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Edward Joseph Collins: An American Composer

On September 28, he “Played my ‘Hymn to the Earth’ for one of my colleagues tonight and he didn’t like it. Ho! Hum! A few years ago this would have discouraged me but now I am callous. Some will like it and for the others I shall write other works.”

A few days later, he observed in his journal, “Concentration is possible only in seclusion. If you would think seriously on any subject lock yourself in a room and emerge only for exercise and fresh air. An artist must not combat the world—he must flee it.” He reveals that “Tomorrow I am going to start my symphony.”

On 11 October 1928, he has run into creative trouble. “Started my symphony and found a very noble and expansive theme but it stopped suddenly and I have been groping in vain for a whole week. It reminds me of life in general. We have an initial impulse which is inspiration but then comes emptiness. In the beginning the divine Goddess lures us on with a dazzling promise but then soon she hides herself and we are left blindfolded and alone. What a jade after all!”

Four days later, he entrusts to his journal mounting frustration with the low politics marking the presidential campaign. “I wish to heaven there weren’t any religion in this country. If we only had two good agnostics as candidates this sea of hatred would not now be inundating the land and making beasts out of otherwise harmless humans. I am still convinced that the three great obstacles in the path of progress are royalty, religion, and nationalism.”

On 27 October 1928, Collins bids farewell to his volume, whose final page he has reached—and provides a clear sense of what it has meant to him. “It contains my stray thoughts for the last eight years. I expect to get another one immediately and begin writing in it. My happiest moments were spent in its company even if I was discouraged at times. At least I was true to myself when I was writing in it. I did not hold my tongue because some pedantic person was in the company who would have been shocked at my language.” He continues, “So farewell, dear book! I shall finger your pages now and then and I am sure that you will entertain me in my old age. Maybe some of the ideas you contain will be considered silly by me when I am older. Good! That will mean that I have changed and that I have escaped stagnation.”

On 10 November 1928—his birthday—Collins committed this item to his new volume apropos creative people versus critics. “When the great master Bruckner was being wafted by the genii to the abode of the immortals, a little man stood on the edge of the world and shook his fist at the sublime spectacle. (It was M[r]. Hanslick who has caused Bruckner many unhappy moments in life). The scientist impresses us as truthful because he is indifferent to our support of his theory. In this he differs from the theologian who always aims to convert.”

Beginning in the early twenties, Edward and Frieda Collins had begun an annual August trek to Fish Creek, a picturesque Door County village located on the west shore of the long peninsula that forms the “thumb” of Wisconsin. Their destination was Welcker’s Resort, just a short distance from Green Bay shores, a site now occupied by the White Gull Inn and Whistling Swan.

According to an undated recollection (most likely writ- ten in the late 1980s or early 1990s) by daughter Marianna Collins, “The Thekla [one of the Welcker cottages] was their retreat, a two storied clapboard building with a large porch around the north and west sides. It stood across the street from the Albert Friedmann estate. Later they brought my sister Dorothy and me. I was six months old and was conveyed in a big rattan buggy with the wheels taken off.”


Edward Joseph Collins Project
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Composer Portrait: Joseph Ciardello
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