Walter Winston

Famous Composer and Occult Investigator

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Walter Winston was born Walther Wahnstein in Bonn, Germany. He emigrated to America in 1905 and changed his name around the start of World War I.

Winston was a composer of both popular and classical music. His popular music includes several successful silent film scores and some popular “Tin Pan Alley” type standards. His classical music was far more avant garde; he occupies a place somewhere between Hindemith and the Second Viennese School. The contrast between that work and the lush, late-Romantic sound of his film scores is somewhat startling.

This contrast can be somewhat explained by looking at his education as a composer. Up until his early 20s, Winston composed in a heavy, post-Wagnerian mode not unlike early Arnold Schoenberg. While attending graduate school in Geneva, however, he had a powerful experience that he described to his closest friends as “mystical”, “occult”, and “other-worldly.” This vision changed his musical style overnight into the atonal mode he is best known for. According to Winston, this was an attempt to recapture the sounds he heard during his vision. His most ambitious work in this vein was his unfinished cello concerto #2, known by its dedication: For Erich Z.

Winston’s interest in the occult brought him in contact with Dr. Franklin C. Kullman, a respected parapsychologist. Their studies together convinced them that a cult was working in Los Angeles. His companions and he attacked the cult, leading to the tragic so-called “Valley Massacre” of January 13, 1926.

Winston was a shattered man after that incident, barely composing any music. He died in 1936, a few years after the death of his wife, Karen Edelmann. He is survived by Janet Rogers, his adult daughter.

Walter Winston

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