I’ve known Cullen for years. He is one of the head bartenders at Elysium in down town Austin. I spotted his knuckle tattoos recently and asked about them. He said that they were his first tattoos and he got them when he was drunk.
When I asked what they meant to him I got a lecture on the history of the Dies Irae, which as it turns out is one of the four hymns kept by the Catholic church during the reformation. It is immensely influential in all of classical music and beyond. It is quoted in pieces by Mozart, Stravinsky and many others.
So I asked him again, “But why did you choose to get DIES IRAE?” and he replied, “Because people make assumptions about the character of a person with knuckle tattoos. I like to highlight the dichotomy between high culture and presumed low culture. If the DIES IRAE was good enough for Mozart, it’s good enough for me.”