The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are one of my favorite secret Baltimore treasures: They’re a series of domestic dollhouse dioramas from the 1930s, complete with tiny upholstered furniture and other adorable details. And each dollhouse includes a dead body, as well as some hidden clues as to whether the death was murder, accident, or natural causes. (Read more about the Nutshell Studies here.) I’m not the only one to have been fascinated by the tiny death scenes; over the years, everyone from David Byrne to John Waters has paid the Nutshells a visit. And now a Peabody professor has created a concerto that takes the Nutshell studies as its inspiration.
Composer David Smooke told the Hopkins Hub that he has long been inspired by Baltimore’s associations with both criminality and scientific community; the Nutshell Studies, which were used as forensic training tools, embody both. He composed the piece with the toy piano in mind, to invoke a sense of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, if you’re reading this now, you’ve missed the performance of Smooke’s concerto (it was performed last night). But a video of the event should be up on Johns Hopkins’ Ustream account pretty soon.
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