From a Distance, a Mourning: László Ipacs

Yesterday László Ipacs, one of the founding members of the legendary Vágtázó Halottkémek (Galloping Coroners) died at the age of 65. I never heard them play in concert. I only began listening to them and reading about them last February—and slowly found my way to recordings that include the original lineup. One of these is the exhilarating album A Halál móresre tanítása from 1988. If I put that together with descriptions of their live shows, I can start to imagine what it might have been like to be at one of their concerts during the Soviet era, when no such thing was allowed and no one else was making music like this.

The founding guitarist, Sándor Czakó, is the father of Cz.K. Sebő; Platon Karataev sometimes covers “Halló mindenség.” That, along with “Élő Világegyetem,” “Nincs más megoldás” and “Hunok csatája” are some of my favorites so far, but there’s lots more to hear.)

The loss to Hungary is profound. The Galloping Coroners did what no one else had done before and no one to my knowledge has done since. All three founding members were physicists and musicians. They had no fear, at least no visible fear. They took to the stage (starting in 1975, I think) and played ecstatically until the police broke the concerts up. Clubs that allowed them to play would get fined. Clubs invited them anyway. According to legend, they were used to playing extremely short shows—because they would always get halted by the authorities—but one night, no one interrupted them, and they suddenly had to improvise. The resulting concert ended up influencing their music to come.

It wasn’t just their daring onstage that made them stand out (in my understanding), but their defiance of typical divisions between academic and popular pursuits, between classical, punk, and other music, and between who knows what else.

The band went through lineup changes over the years, but it could never have existed without the original members, whose music still offers hope of a beautiful, soulful outspokenness. I am sorry that one of them is gone.

Photo courtesy of

I made some additions to this piece after posting it.

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  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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