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Stuart R. Kaplan & the Fool
Stuart R. Kaplan and his favorite tarot card, The Fool, from the Rider-Waite Tarot, with artwork by Pamela Colman Smith, directed by A.E. Waite

The short music work here was composed by Bryan Crumpler as a tribute to Stuart R. Kaplan, founder of U.S. Games Systems, publisher of tarot and playing cards and books, and an offering to his friends and family. Stuart passed away on February 9, 2021. Bryan magically captured Stuart’s spirit with this composition. The whimsy, the unexpected ventures, the astute businessman and the free spirit, the grandiose and the goofy — it’s all there.

One of my first jobs in publishing was for Stuart R. Kaplan, whose company was then located in Manhattan. It was a dream job. I had grown fascinated with tarot in college, and I was one of the lucky few, I suppose, able to “use” their degree in English. I continued to work for Stuart as a freelancer after I moved to Virginia.

It was a huge privilege to work with Stuart’s incredible card and book collection, to help bring innovative tarot decks (by the dozen) to life, and to take part in the audacious project that is The Encyclopedia of Tarot. It was an even greater privilege to work with Stuart himself. He gave me charge of each project that came my way. When I made a mistake, he corrected me in a calm, steady manner. I can’t help but think he’s now The Fool, as portrayed in his favorite tarot deck by Pamela Colman Smith, stepping confidently into a new cosmic venture. Stuart always seemed larger than life to me, yet I knew only a few facets of him. For more on his jam-packed life, see his obituary.

About Bryan and the composition: Bryan A. Crumpler is a world-renowned musician & composer who specializes in writing musical cryptograms. His robust 26-letter system transcribes text into palatable melodies such as this one, which converts Stuart R. Kaplan’s name directly into music. “The Fool – Stuart R. Kaplan” is part of Bryan’s COVID Music Memorial. Bryan has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, which is where I first met his work. My conversation with him, at The Brooklyn Rail, is here. Listen to more of Bryan’s music here.

Music used with permission of the composer. Copyright © 2021 by Bryan A. Crumpler, Ahmadeus Beaux-Arts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Website:


  1. St*Blue

    Thanks for sharing this, fascinating. I love playing cards of all kinds and I appreciate Mr. Kaplan’s documentation. You gave me two of his Big Books that you worked on, Jean, and I still have them, permanent members of my dwindling library~ and I love the music and the nature of that “26-letter system.”

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