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The weirdest reason ever for a concert delay

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  December 5, 2013 11:47 AM

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It's not uncommon for concerts to be postponed at the last minute: bad weather, electrical failures, the performer "out sick" (recovering from a bender)...they're all reasons we might expect the show not to go on as scheduled. But to cancel a concert because a 70-year-old, 1000-pound bomb was discovered near the performance site? That doesn't happen every day.

But it did happen in October to Tufts lecturer Paul Lehrman. On October 24, Lehrman was scheduled to premiere a piece, co-written with pianist Guy Livingston, at the SinusTon Festival for Electronic Music in Magdeburg, Germany (Lehrman was home in the United States at the time of the performance, which was given by Livingston). The performance featured a piano and a stage-full of reverberating loudspeakers, called an "acousmonium," which made it a particularly bad fit with a discovery made earlier that day at a construction site in the center of the city: a 1000-pound, unexploded American bomb that had been dropped during World War II.

Surprisingly, such discoveries are not actually rare in Germany, where it's estimated that thousands of unexploded Allied bombs lie buried in the ground. In this case, it took ordnance experts about an hour to diffuse the bomb, and Lehrman's performance took place three days later.

Also, if you're curious what an acousmonium is, and want to know why it might be a bad idea to unleash one within range of a live, creaky old bomb, watch this resounding performance from a few years back. (Of course, fear that Lehrman's performance would set off the bomb is not actually why the concert was delayed.)

Correction 12/6: The first version of this post contained two inaccuracies. It cited the weight the bomb as 500 pounds when in fact it was 1000 pounds, and said that Paul Lehrman was in Germany at the time the bomb was discovered. Lehrman was actually home in the United States, frantically watching the progress of the bomb removal on his collaborator Guy Livingston's Facebook page.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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