Friday, June 22, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 49

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Mozart, having fainted after hearing he may be Klangfarben's next victim, comes to and makes a very disconcerting discovery: he's a child again and nobody seems to know (or care) who he is! Meanwhile, Harmonian Detective Milo Smighley sets up a stake-out at the Time Gate hoping to catch Rogers Kent-Clarke before he escapes back to Earth with the stolen Mahler score, in the process explaining to Pennsylvania detective Jenna Ste.-Croix how some things work, here on Harmonia-IV. 

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Chapter 49
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"He must've been a brat, you know? I mean, here he was, this over-achieving wunderkind – he must have been insufferable. At least, I know I was, at that age, and I wasn't even half that talented."

Man Kaye sat still while the make-up girl hired by Jott & Tittle applied a little more color to his otherwise pasty cheeks.

The engineer, the director and two cameramen weren't saying anything beyond cautiously smirking at each other while checking their shots and testing their sound-levels. Their expressions were the type that could only say, "Whadda freakin' asshole."

After taping just audio for the Bach one, his boss, N. Ron Steele, got the idea they should do a whole DVD-component, but once the men from Jott & Tittle saw how cadaverous Kaye looked in the Wagner one, they had to re-shoot it and make sure they had make-up people added to the crew. And a script writer.

Manfred Kaye grew up hating Mozart.

"He made it look so easy, tossing off all those symphonies and operas, being a pianist and a violinist, writing all kinds of stuff... I mean, how much does a guy have to churn out to prove he's got talent? He made everybody who even tried to set pen to paper look bad."

Only ten years old when he’d shown his piano teacher his first composition, Kaye remembered the comment he made.

"Look what I composed," the boy beamed.

The teacher glanced at it and said, "Well, you're no Mozart."

In the background (to put everybody in a Mozart mood), they were playing Mozart's C Major Piano Sonata, K.545, the one he wrote for students.

"I mean, really! Listen to that crap – it’s awful! There's no texture, it's all doodle-doodle in the left hand. Anybody could play that – well, up to that scaley bit there, a few measures in..."

"Sir, keep the mouth still, please," the make-up girl said, carefully applying highlighter around his lips.

At least Bach knew how to fill up a page even if it was only fugal stuff, dry as tinderwood.

"And I have three degrees in composition – what did Mozart have? Nothing, not even a famous teacher!"

All this fuss over some kid who probably couldn't play basketball or soccer if his life depended on it.

Honestly, he thought, if he ever had the choice which great composers should be eliminated, Mozart would be on top of the list.


"Try it again – sound a little more, you know – in awe of the name."

MO-zart. (There, is that enough for you?)

"And don't take such a long sip of the tea while you're listening to the music."

MO-zart. The very name conjures up an age of powdered wigs and raised pinkies.

"Cut. Just read the cue-cards, please."

The quintessential perfectionist, the architect of the ideal – the word 'genius' exhaled with every breath.

The ne plus ultra of his age, we would never see his like again.

(My God, somebody actually wrote this shit?)

A child prodigy performing for the crowned heads of Europe at eight, MO-zart was kicked out – literally – of his hometown Salzburg and went off to Vienna to seek his fortune, but died when he was 35.

Was he really poisoned by a jealous rival or did Mozart die from eating under-cooked pork, as some now believe? Who can say?

(Salieri had always been his hero, even if he hadn't really killed Mozart. If it weren't for MO-zart, he'd be one of the greatest 18th Century composers! Salieri really was the patron saint of mediocrities everywhere!)

Buried in an unmarked pauper's grave (music here from his unfinished Requiem – tragical), the world will never know what it had lost.


(The more he considered it, Manfred Kaye understood he really was the perfect media man for this brave new 21st Century mediacracy!)

"Great, let's take that again, but try not to sound like a used-car salesman, okay?"


Was it a proud father sharing his son's brilliance with the world or was Leopold Mozart the quintessential stage-parent exploiting his son for financial gain? Would any bureaucracy looking after children's welfare even have permitted a tour from Vienna to Paris and London and back by way of Holland and Switzerland for a boy who hadn't yet turned ten?

Historians today consider this three-year tour a circus with Mozart and his sister paraded about like circus acrobats showing off their tricks. Both played piano, he played the violin, she sang, he improvised, composed and conducted.

Mozart the adult is described in Peter-Pan terms as a boy who never grew up – but did he ever really have a childhood? He was constantly on display, playing and writing music to prove his genius. Empresses dandled him on their knees. Princes gave his father expensive gifts. How could all this attention not have gone to his head?

From their home in Salzburg, the Mozart Entourage worked its way gradually across southern Germany, playing for the royal families in Paris and London before deciding at the last minute to take in Holland as well. From Amsterdam, after considerable delay caused by the children's illnesses, it was back to Paris, then to Lyon and Zurich, then – finally – home.

Almost three-and-a-half years on the road for a young boy who should have spent much of his time playing with friends, not performing for royalty. But for Mozart, this became "normal" – basically, this was what he knew.

Even without the rigors of traveling, those days were dangerous enough for children who often became ill and died young. Mozart's mother knew this first hand: having had seven children, only two of them survived infancy.

When Nannerl, Mozart's sister, became seriously ill, her parents resigned her to the Will of God and to the "happy death of children."

No sooner had she recovered after six weeks, her younger brother (always a sickly child) fell ill and was close to death. Two months of typhoid fever left him weak but he also survived – just barely.

Listening to those six violin sonatas, Köchel.26-31, you might think they're nothing special, wondering what all this Mozart Fuss is about. What can possibly be "great" about these?

But then consider they were composed while he was convalescing after this illness, lucky to be alive, only weeks away from his tenth birthday.

Who cares what the history books wrote?

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To be continued

- Dick Strawser

The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.
© 2012

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