Lillian Mountweazel, according to the New Columbia Encyclopedia of 1975, was a professional fountain designer and mailbox photographer, born in “Bangs, Ohio,” who was killed in an explosion while on assignment with Combustibles magazine. The truth is that no such person existed. The NCE’s editors invented Mountweazel as a copyright trap: they could check other encyclopedias for Ms. Mountweazel, and if anyone listed her, they could be proven guilty of plagiarism. A similar concept is at play in atlases’ occasional practice of “paper towns,” the inclusion of fictional places in commercial maps.
When pianist/composer Luke Gullickson learned about paper towns he became fascinated with apocryphal places: “phantom islands” which were charted, sometimes multiple times, only to be later “undiscovered” or proven not to exist; sunken continents, cities lost to floods, civilizations wholly invented by outsider cartographers.
Nine of these places became jumping-off points for cryptogeographical piano music. The meters shift back and forth continuously, sometimes by a single sixteenth note, and the piano resonance sings behind the complex rhythms. The music was arranged and recorded by Gullickson with two enigmatic collaborators, the acclaimed Norwegian improvisers Dávid Iapetos (bass) and Soren Isi (drums). The trio commissioned illustrator Shawn Cheng for a set of drawings of these beautiful fictional locales, as well as a cover image featuring Ms. Mountweazel herself, aboard a sailing ship, camera in hand, ready for the exploration.