Lost in the Cloud

John Stump, composer of Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz

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My uncle, John Arthur Stump, who was my father’s youngest brother, died on January 20, 2006.  His memorial service was held at a Vedanta monastery in Hollywood, where my other uncle (known there as “Jnana Chaitanya,” but to me as Uncle Dave) serves as a monk.  I was not at the ceremony, but my family brought back some memorabilia from the service and from Uncle John’s “estate,” including a large piece of paper densely printed with musical notation.

It was a sheet of music for a work entitled “Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz (from ‘A Tribute to Zdenko G. Fibich’)” that John had put together, obviously as an unplayable and satirical parody.  The notations on the score included absurd directions such as “release the penguins” and “Like a Dirigible” and “Gong duet.”  It was an incredibly creative, erudite and rigorous act of nonsense, which felt completely consistent with other creations I had seen from my uncle.  He was famous in our family for his non-sequiturs (sending a sympathy card from a fictitious professor to me on Christmas), stippling artwork, and his fascination with music.  He had worked in the field of “music engraving” for most of his life, beginning in 1967, and I remember looking with fascination at his “music typewriter” in his office in my grandmother’s garage, so it didn’t surprise me that Uncle John would have created something like this fake musical piece.

What surprised me was the fact that this piece was actually something of a musical legend, but to my knowledge, Uncle John had never mentioned it to anyone in my family before.  When I received the copy of “Faerie’s Aire,” I showed it to one of the college students I worked with who was a music major (who has become a talented composer in his own right!) and he told me he remembered seeing this piece posted on the band room wall when he was a high school student…in Washington!  I asked some other musician friends and they all told me they had seen it as well.  When I searched the internet, I found it rife with references, accolades, imitations, and questions about the mysterious composer, John Stump.  It saddened me to think there was nothing that revealed anything about my Uncle John’s life in the public sphere, so I thought I would provide some facts & anecdotes here that could serve as a source on this brilliant, hilarious, and reclusive man.

A letter from Paul McCartney's personal assistant to John

UPDATE:  I have posted more material and images regarding John here.  Enjoy!

Sources:  some background information taken from John’s obituary in “Vedanta Voices” Vol. 8, No. 3, March 2006, along with John’s “A Family History”.

The Stump family circa 1976. John is in the lower left hand corner…

UPDATE:

-Here is a copy of an obituary from page 3 of the Glendale Focus newspaper, Vol. 3, No. 2 (February 13, 2006) written by the publisher, Gary Kemper.

Other compositions by John:

String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident) COVER
String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident) page 1
String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident) page 2
String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident) BACK
Prelude and the Last Hope in C and C# minor
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