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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Paul A. Toth

Secret Lives of the World’s Greatest Composers: Mozart

June 8th, 2012
by Paul A. Toth

Despite my ability to fluently write and speak thirty-nine different languages, the four Ph.D.’s I’ve earned, my work as an archeologist, forensic pathologist, pre-Socratic philosopher, neurological surgeon, mime, locksmith, zoologist, and janitor - despite it all — I could never rest until now, when I can finally share the results of the eighty-five years I’ve spent unveiling the secret lives of music’s greatest composers.

It started with a hobby, my part-time position as an unlicensed psychiatrist, which prepared me for this project. It may well be said that this physician failed to cure himself, much less his patients, but my gracious colleagues ensured me they, too, never failed to fail.

Born immune to the culturally-bankrupt “music” known as the blues, I found my succor in Western culture’s highest achievement: the arrangement of notes into compositions that required great minds to explain how the masses could pretend they enjoyed the greatest music the world has ever ignored.

Leaving that task to others, I instead chose to explore the lives of these almost-tolerated geniuses. I selected my subjects based on a simple litmus test: Had they served as the subject of at least one major motion picture?

And with that, let us begin with the obvious and regress to the oblique as we explore the secret life of Mozart.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 250 A.D. to Roman parents, Irrititus Alotus, a hot-tempered shoes salesman, and Lustus Allmaleus, a seductive and highly-successful nymphomaniac. When pulled from the womb, Alotus immediately struck the boy in the head with a frying pan. Mozart, whose parents waited fifteen before naming their child, was rendered deaf in both ears and suffered brain damage as a result of the assault, which in turn led to the one factual element portrayed by 1997 film Amadeus: a mind-splintering giggle that would result in many more blows to the head.

To escape Alotus’ violence, Mozart fled to the Galapagos Islands in 1200 B.C., building a canoe with botched crosses imported from Jerusalem and employed as torture devices during Rome’s Spanish Inquisition.  Incredibly, modern scientific technology has proven Mozart the first human being to ever visit the islands.
Landing at Santiago, Mozart endured temperatures as low as 69 degrees. He survived by constructing a three-bedroom bamboo hut. In freezing temperatures, Mozart solved his boredom by studying the sounds made by birds and insects. Despite having never heard a single musical instrument or undergone the slightest musical training, Mozart translated these sounds into musical notes. Soon, he began carving his first compositions in tree trunks.

“The Tree Compositions” disappeared over the following 2600 years. Only one example remains. It was discovered by Charles Darwin in 1965 and immediately Fed-Ex’d to Art.com. But Darwin discovered something far more compelling in 1323, facts recorded but deleted from his never-completed journal, “Sex, Sex and More Sex.” By using MRI technology, forensic mythologists, aided by physician handwriting interpreters, recovered much of the deleted material in their examination of Darwin’s notes. In doing so, they revealed one of the biggest secrets of Mozart’s life.

In those passages, Darwin remarked upon observations he deemed unnecessary to his theory. The notes, rambling and nearly unintelligible due to the penicillin-resistant strep throat Darwin contracted in 1769, contain only a few lucid passages. One of those passages will forever change our understanding of Mozart.
Darwin writes, “One day on Santiago, while studying the Arctocephalus galapagoensis, I noticed that dozens of these creatures had apparently been violated in a region of the body the naming of which would be unsuitable for this journal’s audience. (Note to self: This may sell. Rethink decision later.)  I knew only one man had been to this island before me: Mozart. I recognized immediately that this supposedly- cultured man, barred from relations with women until he departed Galapagos in 1892, was the culprit, foisting himself upon these helpless creatures. With one mission remaining, I stopped in Haiti on my way home and consulted a witch doctor, requesting that he cast a curse upon Mozart.”

The Arctocephalus galapagoensis, or Galapagos fur seal, and specifically fur, propelled Mozart into a promiscuity that began the moment he returned to civilization. Leaving in the same craft that had carried him to Galapagos, Mozart eventually landed on the shores of Kazakhstan in 1899, completing a six-year journey. During the voyage, Mozart carved new compositions into the floor of his canoe, creating leaks and the need to drink and spit out the waters threatening to literally sink his ship.

Upon his arrival, the boat promptly disintegrated. Local villagers, frightened by the wig Mozart had taken to wearing during his Santiago years, grabbed the remaining boards and beat the composer out of what senses remained. From that day forward, Mozart, already deaf, lost the ability to feel, see, taste, and smell.
The villagers left Mozart to the lack of his lack of devices. He spent the night on the beach and, testing his abilities, learned that the only sound he could still produce was the giggle that had led to giggle. Tortured by memories of an unconsummated love for one of the seals, and tormented by hallucinations of frying pans, Mozart sprinted into the vast and flat plains populated by intellectually-vacuous peasants, a scene familiar to those who’ve visited Kansas.

As spears, arrows and rocks grazed his flesh, Mozart unknowing headed into the desert that would eventually become known as Russia. He arrived in Moscow, exploding with musical ideas and his sexual obsession with the fur seals he would neither forget nor ever see again.

He wandered the streets. At one point, which most historians date as occurring sometime between the years of 1498 and 1814, Mozart happened across a street pianist. Hearing the notes he had until then merely imagined, he frantically searched for the source, but he saw no birds or insects, only the man on a bench, tapping upon a strange device. Stopping between pieces, the pianist looked up and noticed the disoriented and half-naked human specimen now leaning on his piano, eyes closed. Assuming Mozart to be a narcoleptic idiot, the pianist took his unconscious superior to the local hospital. It was there that hospital records, only recently released by the Russian government, tell another secret tale.

Familiar with the disorder, Mozart’s doctors treated him by way of cocaine. Released from the hospital with a lifelong prescription for the drug, Mozart rode the White Pony for the rest of his years. Fortunately, the doctors had sympathized with the senseless, giggling composer, and before his departure, gave him enough money to support his living at hotel for two months. Mozart, walking on cocaine legs, covered the one hour walk in thirty-five seconds. The doctors, knowing his inability to speak, had made arrangements with the hotel, and Mozart was attended to with special care by the matron, one Zhamaryspechikov Zavajhanovovich, a widow whose inheritance had made her a wealthy business owner. Nevertheless, Zavajhanovovich was lonely and often “visited” her male lodgers late at night.

In this manner, Zavajhanovovich went to Mozart’s room at midnight. Upon opening the door, she witnessed the composer in a furious cocaine power-wanking session, in which it can be surmised that Mozart’s mind was filled with visions of fur seals. Knowing an opportunity when she spotted one, Zavajhanovovich stripped off her clothes and revealed another kind of fur, then pounced upon her willing prey. Mozart and Zavajhanovovich married half an hour later.
Now living permanently in the hotel, Zavajhanovovich taught her husband how to write. One day into the honeymoon, Mozart could communicate his thoughts in thirteen languages, and, except for his music, this provided his sole means of communication.

One morning, Mozart handed Zavajhanovovich a note in which he asked that she go to the market and purchase for him new ears, eyes, tongue, nose, and “if possible,” nervous system. When she responded with the silence of the stunned, Mozart jotted a second note: “Never mind. But please obtain 185 exterminators to eradicate the liquid spiders dripping from the ceiling, which is melting.”

Thus, we arrive at the solution to a psychiatric mystery. Often diagnosed as bipolar, Mozart instead developed paranoid schizophrenia from his constant use of cocaine. Recent studies solidified the diagnosis by revealing that 100 percent of paranoid schizophrenics hallucinated insects, birds and fur seals whenever listening to Mozart’s music via I-Pods supplied by researchers.

Deeply worried, Zavajhanovovich took Mozart to the office of a charlatanosk, the era’s equivalent of a psychiatrist. This charlatanosk, centuries ahead of his time, provided the exact treatment a modern psychiatrist would administer in such a case, doubling Mozart’s medication. This doctor, whose name remains unknown, became Mozart’s lifelong friend, and the doctor’s monthly requests for greater compensation were met with instant approval. Mozart recorded the sole in his diary. Having protested for ten minutes, he writes, “Liquid spiders began dripping from the ceiling, which was also melting.” He instantly paid the requested fee.

Mozart’s career left the launching pad in 1413, just as the Russian Revolution began. Zavajhanovovich, labeled a bourgeois capitalist by the newly-formed government, was arrested and sent to Siberia during what historians would later call “seventeen days that changed some of the world for a while.” Mozart proved immune to sorrow; he reports in his diary that he “never stopped imagining my sweet wife as a far sweeter fur seal.”

His career survived the chaos to come, then thrived as communist officials rushed to witness the “giggling idiot.” After expressing his desire to copulate with Stalin’s mustache, Mozart was arrested. Though originally pre-sentenced to death, Mozart’s fortunes turned when Stalin recognized that executing the world-renowned prisoner would create too great a public relations crisis. He was released in 1642 and sent to the czar, who proclaimed the composer a Hero of the Soviet Union.

The final secret of Mozart’s life regards his death. Long the subject of intense scrutiny and conspiracy theories, not to mention a good film plot, the secret facts can now be revealed. For reasons unknown but documented by the secret witness account left by Stalin himself and made public by a different dictator yesterday, Mozart’s final words - or word - proves the power of the supernatural: “Voodoo,” he said, and breathed his last breath. A Haitian witch doctor’s curse had killed one of the world’s greatest composers.

In honor of the dead hero, Stalin arranged for the shipment of Mozart’s corpse to Galapagos, where he was buried with 25,000 fur seals executed by NKVD guards in a “Soviet Supreme Sacrifice” attended by 65,000 birds, 3,000,000 insects, and the ghost of Charles Darwin. But one last secret occurred in Mozart’s afterlife, for Soviet secret police records note that Stalin had become so obsessed with the composer that he shaved his mustache, which was placed in the coffin that now rests somewhere beneath the florid surface of Santiago Island.


Rebecca Schiffman

This Happened Yesterday

November 6th, 2009
by Rebecca Schiffman

NEW YORK, NY-

Yesterday, early evening, I went to the Strand Bookstore on 12th Street and Broadway.  The store is just slightly overflowing with used and new books presented on tables and in aisles of shelves that almost reach the ceiling, reminding me of a school library.   “Eighteen Miles of Books” is their current motto.

Upon entering, noticing there is no longer a bag-check, feeling the size of my stuffed, giant tote bag wedged under my arm and its weight pulling down on my shoulder, I made eye contact with the security guard.  A small wave of sheepishness and fear came over me as it always does.  Shoplifting was one of my main after school activities during eighth grade until I was nearly caught by The Gap.  Still now, fifteen years later, I feel constantly under suspicion while shopping, as if the security guards and clerks can sense that my conscience is not clear. (more…)


Col. Hector Bravado

How Donnybrook Writing Academy Will Manage the Stupid Band Name Shortage

October 27th, 2009
by Col. Hector Bravado

DENVER, CO-

After extensive research on the Donnybrook Super Internet — it’s a lot like the crappy internet that you use, except everything on it is true — we have determined that these are the only remaining names available for new musical acts:

(more…)


Amy Guth

The Morrissey Story

October 18th, 2009
by Amy Guth

NEW YORK, NY-

I grew up in restaurants and hotels, daughter of a restaurateur. People came around, people who were famous sometimes for one thing or another, people who had an entourage, people who tried to demand preferential treatment somehow. I didn’t necessarily recognize any of these people, sometimes I did, sometimes not, but there was a tension that hung around the kitchen and chef’s office when a VIP was scheduled to be in the dining room, a tension that would disappear the moment he or she arrived and everyone remembered the star was as human as the rest of us.

Later on, as I grew up and lived in Manhattan, seeing celebrities wasn’t any big deal. It’s what happens in New York, and only tourists dare make a garish scene and acknowledge the famous in any way other than that of a peer. Even if the heart is a teen-aged girl gripped with the Beatlemania of the moment, the exterior had to be cool. (more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Tyler’s Adventures in Cultural Literacy

October 12th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

What does it mean to be literate? That one’s pretty easy; it means you know how to read. What does it mean to be cultural? That one’s a little tougher; it means you know that in most situations, it’s unacceptable to put your cigarette out on a dachshund. And so what does it mean to be “culturally literate?” Many have posed this question (Harold Bloom, the Yale professor currently encased in acrylic and preserved for posterity does it a lot.), yet no one has truly come to terms with an accurate answer. My uncle Seamus once remarked that “cultural literacy is for homosexuals,” but he was urinating in a koi pond at the time, so who knows? I suggest we journey together to see if we can’t get to the core of this labyrinthine dilemma. Perhaps the most logical first step is learning how to read (I’ll wait for a few minutes)… Sweet. Our next step is to determine what exactly is “cultural.” Below are a few undeniably cultural items in the realm of architecture, literature and music. Let’s familiarize ourselves with these things, and then we can begin to get a handhold on what it means to be culturally literate. (more…)


D.R. Haney

Saved by Demon Song

October 11th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

I’m hungry. I have no money at all, none is expected soon, and there’s no one from whom I can borrow. I pace all night, wondering how to come by a few dollars to eat.

Finally, slowly, a plan unfolds: I can walk down the street to an ATM, fill out a deposit slip for a phantom check, feed the slip to the ATM, and request a cash advance. The bank, of course, will quickly discover that no check accompanied the deposit slip, but once I’m contacted, I’ll simply say that, being in a hurry, I forgot. By then I hope to have thought of someone who’s willing to cut me a bona fide check.

(more…)


Rich Ferguson

Of Road Dogs and Lives Lost and Saved (Part 2 of 2)

October 6th, 2009
by Rich Ferguson

LOS ANGELES -

Picture the scene:

I was twenty-four. My San Francisco band was on tour. The night in question: we’d just finished playing the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, opening for The Celibate Rifles. The show had gone extremely well. Me, manning drums. Dave on guitar, Jim on bass. A great big rush and blur of wailing voices, whiskey and heartache-strung guitars, adrenaline drumsticks. Think thrashy folk music: the bastard lovechild of REM and the Violent Femmes after a long night of ecstasy and crank snorting.

(more…)


Litsa Dremousis

The Shameless; an Inflatable Fake Phallus; Bouncer Thugs: a Look Back at Hot for Teacher Night (Yes, That One)

October 2nd, 2009
by Litsa Dremousis

SEATTLE, WA-

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I covered Hot for Teacher Night at a craptastic sports bar in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square district for sexual anthropologist, Susie Bright (Esquire, Rolling Stone, Salon), of whom I’ve long been an admirer.

Said night featured the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau and its announcement received nationwide attention. Bright and I are Facebook friends and she asked if any of her Seattle compadres would be willing to attend and report for her blog; I tossed my hat in the ring and was one of two she chose.

(more…)


Ronlyn Domingue

How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Russians (Iraqis, North Koreans, and so on) and Hate War

October 1st, 2009
by Ronlyn Domingue

NEAR 91 DEGREES LONGITUDE-

I confronted eschatology too young. Although benign compared to some beliefs, my Catholic upbringing placed me at the sidelines of Armageddon—strange references to a kingdom come, the Second Coming, Judgment Day. I got queasy at the mention of the Book of Revelations. Sermons and syntactically-strained Bible readings led me to infer a tremendous destructive end to all life, human, animal, insect, plant. There were drawings in books, filled with fire, angels and demons, a sea of the damned. For a child, it’s impossible to reconcile a loving Father with one who will kill every one of his children with wanton violence. Children also don’t grasp metaphor.

(more…)


Tony DuShane

With Love, Nick Cave

September 29th, 2009
by Tony DuShane

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-

Does Nick Cave know about my love life?

I found out my wife was cheating on me. Not the greatest feeling in the world after a decade of marriage. I admit, there were times when I met another attractive woman and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could just…but I put that thought right out of my mind and went home a committed guy.

Not that sex was the only thing to the petit mess that our marriage was. There was me, the writer, and what she thought the writing life style would bring her.

When we dated, I was the quirky artist guy. She thought listening to Nirvana made her alternative and Nora Roberts was literature. (more…)


Suzanne Burns

Diary of a First Book, Entry 3: Voodoo Doughnuts and First Loves

September 28th, 2009
by Suzanne Burns

BEND, OR-

I have learned many things over the past few months of book touring. Number one, grabbing a book-buying audience’s attention in the summer months is like convincing me that Dan Brown, or Stephen King, is a good writer. Number two, if you read in a venue where they make maple-bacon doughnuts, they will come. Number three, there is no other bookstore like Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. (more…)


Stefan Kiesbye

Azzurro

September 21st, 2009
by Stefan Kiesbye

LONG BEACH, CA-

My father drove a blue Opel Kadett. I was three, maybe four, and for this particular trip – maybe up north to my grandparents who lived close to the Danish border — he’d received a company car, a green Ford Coupe with a black vinyl top. I don’t remember what made it necessary, but the new, large car was exciting, and my sister and I had extra room in the back, even though the Ford had a sloping roofline. We were much too small to hit our heads.

(more…)


Ben Loory

Tarnishment of the Living Apparatus

September 15th, 2009
by Ben Loory

LOS ANGELES, CA-

There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.
(more…)


Will Entrekin

Every Now and Then I Fall Apart

September 15th, 2009
by Will Entrekin

JERSEY CITY, NJ-

My final night in Manhattan, October 2001. Autumn in New York, which should have been wonderful as fall usually is, perhaps without the beauty of quick-changing leaves but with all the excitement of holidays to come. Usually there’s a somewhat breathless anticipation to the City at that time, but I didn’t feel it that year.

I was feeling a lot of things then, but breathless anticipation wasn’t one of them. The World Trade Center had fallen six weeks before, and the City had suddenly begun to feel bigger and scarier and more intimidating than I had realized, so I planned to leave for my parents’ house in South Jersey. I had planned to take a few weeks to gather my thoughts, to reflect, and then to begin again, to find work personal training or substitute teaching (or both).

Did Lennon say life is what happens when you’re making other plans, or that plans are the surest way to make God laugh at you? I feel like he said one of the two, and I think he should have if he didn’t. Both seem like very John Lennon sort of things to say.

(more…)


Lenore Zion

What I Did In My Room

September 14th, 2009
by Lenore Zion

LOS ANGELES, CA-

My first boom box was pale pink. It had a tape player and two speakers and an AM/FM radio. I never understood how to work the radio, but I did understand the tape player. This is what I used.

The boom box came in a package wrapped and tagged “To Lenore, From Nana.” Mind you, my grandmother had nothing to do with this gift. My parents just put her name on the tag, in order to both lighten the gift-shopping load on my mean-ass grandmother and to fool me into believing that the old bitch loved me at least a little. I wasn’t fooled, though. She’d revealed her true nature the Christmas before, when my parents wrote her name on the tag for the Pound Puppies I so desperately wanted. Upon enthusiastically thanking her for buying me what I desired most in the world, she disowned any involvement in the gifting. “I don’t even know what those things are,” she said to me, looking at my new Pound Puppies with irrational hatred.

(more…)


A. F. Passafiume

Make a Gleeful Noise

September 12th, 2009
by A. F. Passafiume

NASHVILLE, TN -

The new TV show Glee made its season premiere last week, and it seems like a good chunk of America is already hooked. I know I am. It’s a fun show that takes me back to when I was in Glee Club during high school. I loved being in Glee Club. I was thoroughly involved and was even Vice President during my senior year. Just to be clear, however, my high school Glee Club was nothing like the one depicted on Fox.

Granted, I was in Glee Club during the late 80s. Maybe things have changed since then. A lot. But in my day (and if you find yourself beginning sentences with “In my day” it’s a sure sign that you are about an inch away from yelling “You kids get off my lawn!”) our Glee Club was very proper. I went to a private all girls boarding school, which I realize could not have been a typical high school experience. We had curfews and couldn’t wear jeans to class or chew gum, we encouraged each other to excel academically, and it wasn’t nerdy to be in Glee Club. We didn’t have cheerleaders or a football team, you understand, so being involved in music was perfectly acceptable.

(more…)


Zara Potts

‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.’

September 10th, 2009
by Zara Potts

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND -

Memory can be like a magician’s trick; part sleight of hand, part smoke and mirrors. It’s real but it’s not real. Sometimes you’ll catch a glimpse but you will never actually catch the trick.

So it is with music. There’s a song that I don’t know the name of, but if I hear even two bars of it - it reduces me to a quivering wreck.  It was the song that was playing on the radio when I found the lifeless body of my kitten that had been squashed flat by a gas tank. I was about eleven years old when this happened and despite the resulting trauma, I count myself lucky that that the song playing was an obscure electronica piece. I’d have been fucked if it had been something really popular like Spandau Ballet’s ‘True,’ which still gets a lot of airplay even now.

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Colleen McGrath

Herding Cats

September 6th, 2009
by Colleen McGrath

BERLIN, GERMANY

Trying to teach music to a room full of children under five years of age with no other adult in the room is a bit like herding cats. Most of the time it’s just not possible. I would guess in the forty-five minute period, the time we spend on actual music is less than fifteen minutes. “But how can that be?”, you cry. Let me clear it up for you. (more…)


James D. Irwin

The Time I Accidentally Created Seinfeld and Other Strange Pages from the Notebook

August 18th, 2009
by James D. Irwin

SOUTH EAST, ENGLAND-

This is a pretty spontaneous post.

I’ve been out of bed for about forty-five minutes, I’ve had a coffee and I’m currently sat in my pajamas listening to The Ramones.

I’ve become obsessed with The Ramones recently and haven’t really listened to anything else in over a week; I’ve even stopped listening to my favourite classic rock station.

To put this obsession in the form of a cheap pun: I don’t remember rock and roll radio.

The reason I suddenly decided to post was because of something I found in an old notebook…

(more…)


Ari Phillips

Sasquatch: The Most Indie Mainstream Music Festival Attended By Mostly Canadians

August 14th, 2009
by Ari Phillips

PORTLAND, OR-

Sasquatch Music Festival is the indie version of Bumbershoot, the slightly more mature version of The Pitchfork Music Festival, the newer, hipper version of Coachella. At least that’s the impression my friend and I held as we pulled into our Sasquatch campsite last May: a car + tent-sized patch of land on an uneven, overgrown agricultural field commonly referred to as “Tent City”. Upon exiting our vehicle and ascertaining that most of Tent City appeared to be inhabited by young and mainstream-looking people our impressions quickly changed, however – these were not the hip, stylishly disheveled mid-20-somethings we’d been expecting. (more…)