: the professor felt as if he had been "wandering with Alice in Wonderland and had tea with the Mad Hatter".

Interestingly, the article nowhere mentions jazz, except in the caption. Perhaps it was added in order to excite the reader. If there was any conceivable connection between jazz and bolshevism and physics, only a die-hard anti-semite could have spotted it.

It is important to remember that Einstein was not alone - many scientists had co-operated with him, contributed to his results and pointed out mistakes: Max Planck, Henri Poincaré and Hermann Minkowski, among many others. As Einstein's genius became more and more recognised, the critical tone changed. I was amused to find another musical reference in Martin Gardner's popular book about the theory of relativity from 1962, Relativity for the Million. According to Gardner, the theory had the same effect on the world as the new dance fad, the twist, which invaded the American dance halls in 1962! Some danced the twist with enthusiasm, some were deeply shocked and indignated (as our prof. above), and others complained that they were too old to learn it. (Perhaps people in the 1960's had forgotten all about how shocking jazz used to be?)

Further reading: Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and General Theory. New York: Henry Holt, 1920 (online at Bartleby.com)


Un poco di carità

Not related to the 1920's - but still fun from a Goldenbird perspective. No less than THREE of my favourite Italians of all time, in the same film clip, all dressed up as monks, too!
Il monaco di Monza (1963) was an Italian comedy, apparently not a very memorable work from any angle except this novelty scene, inspired by the new trends in pop music. In order of appearance: Don Backy, Adriano Celentano, and later, the great Totò himself, uncharacteristically the voice of order and reason. "Basta! Basta!"

On the Antonio de Curtis (aka Totò) website, there are a lot of stills and some quotes about the movie. It was a parody of "La monaca di Monza", the story of a nun featured in the Italian classic novel The Betrothed (I promessi sposi). The story of the noblewoman turned nun and her secret love affair with a dangerous nobleman has been filmed at least 5 times (once for TV), turned into a play, a fumetto, and much more. (Here's some info about the real monastery in Monza.)

What a turn of events - from 17th century tragedy to 1960's silliness. (Italy in a nutshell?) Not to lose the thread, I end by recommending my favourite YouTube videos with the three gentlemen separately.
Don Backy sings "Poesia" in 1966
Adriano Celentano sings "Azzurro" and "Preghero" (Stand By Me) in the 1960's
Totò playing a rather d'Annunzian type in 1962



Falco's Patron Saints

I finally decided on Falco's full name: Falco Demetrio Luigi Maria Peregrini. (Complete character profile here.) Much like Rudolph Valentino, he has a lot of names, some given by family tradition, others by his mother's fancy (i.e., mine!).
His name, even before he became an Italian seminarian of the 1920's, has always been Falco or Falk, or a variation thereof. This is my own pure fancy - originally he was invented as the companion of a character with the name Wolf, in a Nordic fantasy setting. Falcon and wolf make a handsome and symbolic pair! (See also, Volkov the anarchist: here and here.)

There are several half-mythical Falcos in the Patron Saint Index that I usually consult on these matters. The only verified saint is Saint Falco of Maastricht, whose feast day is February 20th. Spelled "Falko", the name is of Old High German origin and is still in use in Germany and Austria. It means "falcon", obviously... I've chosen the name not because Falco has anything to do with Maastricht (although I remember having some very intense visual experiences while browsing a photobook about the city as a small child), but because the falcon has great spiritual significance in the poetry of both W.B. Yeats and Gerard Manley Hopkins, as a double symbol of the soul in search for God - and Christ himself.

The next name, Demetrio, points to the east. I wanted Falco to have a Byzantine connection, and I like the name Demetrius (or Dmitri) because it is derived from "Demeter", the ancient Grecian mother goddess. It is actually more common in the south of Italy, where the Greek city-states maintained colonies for centuries. Saint Demetrius of Sermium, a.k.a. Great Martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-Streamer, is revered in the Eastern church. He was a soldier and a deacon (like Falco) and was martyred in the persecutions of Emperor Maximian, 306 AD in what is today Serbia. His relics were said to emit holy oil. He is a patron saint of crusaders and a protector against evil spirits. The details of his life can only be guessed from the pages of the fabulous Golden Legend.

Luigi Maria just sounds nice together. I checked the Patron Saint Index for both "Luigi Maria" and "Louis Marie", and found two inspiring men of the 19th and the 18th century, good role models for an aspiring priest. Falco is still trying to discern his true vocation. There is so little time and so much to do - what kind of mission does God want him to focus on? The layman Luigi Maria Monti (1825-1900), beatified as recently as 2003, found his vocation in active charity. He was born in a poor family in northern Italy and worked as a craftsman while also organizing prayer groups. His greatest work was in the field of nursing and medicine. He founded a congregation with the purpose of providing health care for sick and poor people, especially victims of epidemics.

Saint Louis Marie de Monfort (1673-1716) was canonized in 1947, so he was also not officially venerated during Falco's early years. However, his devotion to Mary was very influential. His vocation focused on spiritual development. He wrote an interesting guide on Marian devotion that I'd like to recommend here, although he warned that it should only be shared with people "who deserve to know it because they are prayerful, give alms to the poor, do penance, suffer persecution, are unworldly, and work seriously for the salvation of souls". You have been warned!

The Secret of Mary - by Louis Marie de Monfort

Disclaimer: I'm not Catholic or Christian myself, but I try to remain faithful to the time period and cultural mindset that I depict. These are all my own interpretations, however.