Friday, January 27, 2006

K number

Who uses it: Classical musicians and fans of Mozart
What it means: A number assigned to each of Mozart's works by Ludwig Koechel (1800-1877), who was the first to catalogue Mozart's works. The Koechel catalogue assigns each work a number, based on what Koechel believed to be the chronological order of composition. K.1, an andante piece in the key of C, was apparently written in early 1761, when Mozart was five years old; K.620, The Magic Flute, was written in 1791.
How you can use it: To discuss Mozart with the experts.

Today is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birthday. My friend Eileen and I visited Mozarts Geburtshaus (his birthplace) in Salzburg back in 1992, and the Schulzes and I saw his residence in Vienna, a few years later. Neither made a huge impression on me; I have a much clearer memory of how shocked I was to see the McDonald's in Salzburg, just a few doors down from Mozart's birthplace.

I like the play Amadeus not because I feel interested in Mozart himself, but because it makes the point I always want to argue about this fascination with the personal lives of artists and celebrities.

Isn't the point of artistic endeavor to make something that stands outside our feeble human selves? If that's true, why would we want to know anything about the artist, and how could that information be relevant to the art itself? I don't need to know that Picasso was a jerk, that Graham Greene treated women badly, that TS Eliot was an anti-Semite, or that Joan Crawford was an abusive mother... if I'm paying close attention to their work, all of those things are pretty obvious, and none of them detract from the power of their work. I don't need to see Mozart's chamber pot to love Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and in fact, I'd rather not.

Ah, I'm ranting again. I must be feeling better... I have spent the last week in a strange sort of paralysis, and if I owe you an e-mail or a letter or a project of some kind, I apologize. I've managed to shower and brush my teeth and get the dishes done, and that's about it. Later today I'm headed up to Sugarloaf Mountain with the Lechners, for a couple of days of ice skating and heated swimming pools and very loud music, and I expect to be better when I get back. I won't post tomorrow, but will be back late Sunday.

In the meantime, here's

What I Read This Week

Roddy Doyle, The Giggler Treatment. My mother thought this children's book was hilarious, and I gave it to Our Chris to read while we were in Virginia Beach last week. Then I reread it myself. It's a wicked little story about the Gigglers, who revenge themselves on people who are mean to children by arranging for them to step in dog poo. As a conscientious apartment-dweller with a large dog, I'm a little too familiar with dog poo to find it hilarious, but there's very funny stuff in this book, and it is a nice cautionary tale about 1) being nice to kids and 2) not jumping to conclusions.

J.B. Priestley, The Good Companions. This was the fourth book Mom gave me when I had my back surgery, and another of her favorites. Three unlikely travelers meet up with a "concert party" troupe in the British countryside, and form a new theatrical venture that ultimately helps all their dreams come true. Originally published in 1930 -- with some of the casually racist language of that time -- I believe it's out of print now, which is a shame.

Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. I meant to read this book when it first came out, because Roach's Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers is one of my all-time favorites... but some happy chance gave me this book this week. Roach explores many different avenues of scientific research into the afterlife, from attempts to weigh souls to experiments that artificially create near-death experiences. Roach manages to be both funny and respectful of her subjects, and while she comes to no conclusions, ultimately admits that she believes in something.


Anonymous said...

As the resident lurker/Graham Greene fanatic, I need to retort that it is absolutely essential to *recognize* that Greene treated women badly if one is to even understand, let alone appreciate, his writing. No schmuckery = no "Heart of the Matter," no "End of the Affair," no "Quiet American" even.

The reason people do need to be told that Mozart was a bit of a wing nut (probably bipolar by today's medicalization of every quirk) and that Picasso was a jerk, Hemmingway was overcompensating for ... something, is that most people don't really pay attention to what they hear, see, or read. There's nothing wrong with showing folks the strings if it lets them appreciate the puppet show even more.


P.S. As an adult convert, and immediately lapsidarian, Catholic, at least Greene felt really bad about being being really bad towards women. That's where most of his writing came from. For his seemingly one hopeful take on the salvagability of a rogue's soul, read his "Loser Takes All."

KaneCitizen said...

Not only that, but BWV means Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis ("Bach Works Catalogue"). I love it when obsessive people keep track of stuff!