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HPSCHD-L  November 1998

HPSCHD-L November 1998

Subject:

**** Who Killed Classical Music?

From:

robert john utterback <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 Nov 1998 15:52:53 -0500

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (176 lines)

A friend sent me this some time ago.  I saved it, not knowing it might
someday be relevant to the discussion on hpschd-l.  It's a cheap chuckle
...
 
>>|"Classical Music? Forget It, Jake: It's Uptown."
>>|by Kyle Gann
>>|
>>|By the time I got there a crowd had already gathered.
>>|There, in the middle, was the body, stretched out with a
>>|reel's worth of high-grade tape wrapped around its neck,
>>|and still soiled with the muck of the East River. It was a
>>|ghastly scene, but nobody seemed particularly upset; in
>>|fact, several people were smirking. "If it had been united, it
>>|could never have been defeated," somebody chuckled near
>>|me. I looked up; it was Fred Rzewski. Alvin Lucier said
>>|nothing, but cordoned off the body with a long thin wire
>>|that hummed ominously. John Adams pushed his way
>>|through the crowd and grabbed my arm. "This is the work
>>|of Arab terrorists!" he snarled. That was a knee-jek
>>|reaction; he was still bitter about the Klinghoffer episode.
>>|
>>|Classical music was dead. And I didn't need to call the
>>|American Symphony Orchestra League to know that they
>>|were going to want somebody to pin charges on. I needed
>>|answers.
>>|
>>|When I got to my office, there was a livid message on my
>>|machine from Charles Wuorinen. "You know who did it!"
>>|he screamed. "Those damn minimalists! They've been out
>>|to kill classical music for 30 years!" Charlie's kind of a
>>|nutcase, but hell, it was a lead. I popped around
>>|to Steve Reich's apartment. "Sure, I had a fling with
>>|classical music in the '80s," he admitted nervously. "But
>>|ever since The Cave, I've been strictly into electronics." "I
>>|buy your story, Steve," I crooned to calm him,"but the
>>|league's going to want to see proof. You gonna come out to
>>|show them?" "Come out to show them?" he repeated. I saw
>>|he had gone into one of his phases, so I left him there.
>>|
>>|I know Terry Riley was out of the loop, and Phil Glass had
>>|been pretty cozy with classical for the last few years; I
>>|made a mental walk-through of his entire output and
>>|couldn't find a motive. So I paid a visit to the Big Kahuna,
>>|La Monte "Hillbilly" Young. He had an alibi, too. Problem
>>|was, it was six hours long. Classical music died a quick
>>|death; Young couldn't have pulled off a job like that in
>>|under a month.
>>|
>>|I waltzed around to Bob "Wolfman" Ashley's digs. I knew
>>|he hadn't done it-- the guy never touched an orchestra in his
>>|life -- but he was a big man in the underground, and he
>>|seemed to know things other people didn't. When I asked if
>>|he'd heard anything, he didn't even look up from his vodka,
>>|just moaned, "If I were from the big town, I would be calm
>>|and debonair. The big town doesn't let its riffraff out."
>>|That didn't mean anything to me, so I kept mum. When he
>>|saw I wasn't going to leave, he drawled over his shoulder,
>>|"You ever know classical music to give a woman a fair
>>|deal?" I shook my head. "Cherchez la femme," he muttered
>>|bitterly. Then, more slowly, "She was a visitor."
>>|
>>|Ellen Zwilich's landlady suggested I try her at the Pulitzer
>>|Club. After I stiff-armed my way past the bouncer, a blur in
>>|white gloves ran out in a hurry, clucking, "Oh dear, oh
>>|dear! I shall be too late!" I saw enough to recognize David
>>|Del Tredici. Once in the street, he disappeared into a
>>|manhole. I resisted an impulse to follow, but that was
>>|suspicious. When I cornered Zwilich, though, sipping
>>|martinis with Joe "Fluttertongue" Schwantner and Jack
>>|"Jack" Harbison, the trio looked as morose as piano tuners
>>|at a synthesizer trade show. "You think we were
>>|involved?" she laughed sardonically, "That's right, we
>>|bumped off the goose that laid the golden eggs." Elliott
>>|Carter must have gotten wind that I was there, for suddenly
>>|two Columbia gradstudents appeared from behind and gave
>>|me an expenses-paid whirlwind trip into the back alley.
>>|
>>|I dusted my pants off and decided I had barked up the
>>|wrong tree anyway. The Pulitzer gang was high on classical
>>|music's payola list; as long as they kept their yaps shut, it'd
>>|come across with the occasional concerto commission..
>>|The only broad big and outside enough to pull a stunt like
>>|this was Pauline "Ma" Oliveros. Oh sure, she talked peace
>>|and good vibes, but there was something about the way she
>>|squeezed that accordion -- as if she meant it. But this time I
>>|wasn't going direct. I looked up an old connection named
>>|Annea "The Torch" Lockwood. I figured any dame who
>>|started out her career burning pianos wouldn't scruple to
>>|help deep-six an entire genre.
>>|
>>|"It was just another random killing," she insisted when I
>>|tracked her down at a sleazy East Village gallery. "John
>>|Cage is dead, hon," I countered. "Try again." "Look," she
>>|stammered, '"you're going after small game. Classical
>>|music was drowned out, right? You need a louder suspect.
>>|Know a schmo named John Zorn?"
>>|
>>|Zorn had crossed my mind, but I had seen his victims
>>|before: so cut up that you couldn't tell what piece came
>>|from which body. This wasn't his style. I thanked her for
>>|the tip, though, and headed for the Knitting Factory in
>>|search of a joker named Branca. I could hear his electric
>>|guitars as far away as Washington Square. Word on the
>>|street was that he was calling his pieces "symphonies" even
>>|though he didn't use an orchestra. Sounded like a takeover.
>>|He had good reasons for wanting classical music out of the
>>|way. When I got there, an old guy named Nancarrow was
>>|guarding the box office. "Branca may be backstage and he
>>|may not," he stated mechanically, in two tempos at once
>>|somehow.
>>|
>>|As I stepped into the back, the blast of a high-decibel shriek
>>|knocked me against the wall, where I got a blow on the
>>|back of my head that made me hear Stockhausen's Zyklus
>>|and Varese's Ionisation at the same time, with encores.
>>|When I came to, a harpy from hell with cavernous eyes and
>>|sharp claws was leaning over me. I made a quick grab for
>>|my .45 (I never carry a gun but, just for the heck of it I
>>|often make a grab for one), when the demon spoke: "Sorry,
>>|didn't mean to rattle you, sport."
>>|
>>|"Oh, it's you, Diamanda." Nice Greek girl from San Diego.
>>|Had a funny thing about makeup, though, and a voice that
>>|could bounce your eardrums off each other. "Geez, try not
>>|to sneak up on a guy."
>>|
>>|"I'm going to save you a lot of trouble," she said, lighting a
>>|cig by breathing on it. "Nobody here had anything to do
>>|with classical music getting waxed. It was a suicide."
>>|
>>|"Suicide?" I coughed, still caressing my noggin.
>>|
>>|"Think about it," she urged. "Tried to starve itself to death.
>>|A tiny, self-imposed diet of the same German and Russian
>>|food over and over. Cholesterol in the high 600s. Didn't
>>|want to grow. Refused to eat anything new. Kept trying to
>>|pretend the 20th century never happened . Severe
>>|personality disorder. It never established any roots here
>>|anyway, still obsessed with the old country, and acted so
>>|hoity-toity to cover up its insecurity. Suicide was the only
>>|way it could save face."
>>|
>>|"You're sure of that, huh?"
>>|
>>|"Sure I'm sure. I could see it coming. That's why I quit
>>|playing Mozart concerts and started singing Xenakis 15
>>|years ago."
>>|
>>|Something about the way she said it -- in a piercing wail
>>|three octaves above middle C -- made me think that was the
>>|best explanation I was going to get.
>>|
>>|I went back to my office and was greeted by another
>>|blinking light on the machine. It was Susan McClary;
>>|there was no such thing as classical music in the first place,
>>|she claimed, it was just a construct invented by white males
>>|to subjugate women and minorities. "Let her believe that if
>>|it makes her feel better," I thought, clicking her off in
>>|midsentence.
>>|
>>|I poured myself an inch or two of cheap whiskey, parked my loafers on
>>|the desk, and snapped my fingers to a kickass rendition of 4'33" that
>>|the city was playing in the street below.
>>
>
 
Matthew Weber
 
Most men eddy about
Here and there--eat and drink,
Chatter and love and hate,
Gather and squander, are raised
Aloft, are hurl'd in the dust,
Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die.
        Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), "Rugby Chapel"

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