Franz Liszt, Composer From Beyond The Grave

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Rocks Off is an avid collector of all things bizarre and occult. Some people draw their spiritual beliefs from The Bible, marveling at its miracles and lessons. For us, the holy text was Charles Berlitz's World of Strange Phenomena.

One of our favorite stories from the book was that of psychic Rosemary Brown. Rosemary Brown was seven years old in 1923 when the ghost of Franz Liszt walked into her house to say, "What up, dawg?" He'd been dead for over 30 years at this point, and the seven-year-old Brown didn't know who he was. She just described him as a guy with long hair dressed in black.

For those not in the know, Liszt - who turns 199 today - was the original Jagger back in the day that classical music was all that they had. Women beat each other with their handbags just to catch the man's scarf. The ghost of Liszt told Brown he would return to her one day to make her a famous musician.

Years went by. Brown grew up, married, had children, became a widow, and learned a little piano. Not much, just enough to stumble through some hymns - which is exactly how God likes his hosannas hosanna-ed. In 1964, Liszt came back to visit Brown, and began using her a medium in order to finish some pieces he'd left undone at his death.

Brown said that Liszt's favorite method of composing through her would be the placed his ethereal phalanges over her earthly ones and play through her for a few bars before writing down the music.

Apparently, word got around hell's water cooler - all musicians go to hell, no exceptions - that you could touch a live girl and get some more music out there for royalties, because Liszt started bringing over more composers to work with Brown. Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, and many more apparently took advantage of this by composing new pieces. Beethoven even used Brown to finish his 10th and 11th symphonies.

While there are detractors who state that Brown's transcribed score were just sub-standard re-workings of popular classical tunes, there were a fair amount of music critics who declared the works to be the real eel. There is little doubt that Brown did not have the skill to write what she wrote, as several prominent contemporary composers like Richard Rodney Bennet testified.

The BBC even had Brown compose live in the studio in 1969. Liszt showed up, and the two whipped out a little tune - which Brown unfortunately lacked the skill to play. Another pianist was brought in to give it a whirl, and a Liszt expert confirmed that the style was indeed like that of Liszt.

Rosemary Brown died nine years ago, after having released an album of her transcriptions from beyond the veil. All in all, she kind of got a raw deal. Liszt never delivered on his promise to make her a great musician. She remained a pretty mediocre pianist all her life.

Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.