Diogenes with the Barrel-Organ, by Ferdinand Stamm (paperback)
The life and loves of a mid-19th century ambulant Bohemian organ-grinder, as told to Ferdinand Stamm (1813-80), a distinguished industrial entrepreneur, politician and writer, as portrayed by an early 21st century British organ-grinder.
The story by Stamm, republished and translated here for the first time, is semi-autobiographical and dates from just before the 1848 revolutions. Drinking beer in a village tavern on a hot summer afternoon, a mineralogist interviews an organ-grinder, a veteran of the Liberation War against the French Empire, drawing from him a detailed portrait of his social position, of his economic prospects, of his political views as the system created by Metternich after the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig in 1813 crumbled, and, above all, of his musical mendicancy. Philosophical faction, you might say.
From an Ore Mountains family of German tenant miners, Stamm progressed from the village school to become a well-known popular educator (his hop book is a treasure trove for lovers of Saaz beer), politician (he promoted a conservative reformist agenda in the Bohemian national and Austrian imperial parliaments), industrialist (mining, iron and railways), fiction writer (a follower of Goethe and Jean Paul, among many others), and poet and singer.
The Singing Organ-Grinder’s contribution consists of an extended literary-historical prelude and postlude; tunes and (translated) lyrics for all the songs on Stamm’s grinder’s barrel (karaoke recordings and barrel organ arrangements will be made available later via the website); and walking instructions for organ-grinders who wish to follow in the infant Stamm’s footsteps in his first great descent from the cold and bleak Ore Mountains to the warm and populous valley of the River Eger, singing his songs as they go.