It's dangerous to roam the Classical Internet. Surfing and clicking from the discomfort of my ancient Hoosier sofa, it seems that every time I turn around, I run across yet another article entitled: Who (or What) Killed Classical Music? Or, more optimistically present tense: What is Killing Classical Music?
Seriously: I can't take it anymore. I really don't know how to say something like this, but I need closure.
I killed Classical Music. That's right; just me. No accomplices. Hahahaha! And here's how ...
[sitcom-style dream sequence transition, distant saxophone]
Rain caught and held the reflection of red neon; the innocent night street looked washed in blood. Halfway through my third double bourbon I realized I had forgotten something a third-and-an-eighth-of-the-way through my second. I stared at the spattered greasy window, aching for a view; with flabby, twitchy fingers I played a forgotten melody on the chipped edge of my highball glass, and dug in my memory for the last comforting remnant of loss.
"History," I growled, and knocked my glass over, spilling ice, liquor, dispersing the smoke and mirrors of self-destruction. I was not trucking in abstractions; History was the name of the bartender.
He came by ineluctably. "Spilled your drink again, did you? ... You spilled your drink."
History tended to repeat himself. It was something you got used to. "Another bourbon," I said, grimacing.
"Those who don't learn from their mistakes," he murmured. But he filled my glass with fresh ice and let another healthy finger of poison drizzle over it, and I listened to the ice crackle and the rain whip against the window, and just at that moment four miserable pitches yawned out of the sullied night:
Those four fateful notes were what I had forgotten, the four voices of my inner Gesualdo madrigal, the horsemen of my Apocalypse, through-composed and yet monotonous, not quite repeating and never explaining the eternal, haunting, profound-yet-superficial madrigalisms of my subtexted so-called life ... The four notes, I yearned to know what to call them, if I ran across them in a deserted alley. Were they the dominant of a dominant? A predominant? Some sort of modified two chord? And for God's sake which of the notes was a dissonance and which a consonance and if we couldn't answer that, if there was no kind of moral-contrapuntal-tonal framework, how was I, or any of us, going to go on?
The door creaked open. A body settled into the sagging stool next to me. "Oh hi, Jazz," I said. He just grooved, passing time. I couldn't help imposing my problems on him, disturbing his detachment.
"You see it's a F a B a D# and a G#, what the hell is it?"
Jazz chuckled. "Call it what you want, man. That's some multivalent whatever. Just let it go where it wants to go, baby."
Oh I love Jazz but when he gets all tolerant on me I just want to smack him. Maybe, I thought, he's just playing into my own clichéd preconceptions? Speaking of which, the door creaked again and in came World Music, with an entourage: fawning ethnomusicologists, dancing around her gorgeous copious bejangled body in myriad tempi and costumes; they stared at her every incensed inch, concupiscent. Oh and who else should the cat drag in but Classical Music, dressed soberly, oozing stifling refinement, following at a greater distance, but giving World Music a watchful eye.
You see, Classical Music was my childhood sweetheart. Even in the sixth grade, when I was King of the Nerds, we would dine on cafeteria pizza and tater tots and talk of Opus Numbers. We would go to the Multiplex and sniff at John Williams and hold hands across dimly lit tables at 2 am at the Village Inn and stay up all night inventing Developments and Recapping with green chile and eggs in the morning. Classical Music was more than love. She was a sea in which my life was drowned. But: not even a glance. Classical brushed right by. I got up to say hello, but... Jazz grabbed my shoulder. "Don't do it man." His voice was a gravelly flatted seventh. "It's gone, just let it go. I hear Classical's got somethin' goin' with World Music, and it's pretty intense."
It was true. Even now I heard faint klezmer sounds; a clarinet blew in from nowhere, and the ethnomusicologists were braying abundant, dirty augmented seconds; and to my horror Classical Music looked on admiringly, swaying, daring to dance, to be caught up in the spell... Then without warning World Music began to rumba, and Classical gyrated along, smitten, living vicariously, stripping off sober clothes and ...
No, no, I thought; I couldn't watch this. Classical Music is not supposed to have fun without me! Not this kind of fun! A rage took shape; I was dizzy with jealousy; I was a naked, dripping, unlabelled Tristan Chord in the empty, burning staff paper of the World. Jazz tried to hold me back, but I realized I had the perfect weapon. I ripped my 3-volume set of Schenker's Der Freie Satz from my pseudo-hipster (no longer a nerd here! sort of!) messenger bag, and threw it with utmost force, and I caught Classical by surprise, right at a moment of joy ... it was an accident of course, some thorny middleground analysis caught her in the throat and she was allergic ... she fell over; the dance ended; jingles and jangles subsided into the rainy night.
World Music leaned over. "She's dead." I noticed a tear on Jazz's cheek. My throwing arm throbbed. It began to sink in. All those young people's outreach concerts were for naught. And then History, as always, said the obvious.
"Nothing to do but move on."
[sitcom return-from-dream-sequence effect]
So there you go. Now that I've confessed, can I go on Oprah and be absolved?
More importantly: if l take the rap, if I do the time, can we PLEASE not have any more articles about the death of Classical Music?