Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Composer’s Jokes

Very soon I’ll be starting my composition studies. In order to prepare a bit I’m currently reading A Composer’s World, Paul Hindemith’s book based on his Norton Lectures at Harvard University in 1949-1950. Even though I have the text in pdf I decided to buy the book when I found it at a second hand book shop. I like old books, and this one is from 1961, more than 20 years before I was born, so that’s quite special to me. I also still like to read on paper (or e-reader) more than on the computer screen, because that way I can easily underline the special passages. Like this one:

There still are, and always will be, composers who are more than mere arrangers of sounds. Among the multitudes of listeners there exist large groups who demand more from music than a permanent lulling accompaniment to their most banal activities. And not all performers are as godforsaken as many of our virtuosi with their limited repertoire of circus tricks.

I’ve now read the first chapter and I love the book. It’s very interesting (with certain passages, like the above, more ‘usefull’ than others, but the others not less neccessary) and very well written. It’s a complicated use of language for non-English speakers, but excellent for it’s academic purpose, and at times even witty. Even though the text is mostly ‘scientific’ (meaning its destination is just within the intellectual atmosphere of the university), it is written to be both informative and entertaining, because how else would you best capture the attention of this kind of public. Hindemith uses some delightfull descriptions: phoenixlike ressurections, kaleidoscopic picture, esoteric realms of our musical nature, musical nitwits,…

But reading something by the hand of Hindemith made me think of something else. Jokes. Musical jokes. Composer jokes. Hindemith himself is mentioned in a German composer joke:

Ein Musiker will ein Zimmer mieten. Die Vermieterin lehnt sofort ab. “Ich hatte schon einmal so einen wie Sie. Der kam sehr beethövlich, dann wurde er bei meiner Tochter mozärtlich, brachte ihr einen Strauß mit, nahm sie beim Händel und führte sie mit Liszt über den Bach in die Haydn. Da wurde er Reger und spitz Vivalde und sagte: ‘Frisch gewagnert ist halb gewonnen.’ Er konnte sich nicht mehr brahmsen und hat sie geschubert. Und jetzt haber wir ein Mendelssohn und wissen nicht wo-hindemith.”

It was Rossini who said: “Give me your laundry list and I’ll put it to music.” But lists can be musical all by themselves. For those who prefer English, I’m sure you’ve seen various versions of the Chopin Liszt:

Gone Chopin, Bach in a Minuet

– Mozart-rella

– Cream and Ives

– new door Handel

– Strauß

– Clemen-tea

– Tchai-cough-sky drops

– Rossini and Cheese

– Schumann polish

– Bern-n-stein remover

– Satie sticks

– marsh-Mahlers

– Rossini in cheese

– Cui-tips

– Purr(a)cel batteries

– beethOven cleaner

– orange Schubert

– Rav(i)eli

– Bach of ‘serial’

– chicken Balakirev

And last but not least, for the ones who understand some Spanish, this hilarious short movie.

Maybe the best of all, because it hasn’t got anything to do with the rest of the ‘funny’ part, is when the priest says: “Otro domingo que no viene ni Dios.” “Yet another Sunday no one (literally: not even God) shows up.”

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