Six years ago today, my uncle, John Stump died. Shortly thereafter, I discovered that he had been the author of a number of pieces of sheet music, including “FAERIE’S AIRE and DEATH WALTZ,” which had a kind of legendary status online and a cult following among fans of musical absurdity. Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about John here on Lost in the Cloud in order to provide some actual information about him, being that he was somewhat of a mystery to the world (my younger brother created a Wikipedia page, which was up for a while, but the powers that be at that reputedly free and open encyclopedia closed down the entry for not having enough verifiable outside sources!). In the less than 2 years since I wrote that post, it has had 164,631 views. That number may not seem tremendously high for some websites, but Elijah and I are regularly astounded at the weekly average of 5,000 people who are interested in finding out more about John.
So, being that today is the anniversary of John’s death, I would like to celebrate my eccentric genius uncle by officially declaring January 20 to be Death Waltz Day and posting some random information and images from John’s life, beginning with his death certificate.
Some might think it in poor taste to post a copy of this document, but I disagree. For one, there have been some people who’ve claimed that John is an invented person and that this all is a hoax, so a legal document demonstrating the fact of his existence by acknowledging the END of his existence seems appropriately absurd, given John’s sense of humor (this is a man who once sent me, in lieu of a Christmas letter, a sympathy card using a fake name–for both the recipient and sender). Secondly, I’ve had a number of requests for information about John and his death from small magazines or blogs, so I thought I’d just put this out there as part of the public data about John. Finally, I’m commemorating his DEATH on DEATH WALTZ DAY, so a DEATH certificate seems apropos. There’s no need for us to be so tetchy about the end of life, my friends! (Ironically, one of the only musical compositions of John’s known to have been performed was called “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” so John was clearly comfortable with the topic!)
I’m also including a scan of the program cover and inside content from John’s memorial service, which was held at The Vedanta Society of Southern California, where my other uncle lives and works.
Having the coda from “Hey Jude” as your funeral recessional is about the coolest thing imaginable. I wish I had been there to experience this first hand–I honestly cannot even remember the trivial matter that kept me from attending his service.
Reflecting the other end of John’s life, I wanted to post the actual hospital bill for his birth (total cost = $64.8o!) & a photo of a precious young John, probably around two or three years old.
I thought I’d also share some rather funny promotional material that John used to sell his works, which he referred to as “musical novelties” and “gag sheet music,” along with John’s business card from his days as a music engraver.
My father has been digging up some other treasures of John’s, including a short story that he wrote in 1978 called “Harold Blott and the Christmas Pumpkin” which I will post at some point, and I’m asking my dad to look for this absolutely droll booklet that John made for him for his birthday that was an illustrated story in the manner of Edward Gorey. I will try to post these in time for John’s birthday in March…
Finally, I thought I would use the occasion of Death Waltz Day to clear up some confusion about a video on YouTube that claims to be the “Death Waltz.” What seems to have happened is that someone took the music of another composer and simply put the title of John’s work on it, as if it were a representation of what the Death Waltz would sound like put to music. One of the comments from my original post on John, by a reader called Will K., revealed what the actual song in the video was:
The correct name of this song is “U.N. Owen was Her”, remix by Cool&Create, piano version. The original author is Japanese composer Junya Ota, who goes by the alias of ZUN. He is known for his Touhou series computer games, from where the music comes from, which are extremely popular in Japan. More specifically, this bgm is from the game Touhou6: Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil. He is a very exceptional case because he is famous for single-handedly designing and programming his games AND composing all of the soundtracks, including this one.
Hope that helps clear that all up! However, in honor of Death Waltz Day, I would like to issue a challenge to any music programmers out there to actually input John’s composition “Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz” into some musical software program and send us the results of what it would sound like. It will probably sound like absolute cacophony and chaos, given that the composition was designed more for it’s visual and humorous flair and not for musical coherence, but we’ll never know unless we hear it for ourselves!
Thanks to all those who have shown an interest in John’s works over the years and hopefully this post will provide some additional enjoyment for his fans around the world! I end this commemoration of Uncle John with some lyrics of George Harrison, which were printed on the back of John’s memorial service program:
All things must pass/none of life’s strings can last/
so I must be on my way/and face another day…