I knew it was Mozart the moment I saw him.
Who else would be wearing a powdered wig in the
middle of Naples and moping around outside a cinema
where Amadeus was showing?
"Say," I began, "you're Mozart. The
Wolfman! Welcome back! How did you get to
21st-century Naples, only a stone's throw from
famed via San Sebastiano, so-called 'Music Alley,'
a quaint little thoroughfare running from the Church of Santa Chiara
to Piazza Bellini
and the Music
Conservatory, along which are strewn
scores of shoppes, where purveyors ply their
sundry wares of musical interest: pianos, glass
harmoniums, mandolins, records and CDs?”
"Beats the schnitzel out of me," he pouted.
It was, indeed, the very same unhappy little lower
lip that the one-time wunderkind had so
often unrolled from within the safe and sovereign
pale of Empress Maria Theresa's lap. "The last
thing I remember, I was sitting in the
Musikakademie in Vienna listening to the Surprise
Symphony by that charlatan, Haydn." "Yes, yes. I remember," I remembered, only
too eager to display my musical mnemonics for The
Man: "Dum-dee, dum-dee, dum-dee-dum; dee-dee
"No. You're remembering Twinkle, Twinkle,
Little Star —C, C, G, G, A, A, G. Papa Haydn's
version is C, C, E, E, G, G, E. But you've given me an
idea. Anyway, I think it must have been that last BAM!
that got me. Suddenly, I'm down here, as Goethe, that
phony, will say a few years from now, in '...the
land where the lemons bloom,' sitting in a darkened
room watching flashing camera obscura
pictures of myself acting like a real schlemiel.
Ach! Am I depressed. I thought I won an
award or something for this," he said, throwing a
backward glance over his shoulder at the cinema.
Unfortunately, the glance missed and sailed into and
cracked the large plate-glass window of the adjacent
"It…it…seems that the award in the film went
to…to…Salieri," I mumbled in archetypal apology for
"Salieri? SALIERI?! Are
you pulling mysachertorte? Why that
tone-deaf hack wouldn't know a B-flat if it bit
him! Now I'm really depressed.
Why don't you show me this 'music alley' you
mentioned? You know, pianos, glass harmoniums,
records, CDs. I wrote a little piece for glass
harmonium once. By the way, what are records and
CDs?" "Plastic grooves and digital encodings that
will preserve your music forever." I said.
"Plastic and digital I don't know from. But
posterity — I think I like it." And so
saying, we both capered away from Piazza Dante and
through Port'Alba, crossing that fabled boundary
that separates C-5 from D-5 on Map 18 of the
ancient and yellow'd pages of the telephone
company's Guide to Naples. Flagrantly
quaffing a few flagons, we then turned south and
set off down Music Alley. (The street running
between #'s 4 & 43 on this
Ten minutes later, we were both depressed. We had
found but one piano and no glass harmoniums.
Instead, we had stumbled upon the mother lode of
electronic simulators, polyphonic parametric
equalizers, multi-effect sequencers and Musical
Instrument Digital Interfaces.
"I think maybe you have not been here in a
while," says Wolfie.
"Boy, ain't that the sooth. No wonder there's an
energy crisis. It's all going into music
synthesis." "But, hold!" he held. "Harken!" Our
earbrows trembled in a fit of collective harkening
at the sounds issuing forth from a shop that
Wolfie had stopped to sulk in front of. "That's my Symphony Number 25! Or is it 26? I
always get them mixed up. Whatever. But what's
that terrible caterwauling?! Someone is singing
words to my music! Where's my lawyer?!"
We hurried into the shop and found ourselves
amidst all the plastic and metal paraphernalia of
modern music where a young man was rapping his own
original lyrics to the immortal music of Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart as he accompanied himself on a
keyboard synthesizer. The music was familiar, of
course, but the lyrics went: "May the anthrax
bacillus rot our race's seed forever, for that's
sure to boost my Genentech stock. Oh, yeah!"
At this, Mozart went into a frenzy. I tried to go
into one, too, but someone had triple-parked in
front of it, so I just strolled away, leaving our
time-traveler to his fate. As I left, he was
giving his first, last and only music lesson in
this century — to that same kid in the three-piece
suit with the safety-pin and chain through his
"Look," Mozart was
explaining, "it goes like this:'Twinkle,
twinkle, little star; dee-dee dum-dum dummmm, BAM!
And when you get to the BAM!, I want you to
crank this baby up as loud as she'll go, 'cause
I'm gettin' outa here. Yeah, you can have the