1787 — Christoph Willibald Gluck dies

Most famous for his operas, Gluck was an Austrian who first came to prominence as a composer in Italy. Later, he moved to Paris, where his works came to synthesise elements of the Italian and French operatic styles, invigorating the form. One of the most important elements of his approach was to diminish the importance of the singers in favour of a greater concentration on the actual story being related.

His most famous opera is probably Orfeo ed Euridice, first performed in 1762, which showed early moves in his reformist direction. Later works, such as Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770), were even more innovative. At the time of his death, Gluck had created 35 full-length operas, plus a number of shorter works and ballets. The composer most directly influenced by him was probably Antonio Salieri, but his reach is great – Mozart, Berlioz and Wagner, among others, all cited him as an influence on their work.

Referenced in:

Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

1793 – Mason and Dixon arrive in Philadelphia

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were a pair of English astronomers who were hired by Thomas Penn and Frederick Calvert, respectively the proprietors of Pennsylvania and Maryland, to resolve a boundary dispute between the two colonies in 1763. The two had worked together for two years before that, Dixon serving as Mason’s assistant.

The survey took three years to complete – and the pair remained in America for another two years after that, being admitted to the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge, in 1768, before they left American in the same way they had entered it: via Philadelphia.

Referenced in:

Sailing To Philadelphia — Mark Knopfler

1966 – The first documented sighting of the West Virginia Mothman takes place

On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, West Virginia were out for a pleasant drive. Steve and Mary Mallette and Roger and Linda Scarberry later told police that they saw a large white creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car headlights picked it up. They described it as a large flying man with ten-foot wings following their car.

Unknown to them, five others had sighted the creature three days earlier, but theirs was the first account to make the news, appearing in the Point Pleasant Register the following day. Over the next month, the creature, now called ‘the Mothman’, was sighted several more times, but after the collapse of a nearby bridge and the resulting deaths of 46 people, sightings dried up for a time – a fact that led many to speculate that the Mothman was a harbinger or prophet of the event.

Referenced in:
Sleestak Lightning — Clutch