Monday, 14 September 2015

writers on phonograph cylinders: Hermann Hesse

May 2015

This fifth entry in the phonograph series pays homage to the German-speaking Swiss poet, novelist, and painter, Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), the author of, amongst others, Knulp (1915), Strange News from Another Star (1919), Narziss and Goldmund (1930) and The Glass Bead Game (1943). The main lettering on the cylinder has been transformed from 'Edison Blue Amberol Record' to 'Amberol Pure-Tone Record', a nod towards Hesse's key essay written in 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War, O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!, in which he decried the unthinking lurch to nationalism and called for people to remember their common European heritage. Other works referenced on the cylinder include Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927) and Wandering (1920), with a passage from that beautiful collection's Mountain Pass ('But I smile, and not only with my mouth. I smile with my soul, with my eyes, with my whole skin, and I offer these countrysides, whose fragrances drift up to me, different senses than those I had before, more delicate, more silent, more finely honed, better practised, and more grateful…') printed on the side. As with all of the cylinders, this one contains something appropriate to the writer inside, in this case dried marigolds. As an important plant of offering, festivities and worship in both western and eastern religions, they seemed the perfect plant to pay homage to a writer who sought and promoted spiritual truth and understanding through his words.

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