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Thursday, March 28, 2002

Things in this World that Don't Suck

Just so the few folks who come across this page won’t think that I wallow in sarcasm and bogus, pseudo-hip irony 24 hours a day, I thought I would mention something in my life that brings constant joy and light.

As I write this, I am listening to a Real Jukebox play list of Mozart's slow movements from various piano sonatas, string quartets, and other combinations of instruments. One piece in particular continues to consume me. The adagio movement of his piano sonata K. 332 in F major was called “the summit of expression Mozart reached without departing from the formality and reticence of his epoch,” by the English critic Arthur Hutchings. This is another way of saying that Mozart was no grand innovator like Beethoven, he simply took everything he touched to the highest level. Mozart didn't invent the piano sonata, the string quartet, the symphony, or the opera but he raised them to new heights.

I am drawn to Mozart’s slow movements because those are about the only things he wrote that I can play. One of the first pieces that I was determined to play when I began on the piano was the andante movement from his first piano sonata. He wrote it in Munich, Germany in 1775 at age 18. That he had the technical ability to write this sort of music at such an early age is amazing but that he had the depth to FEEL this at 18 is even more incredible.

Before I began playing the piano four years ago I would go on a Mozart bender and listen to his music exclusively for weeks at a time. I felt like a charlatan because I knew so little about music and yet I felt tremendous passion for practically every piece he wrote. I didn’t know the first thing about music when I began. I was a clean slate, a tabula rasa. I had to learn to read music on my own and I was thoroughly overwhelmed by the piano: how in the fuck could a person make his hands do two completely opposite things? I am still trying to answer that question four years later but I have come a few notes in the right direction.

Mozart is one of the shields I use to protect myself from the mediocrity that makes up most of pop culture. Here is an interesting question: Is a person drawn to the music of Mozart to escape from the horrors of pop culture or does an understanding of classical music make it difficult to appreciate what passes for music today? The whole chicken and egg question.

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