Pianos, Goblin Drums, & the Wizard’s Monster Band Music in 19th-Century Magic Shows
Guest lecture by Jessie Fillerup, AIAS Fellow, Associate Professor Department of Music, University of Richmond, USA
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Magic shows became one of the most popular forms of theatrical entertainment in the nineteenth century. Music was a regular feature of these shows, though its presence has rarely been acknowledged by scholars and historians. This talk will highlight how music functioned in very different ways for two prominent magicians, Professor Anderson and Robert Heller. Both were keenly attuned to the musical trends of their time and incorporated more musical spectacle than many of their conjuring rivals. But while Anderson hewed to the conventional structure of the magic show—conjuring tricks separated by interludes with other performers—Heller gave a brief piano recital himself. Reviews and advertisements describing Heller’s musical performances suggest that his virtuoso pianism functioned much like one of his magical effects.