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Book talk, signing planned for 'Pulling Strings,' story of Melville Clark and historic Clark Music Co.

May 24, 2010

SU News Services

Linda Pembroke Kaiser will give a talk about her book "Pulling Strings: The Legacy of Melville A. Clark" on Wednesday, June 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse. She will also sign copies of the book.

In "Pulling Strings" (Syracuse University Press, 2010), Kaiser explores the extraordinary career of Melville A. Clark (1883-1953), a Syracuse musician, inventor, entrepreneur, community leader and collector whose colorful story is largely unknown.

Beginning with an account of Clark's musical family, Kaiser chronicles the founding in 1859 of the Clark Music Co., of which Melville Clark became president in 1919. Originally just a tinker's shed, the business ultimately moved into a six-story building in the center of Syracuse. The music company celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2010. Clark also combined his talents as a gifted musician and astute entrepreneur to start the first Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

Kaiser recounts the development of the Clark Irish harp, the first portable harp manufactured in the United States, which could easily play accidentals. Other Clark inventions include the first nylon strings for instruments. In addition, Clark designed balloons that the British used in 1918 to drop more than 1.25 million pamphlets over Germany. Clark's story unfolds in fascinating detail: a musical encounter with President Woodrow Wilson, entertaining President Franklin Roosevelt, visiting Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a music box, and the journey of a Clark Irish harp to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd.

Lavishly illustrated, "Pulling Strings" not only uncovers the life of a musical genius but also sheds light on a forgotten chapter in Syracuse history.

Kaiser is a musician who performs on the harp, piano and guitar. She has published articles in the International Folk Harp Journal and has published and recorded an album of harp music, "Lullabies for Earth Children."

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