Thursday, June 21, 2018

Heaping up in order to beat them down

When battling, we often think the more weapons you have, the better. But, what good does having a lot of weapons do, if we don’t know how to use them? In our ever growing divisive culture, many people apply such tactics. When we disagree. When we dislike. Or when we despise a certain point-of-view, we believe the more points we have to beat down our opponents, the better. 

I adamantly disagree… But I don’t want to beat anyone who disagrees with me with gobs of points. 

I know. I know. It is so very tempting to lash out when we hear a possible ‘gotcha’ flub our opponents might make. Any hint of a mess up. Any shred of flaw. We can’t wait to use it against our enemies. And, the more points we have the better… Right?


Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Lamenting Nightingale (The Music of Zaide)

File:Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) (25936816473).jpgThere are more literary references to a caged bird yearning for freedom than junk cars trapped in groves. The reference has become cliché, but as with most clichés, they become cliché for a reason. They illustrate truths well. I wonder where the caged bird metaphors came from. Thus, the ponderings bring me to the next aria in my Zaide series. A beautiful song, not quite to the level of Ruhe Sanft, that yearns for better. Here Zaide compares herself to a nightingale trapped in a cage. Was Zaide the origin of the modern cliché? I doubt it. If anyone knows for sure, let me know. But why does this metaphor resonate? In some way or another, many feel trapped. Mozart did for sure, especially during the period in which he wrote this opera. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The proud lion can be tamed, or can it? (The Music of Zaide)

An illusion of control often slips into our lives. Some are more prone to control and dominate various situations. Often, they don’t care who they hurt, as long as they have control. What about in matters of love? How much pain is caused because one wants to control the way he or she is loved? “If only my beloved would do so-and-so, then I know they really love me. Otherwise, that means they must not.” In turn, people tear into each other's hearts, inflicting some of the greatest pain. 

Who can inflict more pain? The wretch who finds pleasure in making others miserable? Yes, there are such people, but rare. Or the mourner of a battered heart? While the pure sadist will seek opportunities to inflict pain, he or she will not do it at the expense of self. The truly selfish sort is limited by his or her selfishness. The obsessive inflicted however, will (even at his or her own expense) tear into those who have hurt him.

And, thus I am once again brought back to Mozart’s opera Zaide. Sultan Soliman, Zaide’s master, loves the girl. He loves her so much, he’d give her nearly anything. Thus, when she betrays him, it becomes personal.

I’ve heard some psychobabble about the first stage of grief being denial. So, when pain strikes, there is the numb, surreal fuzzy state that makes it feel as if our eyes aren’t attached to our brains. We’re deadened. “This didn’t happen. It can’t be real.” So, when Soliman first hears the news, he simply can’t believe it. “It is not possible that my treasure left me for a dirty, disgusting slave.” No physical pain could possibly sting away such a deadened state

Der stolze löw’ lasst sich zwar zähmen (The proud lion can be tamed) starts with a deadened determination. It is the aria of a man who seeks no joy in what he has determined to do, but doesn’t care. He is going to hurt Zaide. Make her pay for falling in love with another. The kettledrums (or timpani) slam with determination, like a man beating his chest or slamming his fist into a wall in order to feel something. Duty compels him to act. Then, the pace quickens and heightens like a soul suffering a panic attack. “This can’t be real. This can’t be real. I won't let it be real. I’ll make it not real.” The music seems to say. Soliman is in control, and by golly he’s going to make things turn out his way.

All the while, the music still carries elements of stoic nobility. Hurt hearts often seek to justify their actions. We all recognize certain historical figures as pure evil, but would those figures have said that of themselves? No. Surely, they were convinced their actions were just. They wanted control. They were out to fix the world. (How often, in similar manners, do we assume we’re justified?) Adding to the opera’s animal imagery, Soliman declares he is a lion. A man who devours the flatterer. (She may have pretended to love him for her own safety.) Now in his mind, Zaide in the cruelest of sorts. Of course, he is deaf to his own cruelty. The cruelty that made her flatter… and made her leave.

Did such emotions hyperventilate through Mozart’s head as he wrote the aria of Soliman? Not to say he was out to be cruel, but I could imagine him thinking of Aloysia (the one who broke his heart right before the opera was begun), “What a cruel woman? Tearing my heart from my ribs after my mother died!” What was he going to do to gain control? (I wonder how those dynamics worked after he married Aloysia’s sister, Contanze.) In addition, did he see his father and Archbishop Colloredo as Soliman-like figures in his own life? Clearly, both were control-hungry individuals that butted heads, leaving Mozart smashed in between. That’s the problem with control. It’s kind of like the adage of holding a bird in your hand and letting it go mumbo jumbo, but the larger problem stems from squeezing tightly. It either slips out greatly injured, or dies.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tiger, Sharpen Your Claws: The music of Zaide

I wonder if Mozart ever got sick of it. The voices, pushing, pulling. His father. Colloredo. His fans. His critics. Salzberger’s. The Viennese. Fighting their wills, in order to pursue his own.

The world is full of people fighting for what they believe is right. Much of the time that means, in reality, they are fighting for what they want. Now, I’m not making grand claims saying that we should never stand up for anything, I just wonder if it would behoove us to reflect more over why were fighting, and what standards we use to determine what’s worth standing up for, before assuming we’re right.

Yet, sometimes we are placed in a position where we have to take a stand. One side or the other. The opera Zaide’s aria Tiger! wetze nur die klauen (Tiger, sharpen your claws) is a song that reflects such a dilemma. A powerful song of fist-shaking defiance, the aria starts right off saying, ‘this is enough.’ She’d lived in luxury, but at a price. A slave to a powerful man. Before this aria she had been beating her brows with guilt, saying, ‘I deserve this. Look at all the other slaves below me. I have it good compared to them.’ Then, she meets Gomatz and everything changes. She tries to escape, and is caught.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Master and Friend: Exploring the Music from Zaide

In spite, what some tell us… There are some lions we cannot tame alone. There are some bullies we cannot crush, unless the bully’s very own buds stand against him. There are some afflictions we cannot bear. Beneath all the layers of faked out 80’s tough guy or shells of sarcastic cynicism, many of us have come to the point where we know we can’t beat that Goliath. It could be something as simple as a goal, or as challenging as a battle with cancer. In those times, our only refuge is the rescue of a more powerful or knowledgeable party.

So imagine, in the midst of our hyperventilated-sobbing despair, someone trudges through the muck to assist. What are our typical reactions?

Continuing my Zaide ponderings, such feelings arise as I think of Allazim’s aria, Herr und Freund (Master and Friend). Allazim is a slavemaster. He’s tasked with keeping the slaves in line. But when he catches Gomatz pursuing his love for Zaide, his job is to punish Gomatz, even though the man has done nothing wrong. To do anything else would mean certain death—for both Gomatz and Allazim. (At least, if caught.) Yet, Allazim offers mercy. He doesn’t offer a clear and absolute solution, but he vows to do anything he can to help free Gomatz and Zaide. Herr und Freund is Gomatz’s reaction to Allazim’s sacrificial act of kindness.

The music plays with emotions in a way only Mozart can do. To describe it best, I would say this aria is one of joyful crying. But not in the manner of Bach, as if to say, “I’m suffering this horrible trial, but I have found peace through it.” But more as if to say, “I’m going through this horrible trial, and I’m so miserably happy that you’re willing to go through it with me. I’m helpless. I can’t do this alone, and you’re actions have given me hope, even if I still have no chance of escaping this trial.” The music is that of a man on his knees, sobbing, repeating his thanks.

What's more interesting was the melodies from this song come from something he wrote when he was 11. Gosh... 11! I can't think of loving something some much that I created at that age I would still use today. In fact, he used the melody two other times, before he inserted it into Zaide. Form one his his first operas, Apollo et Hyancinthus--the aria Natus cadit atque Deus--and and his 26th symphony--the second movement. Amazing.
 The backstory curiosity in me wonders how a slave and a slavemaster managed to become such close friends. I explored this idea in my novel, Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera. Operas don’t fill in a lot of backstory holes. Plus, what was Mozart thinking at the time? Did Mozart have a narrative in his head? Did Mozart have this type of relationship with anyone. I read somewhere that he was good friend with the Liberest of Zaide, Johann Andreas Schachtner. But, how deep was it? Or, was he simply longing for this type of friendship? How did Mozart express those musical emotions?

I’ve done various reading, and surely I could and should do a lot more, but only one man sticks out to me as that type of friend, in Mozart’s life. Though, this man came into Mozart’s life after Zaide. Haydn.

Haydn is similar to Allazim in many ways. Not to call him a slavemaster, but he was definitely the middle management of the music world at that time. Yet Haydn was one of the most encouraging historical figures in any genre that I can think of. Mozart? Beethoven? He trudged through the muck for his friends. Fought for them. Like Allazim, he knew what it was like to be mire. Maybe, this world would be a better place if more people fought for others instead of fighting for their own passions.

Unfortunately, I think I’m more like Mozart, than Haydn, in that regard. I want to be an encourager. I try to be. Those types of people are more enjoyable to be around. (And they are often more successful.) Yet even when I try to encourage, I am afraid of--and disgusted by--flattery. I don’t want to say something nice to someone, solely to use them as a piggyback for my success. I want to actually like the things I say I like. Or I’m afraid my sincere comments will be construed as flattery. (Or as creepy stalking.) Maybe that’s the problem, I’m afraid to go through the muck… To take a risk to help someone else.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ruhe Sanft (Sleep Gently): An Exploration of the music from Zaide

Ruhe Sanft. This piece drew me to the opera Zaide. The most beautiful opera aria. Ruhe Sanft makes Schubert Ave Maria sound like a commercial jingle. When I first heard it, its beauty insisted that I find its origin. And, then when I read that it came from an opera that had never been finished—from a work scrapped and thrown into a slush pile—my gut tightened. How could something so precious have just been thrown out? From there, I had to know why. Why did Mozart stop working on it? (I have spoke of the history of this opera in an earlier column.) I’ve read various theories, all likely to have some truth to them. Yet, all my attention was drawn to the opera solely because of Ruhe Sanft. But, what makes it so beautiful?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Brüder, lasst uns lustig sein: An Exploration of the music from Zaide

Why is it often never enough for an authority to simply have a subordinate do what they request? Why does the subordinate have to have a good attitude as well?

My time in the army is a perfect example. Sighing, huffing, rolling eyes, then saying, 'Yes Drill Sgt.' (Or Sgt.) was as bad as not doing as ordered. A soldier is always to speak with motivation. With a sense of purpose. "YES, DRILL SERGEANT!!" Why was it never enough to simply do what I was told?

In the Army, I understood the value of morale. So, I guess it makes sense. Keeping spirits high spurs a survivalist mentality.

What about the authorities in your life that care about you? Why do they need a good attitude to accompany requests? "Don't you roll your eyes at me young lady." A ma or pa might say. Maybe, the caring authorities are deep down hurt or saddened by disrespect. In turn, those feeling convert to anger. Plus, a caring authority knows a bad attitude will do nothing to improve a miserable lot.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Eggs: The Underappreciated Comfort Food

Gobs of eggsWhen you’re hungry--I mean like rumbling in your stomach hungry--and you want something fast, what is you go to quick fix meal? Sure there are tons of snacks out there, but none of them really, as the old idiom goes, ‘stick to your ribs’. Snacks don’t satisfy, like a solid, home cooked meal. Now, I’d wager when some need a quick hearty meal fix, many people turn to eggs. I know when I’m wanted something ‘real’ to eat, but don’t want to waste time, I quickly whip out an egg sandwich--I love it with some good meat and cheese. 

When I think about the beauty of a simple egg, I can’t help but marvel at it’s versatility. Its affordability. It’s sociability. So many things you can make with it. So many meals it goes with. Plus, I have lots of fond memories of eating egg centered breakfast meals with friends and family. As a youth, my parents would drag us to a gob of trail rides. The rides were fun enough--except when I got thrown off--but afterward we often gathered at someone's house (or if we were camping, at the location) and cooked up omelettes. While we all ate omelettes, all us kid folk got together and played. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Aquired Tastes

Back when I was a youngling, I'd try some sort of food or drink that I found terrible. An individual who enjoyed it would tell me, "It's an acquired taste." I always wondered how that comes about. Or, with items that may not be particularly good for you, why would anyone want to?

Yet, if you think about it we all have our 'acquired taste'. We all grew up with those foods and/or delectables that others did not grow up with. I was recently reading an article that featured a list of American foods that other countries find disgusting. One of the foods on that list was biscuits and gravy. How can anyone not like biscuits and gravy? Come on, it’s one of the most heavenly breakfast foods. Where I work, the boys often ask, "What's for breakfast?" Nearly every day, I tell them, "Biscuits and gravy." Plus, I often joke that the reason I moved to overnights was so I could get their biscuits and gravy. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, and if only I hadn't to bear the burden of loving them so...

But, why are the unhealthy tastes easier to acquire? There have been periods--few and far between--where I've gotten myself to hunker down and eat healthy foods, but I've never done so to the point where I'd be like, "Oh, I gotta get me my broccoli fix." Yes, I enjoy broccoli, but I have never obsessively craved it. And, that Big Mac (though I have not had one in years) conjures deep yearnings, as I write about it. True some can have eaten so healthy that by eating a Big Mac, they'd get sick.Yet, if those same people 'wanted' to acquire a taste for Big Macs, it wouldn't take them long.