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Thursday, February 24, 2005


It ain't easy being the opera queen of the Xenoverse, y'know? Your so-called "family", your erstwhile "friends" - they mock; they scowl; they whinge; about the screeching, about the crashing, about the unholy noise? Used to be that a blast of Götterdämmerung or Walküre or Rosenkavalier could chase the kiddies running off to bed where every other incitement failed? No longer: teens are made of grimmer stuff. Nowadays they scowl, they threaten, they skulk around till late? Nowadays, nowatimes, the world still spins, but on a different axis: where youth play parent, and rant about the twisted godless music of their elders. I'm the one supposed to be like that? Right? Maybe I figured it all wrong from the start? Maybe it never was to be my day one day? Maybe it is my fate to absorb abuse from every side in every time for musical lifestyle choices made? As though music were ever a choice. Listen: either your soul will sing in resonance or it will not. The only choice you have is whether to deny.
Si, pel ciel marmoreo giuro!Yes, I swear by the marble heaven!
Per le attortie folgori!by the forked lightning!
Per la Morte e per l'oscuro mar sterminator!By death and by the dark destroying sea
D'ira e d'impeto tremendo presto fiaLet this hand which I raise and
che sfolgoristretch forth
questa man ch'io levo e stendosoon blaze in wild transport of rage!

Who was it - Duke Ellington? Said that there are only two kinds of music: good music, and the other kind? This should be the basis of a music collection - that, and the element of surprise. There comes a point in your life where you just don't need to be cool any more; where you no longer care what your friends think of you; when you don't need to pretend you like Uriah Heep or The Ramones just because they do? You are free to cast all prejudice aside every now and then, and pick an album for its cover or its strangeness. My own collection makes-up in breadth what it lacks in length. It isn't all opera, or classical, or Zeppelin, or Floyd, by any means. It may be true that I detest Country music, or non-trad Jazz, both with passion: yet they are numbered here. Worse yet, I have found room for some small part of the hated eighties, where rock met its end and I grew fogey long before my time? Here be Pistols, Clash and Pogues; Talking Heads and Rush - oh, and AC-DC; but nothing more. Everything else from that time and the horrorshow nineties that followed it - U2's, Duran-Durans, Depeche Modes, Smiths? Billy f*ckin Bragg? Longhaired metal Nugents, Saxons, Scorpions, Bon Jovies, Metallicas, Iron Maidens, Aerosmiths - all of that falls under "other", though I wish to hell it were "bus".

The best that can be said of the eighties and the nineties is that they threw me out, flung me headlong into classical music to lick my wounds. Compare the numbing mindless repetition of your Moby to the infinite variation of my Beethoven, who wrote the final movement to his 3rd Symphony using just four notes. I win. Doesn't mean I need to like all of classical music, or all of opera - I really do not like the weepy dribbly Italian stuff - but even the worst snivels of La Bohème are better than Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. It may indeed take Mimi seventeen minutes of flouncing to die in Traviata, but at least she does? Axel never did.
Non v'alzate ancor!Do not rise yet!
Testimon è il Sol ch'io miro,Witness is the sun that I behold,
che m'irradia e inanimathat shines on me and animates
l'ampia terra e il vasto spirothe broad earth and the vast soul
del Creato inter,of all Creation,
che ad Otello io sacro ardenti,witness that to Othello I solemnly
core, braccio ed animadedicate heart, hand, and soul
s'anco ad opere cruentiif he will also arm his will
s'armi il suo voler!for the bloody work!

Screw cool. You know they do not let me play CD's out loud, my family, my friends, such is their contempt? Rather they taunt me with their own, in the home and in the car, as tyrants will. All the way to Vegas and back, or anywhere else and back. I'll leave you to guess what they play, what I have to put up with?

I can take it.

They hate my CD's, they say, and yet they borrow them. Those kids, they lose them, trash them, bury them under beds and under piles of filthy teenage socks. Sneakily, never asking, case they're found out being uncool? Where is my Damnation of Faust, damn you? My Red Army Choir with the russian singing "Yitz a lonk vaaay to Tippereraaay!"? Where the hell are they? What have you done with them? Vic Reeves singing "Hi! To the New Romantics..."? Gone, all gone, and a hundred more that I've forgotten?

She bought me an iPod, bless her, to preserve what remains. To play when alone. I love her.

Once or twice a year she goes farther, she indulges me, she endures. She takes me Downtown, best seats in the house, couple of rows behind Placido, my hero, those nights he does not sing himself. I love her.

She can play whatever she likes. Wherever. I love her.

Saturday she took me somewhere different, somewhere for her. She took me to Chicago, a musical. Show tunes - not a favorite. Downtown first-time to the Pantages, skip and a jump hollyward of Hollywood and Vine. Keep a weather-eye out for hookers or Hugh Grant. Parked a ways around the corner, stepped on Mickey Rooney, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and a hundred other stars' Stars. Surprised it wasn't Pantageous, way it's pronounced? Gorgeous inside. Not knowing what to expect - really don't like musicals too much - and deeply suspicious, all fears evaporate in the moment the curtain lifts. Terrific show, terrific music, darkly humorous and masterfully choreographed. And Patti LaBelle to shake the dust from out the rafters. One hundred million times better than Elton John's Aida, which we'd seen on Broadway and I'd loathed, and a world away from Oklahoma or Briga-f*cking-doon, or Seven Brides for Seven Sisters - she loves those, makes me watch them with her when they're on the telly.

There's good music, and there's the other stuff.

If you've a mind to, why not take the Normblog Pepsi Challenge? Be not afraid of ridicule. Send him your top five composers, and look around his site while you're there. Mine?

  1. Mozart, but only for his operas, greatest of all;
  2. Bach, master of canon and fugue, the well-tempered klavier;
  3. Wagner, for whom Solti was made and never bettered;
  4. Handel, Beethoven's favorite, fireworks and waterworks;
  5. Beethoven, for the first to the glorious ninth.
Now: it's very late and all is quiet. So...

  • Kids in bed? Wife too? Check. Check!
  • Doors closed? Check.
  • iPod charged? Check.
  • Earphones in? Check.
  • Lights low, just in case one of them gets up to pee? Check.
  • Pencil in hand, for conducting? Check!
Then we'll begin. Altogether now:

Si, pel ciel marmoreo giuro!Yes, I swear by the marble heaven!
Per l'attorte folgori!By the forked lightning!
Per la morte e per l'oscuro mar sterminator!By death and by the dark destroying sea!
D'ira e d'impeto tremendo presto fiaLet this hand which I raise
che sfolgoriand stretch forth
questa man ch'io levo e stendo!soon blaze in wild transport of rage!
Dio vendicator!God of vengeance!


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