January 28, 2000
I bow to no one in my appreciation of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It may be the most profound eight minutes of music ever written. But I sat in the theater for about twenty minutes before the movie started tonight and heard it three times. That's three times in a row. The same piece of music, in triplicate. Now I'm no expert, but I believe Ludwig wrote three other movements to that symphony, and my recollection is that they are extraordinary as well. He also wrote some other music, as have a few other composers down through the ages. And yet, as I may have mentioned, the Rialto tonight chose to play dum-dum-dum-DUMMMM on an endless loop for the entire pre-show period.
Now that I think about it (and now that I've had a chance to listen to the CD), the second movement Andante is majestic and lyrical, the Scherzo is a wry play on the themes of the opening movement, alternately comic and dramatic, and the Finale simply soars, with more twists and turns than a Stephen King thriller. As good as the first movement is, the way the whole work comes together is magical.
It could have been worse tonight, of course. I could have had to listen to a three-minute trifle by Britney or Christina seven or eight times in a row. Almost any piece of music would have been an inferior experience, repeated over that long a time. There's a threshold between pleasure and pain that's too easy to cross. One piece of chocolate is delicious. A whole box is trouble. If the first taste is the best, and it's all downhill after that, why not take that first bite and then stop? (Someone suggested that to me once. I don't remember who it was, but thanks.)
The movie tonight was The War Zone, Tim Roth's bleak character study of a severely dysfunctional family and an overwhelmed teenager's halting attempts to put things right. The grim story is complemented by the rocky English seacoast where it's set, and the acting is starkly understated to good effect. The film is so disturbing, though, that I witnessed an emotional scene in the parking lot afterward between two young people. She was in tears, and he was trying to calm her, saying, "No, I said I liked the actors, not the characters."
Already I'm feeling sort of guilty for seeming to put down the teen angels of popdom and their fans. I really wasn't, you know; I was just making a point by comparing them to Beethoven. If you think Britney and Christina are better than Ludwig... well, good for you.
I'm no one to talk about consistency in musical tastes. I own CDs by AC/DC, BR5-49, R.E.M. and U2. Also by B.B. King, A.J. Croce, k.d. lang, and G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band. Keb' Mo', Kid Rock and Carole King. Everything from Abba to Wilco. From Fiona Apple to Lucinda Williams. From Green Day to Macy Gray. Jackson Browne, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Charles Brown, Greg Brown and Clint Black. Radiohead, Portishead, Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Andres Segovia, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pat Metheny, Leo Kottke, Jimi Hendrix. Sting and Santana. Lisa Loeb and Lyle Lovett. Sheryl Crow, Howlin' Wolf and Pushmonkey. Oh, and so much more.
It's hard for me to resist something fresh and different. I don't stay on one radio station for very long because it gets tedious. I just can't listen to the same music all the time. I think it puts people off, because I'm often playing something by an artist they've never heard of. It's worse, though, if a person walks in and the music that's on is something they already know they don't like. I can go from Cecilia Bartoli singing "Temerari" from Così fan tutte to Travis Tritt doing "Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof," but I don't think I know anyone else who can. Is that why you no one's come over lately?
On the other hand, this is a trait that makes me perfectly comfortable with other people's music, almost without exception. I can come to your house and enjoy what you're listening to. I could probably even sing along, but you wouldn't want that.