They died from… what?

They died from... what? Display at the Music and Dance Library

You wouldn’t normally think that musicians and composers were more likely to die in unusual ways than anyone else, but sometimes they do. There is even a branch of musicology devoted to the morbidity and mortality of musicians. Perhaps the strangest instance was composer Jean Baptiste-Lully (1687) who accidentally stabbed himself while conducting and the wound turned septic and gangrenous.

In honour of Friday the 13th this month the Music and Dance Library has a display of books and music relating to musicians who have died of sepsis, accidental death, addiction, overdose, or murder.

Our collection also includes a number of works by convicted murderers. This includes Auckland based composer and conductor Eric Mareo. Mareo was a well-known and popular figure in Auckland when he was arrested for killing his wife Thelma (who was also one of dancer Freda Stark’s lovers) in 1935 with an overdose of veronal.

Eric Mareo's score on display at the Music and Dance Library

Eric Mareo’s score on display at the Music and Dance Library. Click to view full image.

The library has a couple of his works, including an original manuscript of his Violin Sonata, written under the pseudonym of Eric Curtis. The score appeared in a box of donations to the Music and Dance Library, and as the composer’s name was unfamiliar to both Music Librarian Phillippa McKeown-Green and music metadata librarian Margo Knightbridge, prompted an investigation of the score. After some research into the composition style, and Mareo’s history and activities, and use of pseudonyms, they concluded that it was indeed by the flamboyant composer.

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