Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mall Mozart

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, January 15, 2009
Originally written as a pre--blog sometime in 2003, re-posted in response to Whiting's comment to the previous entry…

HEALDSBURG, California del norte, 15 avril 2016 —

You remember what it was like driving down toward Susa from the Moncenisio pass — I always recall that when driving down from Mt. Shasta through Redding and onto the Central Valley, leaving the snow and mist behind, as if there were a choice in the matter, and coming out to a warmer day, further advanced in the season.

The mood was enhanced yesterday, when the radio finally found a noncommercial station amongst all the inter-station hiss it had coped with up in the mountains. What a lucky break the Chico campus wasn’t damaged during the attacks! Mozart was on. Not only Mozart; the Coronation Concerto, played with spirit and wit by Alfred Brendel. The sunlight-and-shadow effect of the minor-key passages in the finale exactly matched the skies below Redding, reminding me to stop at what’s left of the old outlet shops near Corning, to visit the Mozart Mall.

I’d been closing in on my complete collection while up in Portland, where there’s any number of used CD stores. At one of them I heard about the Mozart Mall. Who could believe it? A shop devoted to the greatest musical genius of all time, except perhaps for Cage...

The shop had begun in the town of Mt. Shasta ten years ago, before the Intensification, during the Mozart Semiquincentennial, or maybe the following year, I’m not sure. Someone ran it out of her living room for a few months, just as a hobby and to entertain a group of friends. It was one of them, I think, who had the idea of setting it up in the mall, when so many outlets and franchises went bust after the crash of 2010, leaving the malls with empty shops for years.

Anyway it seems to be thriving now, partly because of the economic recovery following the Reorganization, partly because of the discovery a couple of years ago of the missing pages of the Requiem, just in time for the funeral obsequies of President Bush III. It’s a curious place, with its old-fashioned espresso machines and its sofas. It even has a set of loudspeakers, which make it necessary to share your listening with other people, even total strangers. It isn’t obligatory, though, thank the muses, and we hooked ourselves up to headcaps.

It’s very comfortable. The woman who runs the shop was lucky to have both time and a decent computer back in 2006, when she cruised the Internet — how I miss it — and downloaded all the Mozart she could find, sound files, images, and text. She’s found old-style motherboards and memory and managed to re-create a hard-wired version of the Internet, or at least a lot of the Mozart part of it, right in her shop.

Her partner is a theater director, and she’s contributed a wonderful dimension to the shop — a virtual theater allowing you to sample old videodiscs of Mozart operas, as well as that one promising experiment in historical reconstruction, the one the Salzburg Festival produced in 2009, just before the Final Intensification. I’d forgotten how persuasive it was; I don’t see how musical performance can get more real, short of using real musicians and real instruments — unthinkable, of course, today.

Unfortunately the accelerated time mode is no longer available — technology like that is gone, along with all the weapons, and it’s probably a good thing — so we were content with just part of one of the quartets, but it was a pleasure to see Mozart on the viola and Haydn playing violin. I never did learn much German, let alone the 18th-century Vienna vernacular, so the joking went past me, but the winks and nudges between them during the “Dissonant” finale were pure pleasure.

MallMozart is part museum, too. They have almost the complete Collected Mozart Edition on shelves, real original paper copies. And they even sell DVDs of the scores, including the autographs, and searchable DVD versions of the Internet sites that used to be available through the airwaves. I don’t know how they got permission for all this.
I met Khalila, the woman who runs the place — the daughter, I think, of one of the founders. She said the idea came from the old coffeehouse concept; that’s why they still have that espresso machine. There’s even an idea to franchise a series of MallMozarts throughout the entire country, from Medford down to Carmel. It’s a great idea, of course: it’s time to begin developing a national cultural sense.

We’re back on the road; I’ll send this the next time I can make a connection, probably at the next hydrocell stop. Hope you’re well and having fun!


John Whiting said...

This is wonderful! I dived straight in, not noticing the date in the heading and only gradually became aware that it was a voice from the future. It set me thinking: how much of our technology will still be useable when the infrastructure that supports it no longer functions? A hundred years from now the only sounds of the past that are still hearable may be those on 78s and Edison cylinders.

Curtis Faville said...

The novelist and feature writer Nicholson Baker theorizes that all the new-fangled transitional devices and storage technologies we're seeing now will be gone within a couple of decades.

What will survive when they do? Enormous efforts at conversion will be needed just to keep pace. Baker's point is that we shouldn't be throwing so much stuff away, calling it obsolete.

My best friend in high school was an obsessed jazz and swing enthusiast who built up a huge collection of 78's by going to flea-markets and junk stores. We'd stay up late on weekend nights listening endlessly to everything from King Oliver to Stan Kenton, and everything in between. Will those scratchy records someday be the salvation of curators? Who knows?

It'll be interesting for posterity to try to figure out how to "interpret" a Dizzy Gillespie solo. "Just play the notes the way they're written!" as Stravinsky said, vehemently. The ultimate hedge against interpretation?

Brett Weston burned all his negatives at age 80. He didn't want anyone else printing from his personal negatives.

John Whiting said...

A Google search reveals a single New Yorker article by Baker in 1980 on the destruction of the world's newspapers in the British Museum following their microfilming. The article, alas, does not come up in a search of the New Yorker's website.

John Whiting said...

A serendipitous misreading led me to the above. I googled Nicholas Baker rather than Nicholson Baker. Nicholas Baker apparently set up a fund to preserve the papers; I don't know if he was successful.

John Whiting said...

Looking at the google item again, the writer apparently made the same mistake I did. It's the same person.