Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Snippy Jew gives Decomposing Composer a Haircut. Film at 11!

Posted by jlifer on November 10, 2006


Okay, okay. So the film was actually over a week ago. So sue me!

Who knew a lock of hair could be all the rage? Sounds like a hairy situation to me! Well it was at a special fundraiser at SJSU, where the famed lock of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair (he’s got some Jew-fro action going on, but, alas, Not A Jew) was out on display Oct. 28 during a premiere of the documentary film, “Beethoven’s Hair“.

The sample of hair, which is part of the extensive collection at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, is usually only shown only in July and December. The documentary film told the story of how the lock made its way from the deathbed of the deaf composer (who made some def jams) to San Jose.

According to the film, which was based on a book of the same name by Russell Martin, a young Jewish composer (here’s where Jews enter the story), Ferdinand Hiller, cut the lock of hair when Beethoven died. The dramatic, storm-ridden scene showed the young Jew cutting a clump of hair and preserving it an airtight container. The treasured lock was kept in the Hiller family for years, until it disappeared from historical record during the Holocaust. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the hair, but the documentary suggested it was probably given as a gift of gratitude to a Danish doctor who helped sick Jews escaping to Sweden.

The lock of hair eventually found its way to the Sotheby’s auction in London, where the avid Beethoven buffs, Ira Brilliant and Dr. “Fettuccini” Alfredo “Che” “I am not a Guerilla” Guevara, purchased the lock for $7,300.

The hair was split into two portions (not to split hairs…); the larger of which was donated to San Jose State University.

The story of Beethoven’s hair doesn’t end there. Several strands of hair were taken from Guevara’s portion and tested. The hair was first tested to discover what medications the composer had been given, but the test did not reveal any information about medicines.

The results of the second test for trace metals showed high lead concentrations, seen as evidence of lead poisoning that possibly caused Beethoven’s chronic illness and had an effect on his personality, and may have played into his death.

The film also shows the parallel stories of Brilliant and Guevara and their reverence for the composer, including how they met at a “birthday bash” for the dead composer.

After the movie, the author of Beethoven’s Hair and the director of the film, Larry Weinstein answered questions, along with Robert Brilliant, the son of the late Ira Brilliant. The men dedicated the event to the memory of the late Brilliant, whose collection was donated to the SJSU to form the Beethoven Studies center.

Martin, whose research revealed the lock of hair’s journey, said the two men who bought the sample were trying to solve the mystery of Beethoven’s life-long sickness and ultimate death, which the composer asked be resolved after his death.

“They thought they just might be able to fulfill Beethoven’s deeply heartfelt request,” Martin said.

The evening concluded with a piano concert in the Beethoven Studies center by Yuval Fichman, an Israeli musician, and tours of the center.

We were schkooped by the Merc, SVCN, and the Metro(sexual?).


One Response to “Snippy Jew gives Decomposing Composer a Haircut. Film at 11!”

  1. Oyster said

    J-Lifer, thanks for this “Brilliant” story! It’s quite a gem. :-p

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