-fantasy on a theme
(The first entry on Mozart is here)
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
Suprise Symphony by that charlatan,
"Yes, yes. I remember," I remembered, only too
eager to display my musical mnemonics for The
Man: "Dum-dee, dum-dee, dum-dee-dum;
"No. You're singing Twinkle, twinkle, little
C, G, G, A, A, G. Papa'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 my generation.
"Salieri? SALIERI?! Are you
pulling my sachertorte?
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
"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 map.)
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
"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 wig!"