Page 20 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • July 29, 2009 that Alberich can control the world if he renounces love. He goes for it, laughing like a maniac as he plunges into the abyss beneath the river. I won’t ruin the story for you, but Tolkien’s “Ring” is a very pallid and utterly conscious imitation of Wagner’s “Ring.” There was a fringe benefit: the libretto, which offered side-by-side texts in the original language and in English. Because Wagner, who wrote his own libretti, shifted back to an archaic, almost tribal form, of German, I could match most of the words in the texts. Then I discovered “Faust,” first the epic poem by Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe, then the simplified but multi-hit opera by Charles Gounod. My high school did not offer German, the French teacher did not like me because she was a phony and knew I saw through her, and Latin folded in my junior year in favor of a very grudging allegiance to Spanish. I took three years of Latin and a year of Spanish, but the three foreign languages I like best – French, German, and Italian – all came from listening to opera and reading those libretti. Studying orchestration as it applied to Wagner, I gradually moved back in time, first to Beethoven and then to Mozart. Dvorak is about as far as I go into modern times, but I know something about him that nobody else seems to. The New World Symphony, written while he was living in Minnesota, does not just emulate the “feel” of African-American and American Indian music: it borrows some melodies outright. The first movement is more than inspired by a Lakota dance song called “Montana Grass” and the defiant fourth movement is powered by a Northern Cheyenne war song, “Come On, My Friend, if You Are Brave.” Lakota is sung falsetto, and I don’t do falsetto, but Northern Cheyenne is sung full voice, and I can sing that one and will, but only for large amounts of money. Baby needs new moccasins. Most people know that the Largo movement of the New World Symphony was inspired by “Go Down, Moses,” an African-American Gospel song about slaves threatening the pharaoh if he didn’t set them free. Dvorak had no patience with the racism he found in the United States, exchanged information with African-American artists and composers, offered them free or discount lessons in his kind of music, and included their signature works along with those of the First Americans in the “Symphony from the New World,” which always shows up on the Top Ten when WQXR takes requests at the end of the year. Of course this happens all the time. Themes from Wagner show up everywhere from Meatloaf and Olivia Newton John songs to classic cartoons. I will never forget the time Yosemite Sam pulled out his cutlass and brandished it as a theme from Wagner blasted in the background, or the Bugs Bunny cartoon totally based on Wagner’s music. Both sides in World War II, incidentally, used the theme from the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a morale booster: Oddly enough, dot-dot-dot-DASH is Morse Code for “V,” even though Morse Code hadn’t been invented when Beethoven wrote the Fifth Symphony. To the Allies, V stood for victory. To the Germans it stood for Vergeltung – payback. The V-1 guided missile and the V-2 ballistic missile were allusions. I learned many of this information from PBS and WQXR. Nobody in my birth family had the slightest knowledge of classical music beyond a mild affinity for Johann Strauss, and most of the people I went to school with screamed and held their ears on first contact. Another source of expansive education is being cut off because the New York Times, it appears, cannot subsidize the radio station anymore. The United States is about to become a dumber country for it. One of the reverberations that has cast a shadow over my personal life came up on the cultural Richter Scale last week when WQXR, the radio station of the New York Times and the only outlet for classical music in the New York Metro area that I know if, will be moving. The meter band schedule will be switching 96.3 to a Spanish-language format and moving the classical broadcasting to a “public-supported” format at a meter band I recall as 105.9. I don’t know what “public-supported” means in terms of durability, but in pragmatic terms it looks like the print news business is going so broke that they can no longer support the only classical music station available to Northwest Bergen County. Welcome to the New Dark Ages. Classical music doled out in large quantities is a tough sell to people who have never formally studied an instrument or voice, because if you dive in without knowing what to expect, you may drown before you learn to swim. My education came about in a sidewise and insidious manner. As a kid I used to watch “Victory at Sea” every Saturday night, and the way the music harmonized with the action had an almost hypnotic effect on my pre-adolescent sensibilities. Junior high school failed me in music appreciation, as it did in everything else. The teacher put on some Bach, and we all screamed that if we couldn’t have rock and roll, we would settle for jazz. My spontaneous rediscovery of classical music was fostered by a record of the music from “Victory at Sea.” I played that music to my heart’s content. The flip side was Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” I had seen the Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn version of “War and Peace,” so I knew a little bit about what happened to Napoleon in 1812. I flipped the record. I was blown away. I recognized “La Marseillaise” from having seen “Casablanca,” and I was fascinated to see how the composer wove a Russian hymn, the French national anthem, and a Russian peasant song into a furious auditory image of combat, defeat, recovery, and victory climaxed with the once and future Russian national anthem. This was “Victory at Sea” one step beyond. I started to buy discount classical records on a regular basis. Next stop: opera. Watching war movies, I noticed the references to Wagner as something sinister, and certainly unacceptable to the silk stocking set or die-in-the-ditch fans of Pat Boone and Patty Page. I tuned in. One night I splurged and bought the Solti Version of “Das Rheingold” on three records. For the first five minutes, I thought I had made a mistake because the first five minutes of “Das Rheingold” are the utterly monotonous rising and falling of the same set of scales -- the surging of the Rhine river as a matrix of creative force, one could say, with no variation whatsoever except in rising intensity. Then one of the Rhine Maidens burst into song. The first record featured an ugly oversized dwarf trying to get at three beautiful blondes who were not at all interested. I won’t explain why I found him empathetic except to say I was 16 years old, not a football player, and my family didn’t have any real money. Alberich the giant dwarf was my kind of guy. Then, one of the stuck-up girls lets it slip A sign of the times Celebration of excellence Christian Health Care Adult Day Services of Wyckoff was recently honored by its peers for achieving a 96-percent score on its client and family satisfaction survey. 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