Forty-Nine

CLH1.CA.Of.1009.Schoenberg4.O.1Photograph: L.A. Times

Arnold Schönberg was well-known for being triskaidekaphobic, and his might be the most compelling “Friday the 13th” story of them all. The following excerpt is from the vignette “Forty-Nine” from Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which is based on Gould’s 1956 article in Week End magazine titled “Death in the Afternoon”. Here, Gould is on the phone with his cousin, Jessie Greig:

“Remember [Schönberg] was obsessed with numerology, numbers and so forth. So much so that when he turned 65 he was terrified that he was going to die because his age was divisible by 13. So he consulted an astrologer friend who assured him that he would survive until the next time the numbers conspired against him. Well great, he thought, another 13 years, I’ll be fine until I am 78.

Eleven years later however, when he was 76, the astrologer wrote back to warn him that it’s not only numbers that are divisible by 13 that he should watch out for, but also those whose digits add up to 13; for example, 76. Needless to say he was terrified, but not for long. Three months later he died, [Friday] July 13th, 1951.

I can’t help it, I’m 49 tomorrow and Schönberg’s still talking to me…”

It’s worth noting that Schönberg was also born on the 13th (of September), though it was a Sunday.

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