British Library Artist in Residence 2012

Focus all your attention on me and only me. I am researching hypnotism at the British Library as part of their inaugural Artist in Residence scheme. I will be recording my adventures here. Take a deep breath and count down slowly from ten.....
I am so excited!!!!  Wonder Woman was my obsession as a child.  After Abba there was nothing else for me.  I even delayed learning to swim because the swimming lessons were on the same night as Wonder Woman on the telly and in those days if you missed it, you missed it.  My swimming is still a little weak but you know what, people.  I’d do the same again.
And now I learn that in the original 1940s cartoons WW had a rival of a hypnotist called Hypnota who - get this - dressed as a male stage hypnotist in order to exert evilness over our favourite Amazonian heroine.  Hypnotism, cross dressing, the stage, Wonder Woman!  My cup is runnething over.

I am so excited!!!!  Wonder Woman was my obsession as a child.  After Abba there was nothing else for me.  I even delayed learning to swim because the swimming lessons were on the same night as Wonder Woman on the telly and in those days if you missed it, you missed it.  My swimming is still a little weak but you know what, people.  I’d do the same again.

And now I learn that in the original 1940s cartoons WW had a rival of a hypnotist called Hypnota who - get this - dressed as a male stage hypnotist in order to exert evilness over our favourite Amazonian heroine.  Hypnotism, cross dressing, the stage, Wonder Woman!  My cup is runnething over.

Filmed interview at the British Library

There is an interview with me in my guise as Artist in Residence at the British Library made by Creative Cowboy Films.  They are an Australian company run by two lovely creative people Andrea and Peter Hylands.  I thoroughly recommend exploring their work.

This is the first of my songs I have created for the Artist In Residency project.  I had naively assumed that in the Victorian period stage hypnotists would have introduced their acts with a song, or ended with a sing-a-long.  Apparently not. So I have decided to create the Singing Hypnotist.  Instead of using a complex machine to hypnotise people, or a dog or a rabbit, the Singing Hypnotist uses a song, of course.  And this is the song.  It’s called This Song Will Hypnotise You.

This is one of the songs from my Show & Tell in May.  It is an old music hall number about hypnotism.  Svengali was a character from the du Maurier novel Trilby.  He became a byword for the evil hypnotist.  Sing a long now!

Thanks…

… to everyone who came to the show and tell at the British Library today.  I will be posting some of the images and the songs up here shortly.  And hopefully some clips so those of you who didn’t come can also get to see.

Harry Von Tilzer

For any of you who were interested in the mention of the song Svengali in Disguise which was written by Harry Von Tilzer, a titbit of gossip from Michael Kilkarriff is that Mr Von Tilzer was Judy Garland’s Uncle.  Showbiz!!!

More Music Hall Songs about Hypnosis

I spent a lot of time in the Rare Books and Music room.  It’s weird looking at sheet music in a quiet reading room, especially the scores for popular songs.  The desire to hum the tune is intense and not a good idea.  Also there are so many Music Hall songs with the most appallingly racist titles and covers to match and it never seems a good moment to ponder over something with the word Coon in a florid font.

But success!  I have found two interesting songs about hypnosis.  Probably not sung by hypnotists (as Michael Kilgarriff suggests, they didn’t seem to cross over - it’s only somebody like me that would weaken the validity of both endeavours by attempting to sing and hypnotise), but comic songs about hypnotism none the less

They are It Must have Been Svengali in Disguise.  This is about various people who are so good at getting their way that the chorus suggests they must have hypnotised those around them, and they were so effective that they must be the most notorious hypnotist/mesmerist Svengali

My favourite was sung by Charles Gardener and is called How I Mesmerise ‘Em.  This tells the story of a fella who is trained as a hypnotist and everyone wants to know how he does it.  Turns out he whacks his subjects over the head with a large stick!  Ba-doom!  Good gag.

Expect to hear both at my show and tell.

I have been in contact with the very wonderful Michael Kilgarriff (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Kilgarriff) who as well as being an authority on Music Hall and Variety is a very nice fella.  I was asking him about songs that were sung by stage hypnotists.  He replied that the Singing Hypnotist was a very rare beast in the archives - possibly because they didn’t exist.  He did mention a song from 1912 called That Hypnotizing Man, but was worried it was never published.  And do you know what?   It’s on Youtube.  Delightful!  It’s made me very happy.  Signing off now, your own, your very own, hypnotising man.

More about the Writers and Scholars Room at the Library.  It’s full of glorious pictures from Colonial Times.  I’m pretty sure everything was from the old East India Company but that might be my brain over-romanticising again.  The thing that is for certain is that the desks are WILD.  They are a riot of fantastical, colonial mish-mash weirdness in wood.  I have been warned several times that they are part of the British Library collection and mustn’t be mistreated in any way.  This is not very likely.  They scare me.

More about the Writers and Scholars Room at the Library.  It’s full of glorious pictures from Colonial Times.  I’m pretty sure everything was from the old East India Company but that might be my brain over-romanticising again.  The thing that is for certain is that the desks are WILD.  They are a riot of fantastical, colonial mish-mash weirdness in wood.  I have been warned several times that they are part of the British Library collection and mustn’t be mistreated in any way.  This is not very likely.  They scare me.

Piano rehearsal in the Writers and Scholars Room at the British Library.  I’m not sure this room has thrilled to the sound of music much.  The Philatelists next door don’t seem to be clapping along. I always like being in here and feel lucky to have been invited to use it.  I’m writing a new little song about the final appearance on the public record of the mesmerist Annie De Montford who I blogged about last week.  She had a very busy career but is now completely forgotten, apart from a couple of posters in the Evanion Collection here at the British Library and some mentions in The Era newspaper.  And now in a poignant little sentimental song.

Piano rehearsal in the Writers and Scholars Room at the British Library.  I’m not sure this room has thrilled to the sound of music much.  The Philatelists next door don’t seem to be clapping along. I always like being in here and feel lucky to have been invited to use it.  I’m writing a new little song about the final appearance on the public record of the mesmerist Annie De Montford who I blogged about last week.  She had a very busy career but is now completely forgotten, apart from a couple of posters in the Evanion Collection here at the British Library and some mentions in The Era newspaper.  And now in a poignant little sentimental song.