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main index    © Jeff Matthews    entry Jun 2013

Mozart Redux—Eine Kleine Nichtmusik
  -fantasy on a theme                         (The first entry on Mozart is here)
                     

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 Suprise 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 dum-dum-dummm, BAM!"

"No. You're singing Twinkle, twinkle, little star
C, 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 hardware store.

"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 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 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 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 nose.

"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!"



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