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The Melancholy Deaths of Edward Gorey's Children

Legendary author-illustrator Edward Gorey -- most famous for animating the timeless intro to PBS' Mystery! -- never had any children of his own, though he drew plenty of them. Delving into his complete works for a project recently, it dawned on me how my impression of this prolific writer had been cemented by my familiarity with just one or two of his books -- like The Gashleycrumb Tinies, a deliciously morbid, alphabetical catalog of 26 children's deaths. As it turns out, this is fairly representative of the fates of children throughout Gorey's work -- they nearly always meet a tragic end. Having gone through most of his books over the weekend, I wanted to share some of Gorey's most striking (and sometimes shocking) panels involving kids -- many of them creepier and more morbid than I had ever given Gorey credit for being.

We'll start off with a classic, from the much-beloved Gasheycrumb Tinies:
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Can you imagine a contemporary cartoon book depicting an axe-murdered child like this? In some ways, our culture has become much more permissive since Gashleycrumb was written in the early 60s; but these days unspeakable things happening to children seems a rarely-crossed taboo. (Also, the fact that Gorey channels a 19th century aesthetic probably allows him to get away with more of this than if his style were modern -- what with the memento mori and general morbidness of the Victorian era, tragically-killed children don't seem so out of place.)

From The Willowdale Handcar, this haunting image:
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The following two are from The Fatal Lozenge, another of Gorey's alphabetical catalogs -- in this case, the object of each panel is the letter that progresses alphabetically ("Orphan" and "Zouave").
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The Hapless Child is the tragic story of a little orphaned girl who runs away from the mistresses at her cruel boarding school, only to be kidnapped and sold to "a brute" who makes her his slave. She escapes, on the brink of death, and is run down and killed in the street -- by a wagon driven by her father, who's back from the war, the rumors of his demise greatly exaggerated.
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These are the first and last panels of The Pious Infant, a strange and morbid little tale:
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The Beastly Baby is the story of the world's fattest, noisiest and most loathsome baby (which perhaps explains, apart from his being gay, why Gorey never had any of his own). His treatment of Beastly is pitiless:
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This is perhaps Gorey's darkest panel, also from The Fatal Lozenge:
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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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