“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
In the spring of 2012, the Capitol Hill Times had the opportunity to sit down with one of Seattle’s most talented street musicians, the violinist Martha Louise Weiss. We were saddened to find out that Weiss passed away on Oct. 8 at Harborview Medical Center. She was taken off life support after collapsing on Sept. 29 and failing to regain consciousness following a long period without oxygen. She was 44 years old.
Martha Weiss was the daughter of Martin Weiss and Cecila Weiss-Nicks. She came from a highly musical family that worked closely with the likes of Shinichi Suzuki, the renowned violinist and music education theorist. Martha showed great promise in her time with the Seattle University Symphony and the Vancouver Academy of Music.
Rather than remain in the formal confines of the symphony system, Martha Weiss became an international traveler with a taste for more unusual company. She played on the vibrant streets of Amsterdam with the wandering Scottish troupe, Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra. Weiss’s travels took her to ten countries where she honed her craft of bluesy, experimental string arrangements.
Throughout her life, Martha Weiss struggled with acute bipolar disorder and substance addiction. She was intermittently homeless, living in and out of shelters from downtown, to Capitol Hill and Lake City. In her final year, Weiss dedicated a significant portion of her time and talent to finding other performers and even contributing to charity events. Most notably and memorably, she played at the candlelight vigil in Pioneer Square for Nicole Westbrook, a 21-year-old woman who was killed in a drive-by shooting on April 22.
Weiss’s MySpace page is still up and running. Called “Martha’s Landfill,” it is one of several places currently preserving her sound online. One track, “Domestic Violins,” is among the most raw of her recordings, capturing the jagged wails that sometimes drew crowds in Capitol Hill and other times pushed them away in Lake City.
Martha Louise Weiss is survived by her father, Martin, her mother, Cecilia, and her brother, Matt. There will be a memorial service on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m., hosted by the Seattle Mennonite Church in Lake City. The service will include an open mic portion for anyone who wishes to share words or songs in Martha’s honor.