More deep musicology. Beethoven loved his chicken, but hated the price. Brahms and his prostitutes. Tchaikovsky is fetching in ballet tights. Maybe next time, we’ll get to why any of this matters to prog-lovers everywhere.
Roger CortonSo in our last, fun filled episode we, well, you went on about all this musicological stuff. Which begs the question, why should we care about any of that?
JCHWell, you shouldn’t. It’s really up to me.
JCHLook, everyone who talks about anything, has to have the arrogance that what they are speaking about is of interest to their audience. And I get sick of the false humility of saying otherwise. People are so concerned about coming across as pompous that they never say anything.
RCMy aren’t we defensive today.
JCHWell, what I do, a bit of musicology is probably in order. If I was doing punk, maybe not so much.
RCAlthough there is that great new book boys “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys”
RCBut you said that there were two main changes to music or at least American music since the end of classical…
JCHThe end of World War I
RCRight. And you said that these were: repetition (repeating the same melody over and over) and collage (pasting together pieces of existing content like the Dadaists and William Burroughs). So, finally, can we get to why does this matter?
JCHTo listeners? Probably not much. To me, -music- matters less and less to the average person. There are many reasons for that of course; primarily the rise of video. But this matters to me. And apparently there is a small audience that has an interest in what I do and more broadly progressive rock. Now Prog incorporates many disparate musical elements. But what it does not do well is either repetition or collage. I maintain that the spirit of progressive rock needs structure to succeed; the kind of forms that classical music used to be comprised of.
RCHence the emphasis on all that classical stuff you like.
JCHWell it’s not like I’m force-feeding myself broccoli because it’s good for me. It’s simply that I enjoy it and I guess that is because it meshes with what I’m trying to do. But let’s forget all about all that and get back to some real musicology.
JCHFried chicken. Apparently, it was ridiculously expensive in Beethoven’s day. There are two kinds of musicologists: the structural guys who deal with notes and diagramming musical forms with Lydian modal recapitulations and Neapolitan appoggiaturas. Snore. The technical junk that’s really only of interest only to scholars.
RCAnd then there are the anecdote people. They spew endless witticisms. These guys have a much broader appeal, obviously. They think you can get at the heart of music by talking about, you know, the psychology of the composer. They are often voyeuristic. It’s kind of like porn for the Downton Abby crowd. You know, like George Takei and his ‘Oh my!’
RCI’m not sure I’m following you.
JCHOK, so a guy will do his doctoral thesis on how Brahms attitude towards women affected his song writing. And it will be laced with lurid details about his various kindnesses towards prostitutes.
JCHTchaikovsky and Saint Saens dressing in tutus and dancing the complete Swan Lake ballet.
RCGot it. But I would think that all that would hold no interest for you. You’ve always said that all that should matter is the notes. I mean isn’t that why you never used to talk about personal stuff at all? Aren’t you the guy who makes barfing noises whenever someone talks about how ‘life affected Dylan?’
JCHI can feel the bile rising at this very minute (laughs.) Although I did get that notion from a Stravinsky so-called-autobiography. But then I found out that a) the book was ghost written because Igor needed some quick cash and b) He didn’t really believe any of that jazz. Whoops. It’s like I said about Burroughs: Be careful what ya read, kids.
But I -do- buy into the general idea. I care more about the notes in Swan Lake then what kind of makeup Tchaikovsky was into. That said, I have gained hours of enjoyment reading Beethoven’s conversation books. So that’s my one guilty pleasure in that area.
RCI’ve heard about that. He was deaf and so people wrote him notes.
JCHRight. Beethoven was a notorious cheapskate. But he was an -organized- cheapskate. He made his own notebooks; ones for music and ones for people to communicate with him. And by the way he was also a complete pack rat so he never threw away anything and there were hundreds of these leather bound conversation books. And almost none of them have anything to do with music. They are almost all about day-to-day junk that you and I would toss out. Literally: laundry lists, to-do lists, chit chat over meals. Stuff like, “Two florins for fried chicken? I do not think we will be eating here very often.”
RCOkay, what’s the big deal about that?
JCHI don’t know. I start giggling just thinking about that. First of all I didn’t know they had fried chicken in Vienna back then. Do you think fried chicken when you think Ludwig van Beethoven?
RCActually, I hadn’t ever thought about Beethoven’s diet.
JCHOh buddy, it was awful. The guy lived on coffee, fortified wine and chocolate.
JCHOh and oysters. -Loved- raw oysters. And head cheese. Loved that head cheese.
RCNow -my- bile is starting to rise.
JCHNo doubt. The guy had, like Crone’s Disease. On top of all his other issues, he was subject to spontaneous diarrhea… even in his twenties. He’d play for some posh woman, trying to get over in spite of his crappy skin and hick accent and then out of nowhere? THWPPPPPPPP. He’d poop his pants. What kills me is that his doctors gave him really good advice. No leeching or any of that nonsense. They told him: get more exercise, lay off the stimulants, eat better.
RCObviously he didn’t follow his doctor’s advice. But stop. Those are all very interesting but I’m still trying to figure out what -any- of this has to do with structure, musicology and the future of progressive rock.
JCHNot a damned thing (laughs). We never really got to the why of your original question, did we? We’ll do it in our next ‘fun filled episode’.
RCWhat the fuck? I went along with all that shit because I figured you’d bring it on home. Eventually.
JCHIt’s your fault. You kinda made me feel like we needed to lighten things up a bit (laughs).
RCWell, you done good. Whores, cross-dressers, diarrhea and over-price fried chicken. Almost reminds me of my home town (sniff).
JCHAnd who says classical music doesn’t have the common touch?