Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mozart and Me

"There is a lot in the world that I just don't know."

I made that announcement as Scarlet and I were leaving the first of our Humanities Seminar's classes on Mozart.  There were things I knew that turned out to be untrue (the story about the composing being effortless stems from a forged letter) and there were things I didn't know existed and by the end of two hours I had a better understanding of why Mozart's music is considered structurally and emotionally exceptional.

It wasn't easy getting there.  The professor was a study in How to Teach an All-Levels Class.  There were sage nods of heads as I felt myself skirting the edges but never quite hanging on. It was mildly frustrating.... and then he played the music.

Sometimes he spoke over it, pointing out the sections of the fugue as they morphed from one to the next.  His voice was a gentle nudge in the right direction; without his guidance I'm not sure I'd have caught the nuances.  And then, at the end of the piece, he made me feel much better when he said, "Admittedly, this is hard."

Did I mention that he's a master at teaching a melting pot class?

His slides were perfect, pictures of the family interspersed with handwritten scores.  Some in the class understood the notations; I grooved on the fact that it was written in his hand.  There was something for everyone, with diagrams - colored and black-and-white - explaining the theory behind the music.  I could follow the diagrams, and though I don't know what a fifth might be, or what contrapuntal means, I was never more than ten or fifteen minutes from the music.  And the music was sublime.

And so, with Scarlet by my side, reminding me how lucky we are that we will never be tested on this material, I'll spend the next few Monday afternoons with Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, whose Chrusostomus refers to St. Chrysostom, on whose day he was born, and whose Amadeus is a Frenchified version of Theophilus, which means beloved of God or Lover of God.

I did learn something after all.

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