I accidentally came across a rather humorous department store commercial for some special sale. It showed actors screaming with exaggerated joy or awe… to the contrasting accompaniment of a few bars of one of the most moving pieces I know: Mozart’s Requiem. Some may be shocked, but I have come to embrace the pervasive vulgarity of popular culture. Even the concept of vulgarity has long ceased to hold a negative judgment. In Paris where I grew up there was a kind of rule of “Taste”, turned on its head by the Punks back in the 70s, and now completely outdated against the conflicting and miscellaneous value systems in world cultures – after all, in some civilizations, farting loudly after a meal is a required compliment to the cook.
The mysterious Requiem was only sketched out by the Mozart on his own death bed, with the help of a student at his bedside, and was completed by others after his death – a rather atypical Mozart piece actually – containing the seeds of romanticism, or possibly the seeds of his own musical future that he didn’t get to live out. What’s so odd is that he actually ended up composing a requiem for himself which he was reluctant to do at first, but he needed the money. So he lived his own death in the music – a young man of 35. That’s why I get upset when it’s conducted too fast. Those violin Sforzandos have to dig in, not just glide along.
The enigmatic death of Mozart inspired many books which at some point I read voraciously; could be that he died of an unmentionable disease born out of pleasure, or from its ineffective poisonous mercury cure – or both, or maybe the Masons did it – because of a couple of scenes in the Magic Flute were too close to revealing their secret rituals – and ultimately he died too poor to afford a proper funeral, his body dumped in common hole in the ground; but think again, in some part of Tibet, his body would have been cut up in small pieces for the vultures to feed on his life force as a step in the cycle of death and rebirth. Those were the associations brought on by the television commercial – fortunately, none of them about going out shopping.