Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will O' the Wisp

In Letters of Ayn Rand, there is a letter from Rand to rock-n-roller Duane Eddy thanking him for a recording of a song called "WiII O' the Wisp." Many people wondered about this song; was it an Eddy song? Did Rand reaIIy Iike rock music? Was she rockin' her robin and doin' the twist?
June 1, 1967

Dear Mr. Eddy,

Thank you -- enormously -- for the record of "Will O' the Wisp" which you
sent me.

The record is wonderful. The "noise" you mention is so slight that I am
not aware of it when I listen to the music. I must te
II you that no present
can give me a thri
II today, only my kind of music can and does. You have
given me a powerfu
I source of my personal "benevolent universe." No, it is
not a "sma
II thing," it means a great deaI to me -- and I appreciate it

Well, it's not a rock song by the "rebel rouser." Nor is it the version by Leon Russell. It's one of Rand's "tiddlywink songs." The composer was Herbert Kuster, and the original title was "Irrlichter." It does appear, incidentally, in the closing credits in the documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life.

Now, with that chord resolved, I wonder how those two knew each other? There is actually another, hidden, arcane reference to Eddy and "Will O' The Wisp" in the annals of Rand-om...In Peter Mayhew's Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living lies an essay by Michael Berliner on the use of music in said novel. In speculating on the inspiration for the fictional "Song of Broken Glass," Berliner reports that Duane Eddy reported that Miss Rand reported that "Will O' the Wisp" was the song. But Berliner claims that "that would have to have been a later realization, since [that song] wasn't copyrighted (as "Irrlicht") until 1934, after We The Living was written."
(He also reports that Rand later answered in a future Q&A that the song wasn't based on any one example.)

Betcha didn't know all that. Now you're ready for a night of Quizzo.

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