GORDON RUMSON reads
'Oleana : The Ole Bull Colony' by Paul W Heimel
This excellent book tells a very peculiar tale that combines two quintessential
nineteenth century phenomena : the virtuoso musician and Utopian colonies
Ole Bull died long before recording could have preserved his artistry,
but this Norwegian violinist was renowned for his virtuosity throughout
his life. Of the older school of musicians (rather like Henri Herz and Sigismund
Thalberg), Bull mostly played his own compositions which were designed to
impress the hearers with his dexterity and style. Yet, he must have been
remarkable and kept his skills until late in life.
Thus, the man.
In the nineteenth century numerous, no hundreds, of attempts were made
to establish colonies in America (or elsewhere under the same urge) that
would become Utopias for the dispossessed workers of Europe and even America,
become standards for culture and frequently express in action the ideals
of the philosopher, prophet or guru figure that founded them. Perhaps the
largest and still thriving community is that of the Church of the Latter
Day Saints, the Mormons, who built their communities in one of the most
desolate parts of the American West.
The fertile fields of America, its relative freedom, and the hopelessness
of the situation in Europe, provided a perfect opportunity for such developments.
The attempts ranged from the absurd, to the sane, to the tragic. Some were
destroyed by the insanity of the leader (often of the guru type and prone
to numerous excesses, chiefly sexual). Some were destroyed by circumstance,
others just faded away. Almost all tell the tale of ideals lashed by reality.
Thus the colonies.
Copyright © 21 February 2003
Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada