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"Eccentric" was a word frequently employed that never did her justice. Dika Newlin was way too weird for that. She was a diminutive, brilliant, wild, often fire-haired Richmond legend.
A piano prodigy from an early age, Newlin became a protégé of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, who invented the 12-tone method of composition. As a punk performance artist in her later years, Newlin gleefully latched on to a dissonant, yowling style. She was variously a music professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, a music critic for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, an actor in several low-budget horror movies and a beloved Fan presence.
Newlin, 82, died July 22. If you never got to meet her, you still can experience her creative pursuits. We can't say if you'll enjoy it all, but hey, it's Dika.
The curious can listen to samples of Newlin's songs on the Web site of her friend and collaborator, Michael D. Moore, www.moorevideoandmusic.com. There you'll find the dirge-like "Murder City," written about Richmond; the follow-up "Murder Kitty," sung entirely in meows; and copies of Newlin's CDs, including "Call Me Dika! 20 Greatest Hits Live."
VCU's James Branch Cabell Library has one phonograph record featuring Newlin. A 1948 piano performance of hers is included on "Septet in Seven Movements," published in 1963.
The Richmond Public Library has two of Newlin's books in its collection. "Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections 1938-76" details Newlin's experiences as the overbearing composer's student. "Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg" examines the connections between the composers.
Neither the VCU library nor Video Fan, the city's best-known purveyor of unusual movies, carries Newlin's horror movies. They can, however, be found on Moore's Web site. Her best-known film is "Dika: Murder City," a 1995 music-video documentary, which includes a short by GWAR. Newlin stars in "Afterbirth/Alien Baby" and plays a baby-food poisoner in 1998 horror flick "Creep." She composed the score for "Mark of the Devil 666: The Moralist." SClick here for more News and Features