April 24, 2006

Two Thoughts while working a slow Fountain Shift

1) In this season of Mozart’s 250th birthday, which has seen the Classical world berated by his music & a sappy adoration of his life & work, I would like to offer a criticism. I have always loved the last movement of the Jupiter symphony (No. 41 in C Major, K. 551), which is mostly based on a beautiful four-note motif. (Madame Jean Wentworth, Mozart lover extraordinaire at Sarah Lawrence College, enjoyed to point out that the same four notes are figured prominently in the horn part of the second moment of his first symphony.) I have put this movement on a mix CD in honor of the 250th birthday, which has an interesting variety of his music from different genres & phases of his career. So after refreshing myself with some of this later stuff, it began to strike me as obnoxious how complex some of the development was. The virtuosic counterpoint goes on & on; the keys drift majestically to dramatic minors & triumphant returns. And of course, this complex development is what most music scholars love about his music, pushing the classical style to an involved maturity. And the dark turns in a C major symphony are what all those Romantics ate up. But this week it has been striking me as a bit much. I’m not saying I still don’t prefer this music to anything by Brahms. But as Bob Dylan said, “I don’t care how many letters they sent, morning came & morning went.”

2) In England, you can always pay for a pint of beer with change in your pocket. The two pound coin, about what a normal beer costs, is worth about four-and-a-half dollars. You often have several of these in your pocket. In the U.S., one can take out one's wallet at a bar up to ten or fifteen times. I just spent a half hour counting the register at the Fountain Store here, & most of that was adding puny pennies & dimes. Meanwhile, the bills are all the same size & have dumb politicians on them. In England, they have thinkers & artists like Elgar, Darwin, & the Earl of Rochester. Of course, this is probably to make up for the mandatory image of the Queen. My point is, what the hell is going on with America’s currency. They advertise in Times Square for the new Twenty (a safe assumption that it will be a commercial success), but they can’t manage to reform it in any meaningful way, except fancier colors. Our coins are worth nothing. I suppose that the treasury actually makes money off of all the lost or discarded pennies, which must add up to a plentiful sum. When I was spending the night at the nuclear accelerator under Cornell University, I was looking at coins under their microscope, & have you ever noticed that you can actually see Lincoln in the center of the Lincoln Monument on the back of the penny. I also spent a portion of the evening sticking things in liquid nitrogen. Coke cans crackle & shatter in quite the dramatic fashion.

1 comment:

Ernest said...

"a bit much"

lol. How do you even quantify that? That is, when is it just a tad bit too much or a tad bit too little, and when is it just right?

tsk, tsk. Questioning the art of Mozart? It's been 250 years and people still rave about the coda. If anything, it isn't ENOUGH. Of course, only God himself could keep up that gargantuan five-part counterpoint going for longer than the mere ~35 seconds that Mozart did.