Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES II • 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 AfricanAmerican 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 “publicsupported” 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 Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: The Ridgewood Fourth of July Celebration Committee would like to thank the people who truly make the celebration possible, all the employees of the Village of Ridgewood. Without their support, cooperation, and hard work there would be no celebration. It is amazing to see all of the department heads working together and planning so hard to make our celebration one of the best days in Ridgewood. I know I speak for the rest of our committee when I say we couldn’t have done it without all their expert help and support. Their positive attitude and smooth coordination of all the various details is astounding. I know better than most how hard it is to give up your personal holiday celebration for the village celebration, but it is only because our dedicated village employees take that time and trouble so we can continue to celebrate the Fourth of July as wonderfully as we do here in Ridgewood. They start out at 6 a.m. and continue through until midnight. The Ridgewood Fourth of July Celebration Committee extends heartfelt thanks to the following village departments and their staff members: village council, village manager, village clerk, fire, emergency services, police, operations, water, parks, recreation, streets, signal, sanitation, traffic, engineering, and library. Truly, no one has ever had a better team with which to work, and we wanted everyone to know just how much the committee appreciates the contribution that these departments have made. We look forward to working with them next year for the 100th anniversary of the Ridgewood Fourth of July Celebration. Margie Downs Fourth of July Celebration Committee Community effort applauded Dear Editor: This is written in response to your recent article “Council moves ahead with parking meter fee increases.” I can’t believe the move to double the fees when our Decries fee increase country, state and, village are in a deep recession. Any increase is ridiculous, but a 100 percent increase? The council’s decision not to proceed with a parking garage, because it would detract from the appearance of Ridgewood, is doubly hard to believe. Would it detract more than a village of empty storefronts? That is precisely what these council decisions are designed to create. There has been enough tax money spent on parking garage studies to build an attractive garage. I wish the Villadom TIMES would research the money spent on these studies that past 20-30 years, and report these wasted expenditures to your readers. As for changing the meter hours, this decision again hurts the village retail businesses even more, except for all the restaurants. Councilman Mancuso said what he liked about the 6 p.m. shut off on the meters was that residents could now dine without concern for feeding the meter. How about asking retail business owners how many residents shop after 6 p.m. Most shops close at or before 6 p.m. Deputy Mayor Killion admits that the new meter fees are excessive, but that doing nothing was no longer an option. Would someone explain to me what the problem is with doing nothing? Oh yes, we need meter income to cut the deficit. A deficit with the unbelievable property taxes we have in this village? Does the council ever consider holding the line on the expenditures or even cutting expenditures like village businesses and residents are doing? How about not putting an ornamental cupola on the high school rather than meter increases? I understand that they stopped chalking tires in the village so people, mostly employees, can squat all day in spaces I thought were designated for shoppers: a double whammy for the struggling retailers. Has the council ever thought of a free or bargain rate parking lot for employees in available off downtown space, like that available with the closing of the Brogan Cadillac agency? We need a council that “carries water” for property owners, and their retail business tenants, or our vibrant village will become more like a morgue. Jack Spengler Ridgewood