My brother always loved the Backstreet Boys. And Bobby Brown. And he still knows all of the words and all of the dance steps to ice ice baby [lack of capitalization intentional]. That’s all OK, I guess-everyone has their own tastes…is what I’m supposed to say. But the thing I will always hold over his head was his love for Milli Vanili.
[I can’t believe I’m going to do this paragraph-I’m so old! sobbing emoji] For those of you [sigh] who do not remember, Milli Vanili took the country by storm around 1989-they sang one inane meaningless superficial but ultimately danceable and hey! what else matters? pop smash hit after another seemingly without ever taking off those tight black “tights” even once for proper airing. They won three American Music Awards and one Grammy [Best New Artist] before it was discovered that they had never sang a single note of any of their songs.
Their Grammy stripped, their pride destroyed, they ignored the millions of fans still screaming for more and returned to whatever hole they crawled out of in the first place. Later, one of them even committed suicide.
But let’s leave whimsy aside…
I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a music snob. Many people along the way have reminded me that I will never get anywhere by pointing fingers or riding a high horse, which makes things complicated since I always want to take the high road, which is then OK somehow, but I get confused.
So I will start this piece..um..continue this piece by saying I am listening to classical music right now-The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. I am listening to..um..Summer? Wait, that was Winter! And now Autumn is on, which sounds totally different but ask me again when I can’t see my phone which Season is singing and I’ll have an exactly 25% chance of guessing right.
Thanks to Gravity’s Rainbow, and, like, my ears, I love Rossini, but I find Mozart to die for. Yeah, a lot of how I see Mozart has to do with Milos Forman’s movie, but if I shut the TV off forever and could only hear his music for a while I would die just as happy without the visuals. As a matter of fact, whenever other classical music comes on I generally recognize it instantly as “not Mozart.”
Pynchon made the point in Gravity’s Rainbow that the only thing one feels like doing after listening to Beethoven is “invade Poland.” Ergo: “not Mozart.” Then there’s Strauss, who wrote waltzes, which are wonderfully graceful dances performed equally as well by ceramic figurines on a Dollar Store music box. Definitely not Mozart. Bach is nice when you feel like you want to go completely insane, rip the couch open and eat all the stuffing, but should this not be the case I hear a ton of brooding “Holier than thou” not Mozart. Which brings us to the other classical musicist: Vivaldi.
For any of you daring enough to waste 20 minutes listening to Strauss trying to be Rossini trying to be Mozart and kind of giving up half way through while saying “why don’t we just break this hot mess up into 4 parts and name each after a season that’ll show ’em won’t it?”, this is the music for you!
Start with Spring, which begins, duh! slowly, without much fanfare, as the strings lead the budding return of life back through the last of the icy winter frosts and up into our strained eardrums. Then music happens, seemingly until the 4-5 minutes are up-which is when Summer begins…slowly! There are a lot of violins, and a lot of notes played by violins, and some of them sound quite pleasing together, until the composer guy decides to take a step back and “think” his way out of the season, which also sounds swell. The arrangements, melody, and cinnamon tones all inject the sweaty summer months with more authentic music until it is time, after 5 brief minutes, to bid Summer adieu and welcome Autumn!
The beginning of autumn sounds much like summer, and the ear-aficionado will quickly recognize that all three of these seasons are exactly the same up until that point. More notes are played at the listeners expense, but without causing the pesky nuisance of toe-tapping, or snapping, because the invention of rhythm remained an unreachable 233 years off in the future [Chuck Berry ,“Johnny Be Goode” 1958]. I realize only now that Autumn has ended several minutes ago, which means it is time for dreadful Winter.
Here Vivaldi does not disappoint. Carrying on with his stated goal of only using strings, the Maestro enters the last season on a somber, dreary note that makes depressing November seem like Mardi Gras. Suicide is palpable-definitely an option. Then the violins start fiddling–you’ll hear what I mean– and the piece returns to familiar old territory: “Let’s just play this thing out!” Vivaldi utters in violin.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that the piece was composed in Amsterdam, though I can’t for the life of me remember where I was going with that smiley face emoji there should be a flamenco dancer emoji like one of them dancers at Mardi Gras you see spinning in yellow who is wearing a real flower and so much make up there is nothing anymore underneath her makeup OMG she is a sentient makeup figure in human form with God only knows what evil plans in her head OMG she HAS NO HEAD!!! and wait, where am I?
Winter has ended but I have no idea when. It must have been during somber while I was out carousing in Rio. Or A-dam?
Which brings me, directly, to Milli Vanilli. I obviously see Vivaldi as not Mozart. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t hear anything in his musicals warranting intense enjoyment. I don’t hear intense anything. I hear un-tense.
I don’t find anything there at all except a series of notes, played in a sensible order, light on the ear, soft on the attention span, undemanding, unchallenging, belonging nowhere else but in an elevator or a perfume shop, out of touch but, like a parfait in summer, with a touch of sweetness.
The Four Seasons is the white bread in the bakery-go hear you some if you’re in the mood for baloney. While you’re at it: Baby, Don’t Forget My Number!