The following excerpt is reprinted from the novel, Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto (Fugue State Press, 2007) pp. 231-249; copyright © by Joshua Cohen. Used with permission of the author.
I was drinking BLACK LABEL but not too much to drive [. . .] and drove Downtown and alone, fueled-up with what liquor I had left in me to the Village Vanguard to hear some jazz music as I had promised a lover that I would as I had lately — since the minor accident of six-seven hours previous, the recital and my exclusion from my offspring’s success and jimmie-sprinkled-pistachio — resolved to keep all promises made to whatever extent that was possible,
down to the Village Vanguard (impossible to find parking) to hear some American music you might know it as jazz, the absolute pinnacle of America’s musical achievement I once told Schneidermann who he was always too brilliant, cynical to agree — when Schneidermann he told me that even our out-of-proportion is out-of-proportion,
that what Beethoven or his century would have known as snap rhythms, that dotted quarter notes becoming in our century swing, the triplet beyond the triplet that that has been America’s only contribution to world musical culture (and that it still isn’t much, according to Schneidermann),
that this swing and these timbres, these bent or blue notes too, that these are the only musical advances that America it has ever given to the world is what I told him, and Schneidermann he agreed if just to shut-me-up so that he could listen — and it’s all thanks to the shvartzes! Schneidermann he said (and God! I told him a trillion times not to use that word!),
that white Americans of European descent they have given nothing whatsoever, at all, to the universal language of music was what Schneidermann he often said and I agreed if just to shut-him-up from ranting about art and race in public,
excepting me, Schneidermann he said, that is if I am an American Schneidermann he added as we entered, drunk, into the Vanguard, into the vestibule and down the red as my thrombosed external hemorrhoids
stairwell of tongue,
that night that we first heard an Orpheus, another Orpheus, a true shvartze Orpheus according to Schneidermann and as if that made or makes any difference,
that night that Schneidermann he’d ducked the turnstile to subway Downtown to meet me (it was a Thursday, our old long-lesson-day)
to hear a man that I had been hearing much about from a lover and had to admit that I was skeptical (the lover she had ears but not like she had thighs),
here I was the musical mind that I was and I am perhaps not as transcendent as Mozart but certainly as parasitic as any Händel or Michael Jackson and taking listening-tips from a good pair of tits I told Schneidermann who he had agreed to meet me to mitigate the expected aural disaster as this lover she was off,
out in the state of Lincoln for a Memorial Day Weekend, in Illinois visiting relatives (Chicago, she was related to an aunt who the glimmer of her existence was that she had slept and only once with Saul Bellow),
Schneidermann and I we were there to hear and on her advice an under-appreciated saxophonist, and aren’t most of them?
a tenor saxophonist who he was indeed great (though less than genius, especially with the mirrored sunglasses he wore and),
this young man who he still had much time for growth, some potential only if, practice practice practice (while between sets Schneidermann he began telling me all about a dinner that he was once at in Paris, a fête he said hosted by the Conservatoire at which Schneidermann he was seated next to one Adolphe-Edward Sax, the son of the instrument’s inventor who he had recently sold his patent to SELMER and was — according to Schneidermann — occupied with the refinement of a never-finished or just never-perfected model of nose-flute, a sinuphone or at least Sax he told Schneidermann who he told me over whiskey-and-carbonated-cavities adding that at that time his French it wasn’t that great and so),
a young man of much talent who he regularly went down into the subway tunnels to blow his brains out to the vaulted acoustics and was instead about six months after I, we, had heard him cover and two-drink-minimum at the Vanguard guarding what? he was flattened and at midnight by the F or was it the D train I had read in the paper? heard on the radio?
the fate of this Pied Piper not of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, but of swinging Manhattan, N.Y. — but here the water’s too dirty for even the rats, and so they just scurry the underground tracks for mile after mile in corrupted circles much like the manic,
Hosannahfied worship of us Jews around yet another member of the animal kingdom:
this one a bird I remember well, one of the highlights of my musical life I often told Schneidermann who he took no offense,
or seemed not to: this was the Bird, whom I played with the once or twice that I’ve ever deigned to play with others, to be accompanied, indeed to accompany , when I first — and unfortunately last — played with, more accurately I’ll even admit played for, this Bird Charlius parkerus
who it was named Charlie Parker it was in the golden, gilded summer of 1950 and I was a new immigrant, was the greenest horn on the head of the year, here in New York, it was a session issued on 10”-LP as Charlie Parker with Strings
also known as The Greatest African-American Musician Who Ever Lived Plays Some Incredible and Mind-Numbing Alto Saxophone to the Accompaniment of Old Fat Jewish Men in Stilted and Stifling Arrangements Arranged by Even Older and Fatter and Inconceivably More Jewish Men,
specifically Mercury MG 35010, I played on some David Raskin-Johnny Mercer tune and don’t consult your liner notes because I wasn’t billed (I billed them),
I asked in my best British accent not to be listed as on the session for professional reasons (on the recommendation of your father, Mister Rothstein, who he also got me the gig),
instead I was a ringer there alongside my landsmen Sammy and Howie, Harry and Sammy who he was Sam to his friends, and don’t forget Zelly Smirnoff in the violin section playing second-fiddle — actually third — to the sounds that Parker he made, and what sounds!
of a Bird pecking, squawking gorgeous his way out of this egg-on-your-face world, through the sky’s shell like when Parker he played this hall — dead Manny Albam or was it Manny Fiddler? or maybe just the drummer Shelley Manne he once told me — all of 1947 while I was still trying to get out of London (we all have our own shells, some larger and harder than others),
and the tune three years later it was Laura — a standard to set all standards like the real-life Laura who she would sing (but Laura it wasn’t her real name, I just think of her whenever I hear the song and I don’t know why, probably has to do with Bird’s way with the blues, with Charlie’s genius and I say Charlie because he winked at me once between takes and she), she loved to sing:
would sing all day in a voice that was less a voice and more the whining of a menstruating showdog (her Galician aunt’s new assimilated pleasure, a poodle her daughter named Yenta),
she was white, needless to say Jewish and, to tell the truth the only feature I can still recall of her face is her teeth, they were perfect, pearls yes and each perfectly proportioned,
shaped as if they were after-dinner mints that God He’d mass-produced and expressly for the sweetening of her own tongue — her father he was one of the very few name orthodontists in the world, you’d be lucky to get an appointment next millennium if the world it still exists (I was always trying to get Schneidermann in for an appointment, to get him fitted for dentures, whenever I had secured one Schneidermann he always went and lost his shoes),
and then there was her brother-in-law, a plastic surgeon,
then equally renowned as the father-orthodontist, he did all the porn industry starlets,
big-money circuit-strippers in from Melville, New York and but I’m getting ahead of myself because there’s Charlie Parker who’s dead just five years later, 1955 in the Uptown apartment of a Rothschild Baroness, patroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter no umlaut for her with whom Bird he was just relaxing, watching some primetime, varietyshow teevee as insipid as
and this girl then that I was remembering, talking about — though not a Rothschild, not even a Warburg — she in some sense hated culture too, hated it like Göbbels did who he said (or was it Ronald Reagan?)
that when he heard the word culture
he reached for his gun, but it wasn’t a gun that killed her — she hated culture in the way that cultured people they always hate culture, the way that cultured people they deride that which they merely reference, always, must (as if they could do more, as if she was responsible for her culture, as if it wasn’t her parents, the immigrants):
with her it was fiddling with a barrette while gnawing a lower lip as I serenaded her nude,
her scratching too at the tattoo new to the inside of her thigh that only itched at her mind (it had been her aunt’s first husband’s Treblinka number, she’d told the Puerto-Dominican parlor owner it was still),
yes, that’s how her end it begins, and if I had a whole string section at my disposal anymore I’d swell it for you now just as swollen as:
but she wouldn’t listen to my music, to what she called my music, by which she meant so-called classical music,
as if the canon it was mine to do with it what I will with no balances neither checks,
as if I owned the last hundreds of years of the West, kept it under lock and key in my navel — as if it was my fault, as if all those hundreds of years and their geniuses (or aural mutants, or just syphilitics),
that they were mine and only mine to apologize for and, well, instead she’d only listen to popmusic,
to what she called popmusic, indeed to all popmusic and for hours on end and on almost every technology imaginable from almost every decade of the American Century her family — both sides, all — knew only 50 years of,
she being at the time 25, playing and singing along to her popmusic for hours upon hours and at huge volumes,
and she’d sing along in the shower too: in the blue and white tiled shower she sang if not the blues then the whites on that day,
on that last day,
singing along to popmusic in the shower, and soaping her new breasts — what rolling, luscious globes!
cancer-hard worlds of tit! hulking implants just implanted by her brother-in-law, a plastic surgeon,
the plastic surgeon if you’d asked around,
and implanted for nothing, on courtesy, the family-plan:
they were silicone back in the silicone-days, scars still ill-hidden before methods of enhancement they became perfectible,
tucked under the booming, secreted beneath and in,
scars in a strictly supporting role, holding up the swell and but who got their hands on the settlement money afterwards?
her only next of kin that’s who, her sister older, less attractive, I never and of course her brother-in-law, the man who he’d installed the new breasts to begin with,
singing along in the shower she was soaping and one of the implants it began to leak (the right one, playing opposite the heart),
or maybe it had been leaking for awhile, who knew? was it over-vigorous soaping that brought it on?
and the silicone it seeped into her blood, through her bloodstream, poisoning, and there — singing along to
popmusic mid-soap, mild raspberry and Dead Sea salt soap — in the shower, this girl she had herself an aneurysm, silicone streamed to the brain, a clot and, well, she collapsed against the shower’s tile,
skull cracked open against the soapdish,
red-highlighted-hairline chipped and then the coma for eight weeks,
life-support for 10,
before the sister — and, again, the surgeon-in-law — they decided to pull the plug, and she died,
and of course the sister she soon entered — initiated — a mass tort, class-action lawsuit whatever vs. the implant manufacturer,
the maker of those sternum jellyfishes washed up on her palest shore (that weekend we did the Taj Mahal! the one they have down the Garden State Parkway),
and of course she won, the lawyer he was an uncle, money into the plastic-in-law’s pocket and but I was there visiting her in the hospital Uptown, after she was dead but before the funeralhome and the grave, having just returned from a South American tour to a message left on my service I went to the hospital immediately, like taxi! taxi! like in the matinee movies but real, violincase still with me, and but no one had told me (this was 10 weeks later, after the shower),
she hadn’t told anyone about me, evidently was embarrassed, of me over three times her age just stalking the ICU’s halls like a girlscout,
a Pole candy-striping,
an earnest-idiot mailman-letch,
just searching room after room after room, pedophile! all for this great-titted girl almost one-quarter my age who she would remain that age and forever, was dead.
I sat shiva alone and with my Schneidermann, at a café of habit and drinking brewed polymers for the practice, showed up at the funeral because I had nothing else to do that morning, then decided to go to buy a new suit because the one I was wearing, had worn to the funeral it was defiled, now it was tainted, ritually unclean and so I and with an hour to waste or waste me until Schneidermann,
our matinee-movie-appointment (non-appointment),
went to MACYS, MACY’S tried one on and and bought it,
AMEX card cleared (the third one I tried),
the one, actually the suitlike, shroudlike tuxtype one that I’m wearing right now, tonight,
then went to my tailor, an old Jewish Schneider who due to his German ancestry was in point of fact really a Schneider as opposed to Schneidermann who due to his Hungarian life would more accurately be called a szabó,
went to my own old Jewish tailor for 10 years (and everyone should have one),
a great tailor his hands they’re still relatively intact (nine fingers),
and steady but eight years he has already with Alzheimer’s, a Schneider born actually in Herr Doktor Professor Alois Alzheimer’s city, in Pforzheim at least the tailor he once told me that he remembered it, near Tiefenbrunn he once said to me who he knew, should have known but who the last few-five years he forgot — a Schneidermann himself and so maybe that’s why I felt significantly comfortable then in confiding to him my feelings, my thoughts all about this girl, her enhancements and so on and so forth as he stared at me kind if absent, then a refocus this Schneidermann he just stared at me deep as a wrinkle and I and finally just asked him like what?
and Sol the Tailor he said that he knew me, that I was famous,
I said great, because I don’t know myself, like who am I?
and Sol the Tailor he said, well, aren’t you that actor? in that movie with that girl? haven’t seen you in anything for a while, my daughter she doesn’t take me that much anymore, since that one that you did when you played that private detective,
or secretmost agent or,
what have you been doing all these years? and I laughed, how couldn’t I thank him with money in advance as my answer, asked could I have cuffs on these? and then went to tell Schneidermann the real Schneidermann all about it but only after Schneidermann and I we had watched our matinee movie, which that funeral-day (Schneidermann’s Trauermarsch for 35 flutes and piccolo solo!) it was to be a selection from the horror genre, was a matinee Horror movie all about that popular phenomenon that they’re known as zombies, a matinee Horror movie in which people, the actors, they and incredibly enough rose from the dead, indeed rose from the dead and only to take revenge on all those who might have wronged them,
were unbelievably stupid or ill-cast enough to have slighted them in life, which Schneidermann he said (afterwards over coffee and crêpes at this Uptown coffee-and-crêperie with an address as high as its price, Schneidermann he always loved that word couvert),
which revenge-fantasy Schneidermann he said would entail for him first getting his bones up out of the ground,
the humus Schneidermann he said wherever American and then buying a, oneway, ticket on an airplane — windowseat, if possible (Schneidermann he’d never flown before, ever) — direct to that landmass formerly-known as Europe, then upon arrival taking his unspecified revenge on for example the Director of Budapest’s Music Academy, his then-wife dead in Birkenau, a violinist in some Viennese schraml ensemble who had told him that his music it was the most worthless he had ever heard in all of his 65 musical years, Hitler *1889 †1945, said all this all the while squirming, shifting awkwardly like a worm with legs in his seat (on his stool),
and so I asked him what was wrong, naturally! natürlich, Schneidermann he said that he had gone to the toilet this morning, that morning of the funeral and having no toiletpaper (only foil from candy and chip wrappers, Schneidermann he had had horrid experiences with them previous),
and having no toiletpaper neither money to purchase more and how could he have?
gone to the drugstore while he was still in the bathroom he shared with his entire floor (Schneidermann he like all Europeans said not bathroom but toilet)?
Schneidermann he instead walked pants tied around his ankles with his shoelaces to his room, took one of his innumerable musical manuscripts, walked back to the shared-with-the-entire-floor bathroom and wiped himself with a musical manuscript, ink smeared with fecal scrape and seep and that since then his anus it was ripped and ripped hard, tract torn, seeping blood and burn and I instead asked — my true apprehension — what musical manuscript it was (later when he couldn’t find it, flushed clogged flushed, Schneidermann he said it was the first draft finale of this),
and but Schneidermann he instead asked (a refusal for a refusal like his last real tooth for my own stained-authentic dentures),
You really need another suit?
Do you want money for toiletries? I asked him and Schneidermann he ignored, instead asked me all about Sol my suit-tailor,
asked me about my other Schneidermann and all about his Alzheimer’s disease from Alzheimer’s hometown Sol he no longer remembers but always anyway describes, asked specifically what actor did he mean?
when Sol the Suit-Tailor (Schneidermann he solfeggioed my Solschneider), when he said that you were that actor he meant which actor? which movie? and then screwed himself like a nail with legs up in his seat (on his stool),
and I told him that I didn’t know, didn’t ask, never found out and asked him what do you think? well, who? and Schneidermann he said John Wayne with a yarmulke,
I said thanks but no thanks and Schneidermann as he poured always more and never enough béchamel sauce on his crepes he said that that’s what technology does,
that that’s primarily what technological progress it does as Schneidermann he insisted (Schneidermann he thought that after only one and truncated at that explanation of the http://www.Internet and so on that he knew it all):
that it links you up in the minds of others, in the world, with those who look somewhat like you, those who might sound somewhat like you do,
or what technology did, for awhile, Schneidermann he added,
as half-educated people who they read the newspapers, who they watch the public teevee when it’s not on mute, how they talk!
all about artistic DNA, how they talk about the genes of a style, about art evolving genetically and all,
and then according to Schneidermann just airing his gums in earnest playing the role of parody, God!
how they wait it out until sabbatical, take their minds over to Europe for a semester, to research their own excess — that that’s how they talk Schneidermann he said, ridiculous! over dinner, with the university paying, or on the company expense account but it’s all wrong! Schneidermann he once told me on another occasion (Schneidermann and I we were at the Museum of Modern Art):
IT being the idea of an artistic code, an aesthetic genome, a helix shaped like a syphilis spirochete double-doubling in on itself,
spinning out Klee or maybe you like Franz Kline-lines through space, way past the reach of the Museum’s seismographs, shattering through the fourth walls of lucite, God all this security! Schneidermann he said at the Museum, all this admission-fee and surveillance mishegas that Schneidermann he noticed at the Museum, and to see all these paintings by all these painters who they barely lived long enough to not starve to death (Schneidermann at 90 he still awaited his discovery, expected his true love the goddess Fama at every moment, kept the kettle on),
forgot to tell you that Schneidermann, that you would think to ask how besides the infrequently offered because even less-frequently accepted loans from me, to ask how Schneidermann how he managed to survive at all in New York and its economy and I should tell you that, to reveal his secret that Schneidermann he loved but that it always shamed him to think about, to talk about it (but to who except me?),
which Schneidermann he anyway didn’t but I should, tell you that Schneidermann he often moonlit off-the-books (Schneidermann he never read while he played), untaxed and for only $100 a night at a dive, well, at a luxury hotel, well — at the Grand but for him every place it was below his stature 30 short,
and there Schneidermann he was engaged to perform and in America only there, it was his gig, steady, this playing piano, playing in his own words: whorehouse-don’t-shoot-the-piano-player-piano-playing,
as Schneidermann he often reminded me much like Brahms himself did in the early, hard years before the Hungarian firebrand as Schneidermann he described him Remenyi saved him and how Brahms he thanked him by forsaking him after Remenyi he introduced him to Joseph Joachim who played the hell as the proverb goes out of Brahms’ Concerto,
and, yes, this was nothing new to Schneidermann who he often played to, serenaded whores over there, filling-in for one Rezso Seress in Pest up near the Nyugati tér train station in his spare time, in his spare insomnia with the express to Romania pumping and thrusting at all hours of night and surely he slept with them for free, the whores, a house perk as Schneidermann he said, often for miscellaneous favors including but not limited to the purchasing of junk jewelry and molar-rotting sweets, and how in doing so, yes, by his own admission Schneidermann he was unfaithful to art by being faithful to his roof and to his stomach — in later years and established (meaning having been prolific for years but with little to no success after the opera-fiasco, and none whatsoever in America),
there I was going to hear him three nights a week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9 p.m. to whenever his alcoholic tab it exceeded his musical take)
playing the most filthy, gorgeous, uproarious, genius but still so-called cocktail piano imaginable at the bar or as the Management insists the Lounge of the Grand, whose owner is needless to say a huge fan of so-called classical or serious music and is probably, are you still? out there, here, tonight?
Schneidermann he was there in the Lounge three nights a week 9 to Whiskey playing all the American-Jewish songbook, the American-Jewish liturgy, all the standards from the 20s, 30s and 40s, the classics you love to remember if not remember to love, all the showtunes, moviethemes, World War II lovesongs, X-mas songs in-season like now only if Schneidermann he was still around or alive by all the Jews and all the songwriters who they should have been Jews:
all the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein, Berlin who he was really and earlier Israel Baline and Cahn, like Cohen owes me however many dollars and so on, and playing them all not heartfelt, sentimental or anything like that but with pure irony, total sarcasm, with absolute holy enmity was how Schneidermann he played them and played down to them in the lobby-bar of the Uptown Grand,
the Lounge, and Tony or just Ton or Tone with an e as it’s pronounced, that yes, he was the one who told me about this, the lobby-bartender there at the Grand’s lobby-bar (but not here tonight, not that he hates music but that after 20-plus years of working at the Grand he’s developed a hatred for the rich and so when off the job he tries to avoid them, lives like a King on his own in Queens),
Tony or Ton or Tone who he still anyway likes me or pretends to, talks to me and listens to me or pretends to, who he anyway keeps me supplied with my
VICODIN, my XANAX, my PERCOCET, ADDERALL too when my expoolboy he runs dry, keeps the medicinechest in my forehead stocked with my quite necessary painkilling, attention-getting medication far exceeding any of my prescriptions from upwards of 10 doctors now, sorry and but — once Tone he once told me that a nosegay of tipsy divorcées he thought that they were from Asbestosville, Iowa maybe who they were there, were staying in New York at the Grand on a splurge and how they just waltzed-in from the Lobby to the lobby-bar and in the wrong time-signature,
drunk and staying upstairs on their entire monthly salaries, here in New York on a Broadway junket, and how they all asked Schneidermann who he was playing in the lobby-bar, all beechwood with a slight 3 a.m. stain,
a bar like a vivisected violin — how they all and in unison asked Schneidermann to pleasepleaseplease play for their pleasure a song that you might know it’s entitled
Somewhere Over the Rainbow and then at least according to Tone who I have no reason to doubt him he said that they laid three $20s on him, on Schneidermann — understand that three of Andrew Jackson equals one of Judy Garland in at least some economy — and Schneidermann said Tone, like Jesus, what did he do? he just returned their money, fished the three $20s out of his fluted frosted glass tipjar, Grecian urn then asked Tone like he was doing sports play-by-play he asked, what did he do?
he, like Schneidermann he proceeded to play, to play his 3rd Piano Sonata for them, no subtitle, one of nine piano sonatas that Schneidermann he ever acknowledged, would acknowledge I think but I’m not quite sure (have to sort out Schneidermann’s apartment, his whiskey bottles and their canon),
played it and played it for them, and straight through — according to Tone they were enraptured, their first orgasms in decades he said when Tone he called me up in Maine from the lobby-bar’s telephone and held it up, aloft, a disembodied ear for me to listen through and, God! at 11 p.m. sitting on a heap of decaying gilded wicker my, an exwife she’d found at an antique market up in Maine and there! and still! there it was again like I hadn’t heard him Schneidermann in years: that great breaking,
his gut-wide tremolos,
the silent gaping hells of his subtle, nuanced hesitations, and the volume! the sheer Old Testament power! a sonata that Schneidermann he later rededicated to president Harry Truman who’s on no bills because why not? after all, he was almost nobility, with him killing all of those would-be violinists, decimating what must have been hundreds of thousands if not millions of would-be Asian violinists that qualifies him at least for landed-gentry if not for sainthood I once told Schneidermann,
but then again saints they don’t get dedications, do they? Schneidermann he added, not that they don’t merit them, but — especially not on what academics as various as they might be obscure would label,
would feed the pigeonhole,
would wrap for the refuse pile known as history as an atonal piano sonata of some serious complexity, some considerable technical difficulty (not that that makes it good, but):
a more than worthy heir to the miniaturized efforts of Webern, not to mention Barraqué’s and Boulez’s best as Schneidermann he once told me without a hint of modesty one evening as I was treating as always at a fancy Frenchtalian restaurant that (I always treated, Schneidermann he always insisted that he was the treat),
a piece in my opinion leaving even the sonatas of van Beethoven,
even the whole entire output of that genius named Beethoven to the wiles of the Boston Pops and whichever homosexual’s conducting them this season, having signed his, her, contract with a fresh load of healthy sperm,
dotting the line with certified undiseased sperm now that the treatments they’re so affordable, right?
signing with the X of unfettered happiness and optimism — because as Schneidermann he said as the quite obviously homosexual waiter he brought us our entrees at that fancy Frenchtalian restaurant,
because not even homosexuals are worth knowing as Schneidermann he said,
because not even organ transplant donors are worth knowing, according to Schneidermann, because no one is interesting! because no one is different!
or rather how Schneidermann he said that everyone is equal in their differences
and how the waiter he just then fell into a Dead Sea of tears on his way back to the kitchen, but Schneidermann said, but he might be an actor, they all are — because you have to understand that Schneidermann, and I want you to understand that I’m making no excuses, that he and despite surviving all and surviving survival was a militant racist, you understand:
hating everyone as they so deeply wanted, no, needed to be hated, and so everyone they were happy, Schneidermann and everyone else,
that that was Schneidermann’s function in-the-world (Welt), his practical-utility (I forget the word auf Deutsch) — that according to Schneidermann all America it shouldn’t be a pleasant honey coloration like this $18 caramelized escargot appetizer that we’d had,
no meltingpot with too many onions according to Schneidermann,
added that the chef in this particular metaphor (like what’s multiculturalism, global-integration doing to our stomachs? sushi one night and deli the next? how are we becoming less like ourselves? or what, who, we should be? knew? Schneidermann he wanted to know, like why aren’t my bowel-movements the same in consistency and color as the bowel-movements of my forefathers?),
that the chef at this particular Frenchtalian-restaurant-of-the-mind, well, it was one Francis Galton who was of interest, the founder of the science, non-science, of Eugenics, no, not a guy named Eugene who he set forth the future’s trash-heap, sewer war of natural children against the gene-enriched, genriched children about which Schneidermann he wanted to do an opera but never did, like an update of West Side Story, María — normals vs. the genrich was his idea, Schneidermann’s, pipeline fantasies of genriched children leaving the naturals, the normals in the dust to be unfounded according to Schneidermann, who he was writing the libretto himself, Ticonderoga pencil on his four plastered walls:
these children confounding everyone in their failure to succeed in the way that they were made, disappointing everyone, especially their grandfather:
a scientist, non-scientist, named Francis Galton, founder of the science, non-science, of Eugenics, 1822-1911 he was the first modern proponent of sterilization, of eliminating the unfit and having the elite propagate with each other, an endogamy of the rich and famous, an endogamy of the gorgeous and genius,
class incest his recipe,
Galton the direct precursor of the Nazi’s 1933 Eugenic Sterilization Law which was unpopularly though necessarily repealed by genocide just in time for this old idea to seem American enough to be implemented, possibly even and subtly legislated:
to have the elites breed with the lower classes,
the minions not in the Jewish sense at all,
to make them all unto the middle — which proposal according to Schneidermann it seemed to be a fixture of all too many utopias, dystopias if they exist, democracies and so on,
like what’s the alternative? would anyone want to rouse the dozing ghost of Charles Fourier? of his Perfect Harmony? of the Third Reich? of Stalinism? I didn’t ask — and but speaking of entities no longer extant or just always of-the-mind, it was rather Verbinsky or Verbinski with an i that one of our quote unquote better music critics he was harping on to me about at a party given recently by some old fat widow of a real-estate magnate who her head it just seems like a mole on her neck,
open for development (her husband dead he did strip malls as long as her waist it was wide),
some old as fat widow with none of her own money who she calls me her friend, who she calls herself my friend because for years she just wanted me to, well, let’s say perform her and hello out there!
we (me and this critic, remaining nameless but he’s probably here too, reviewing me, this, just following orders, doing his job like he was that night when),
when whether as a joke or because he was drunk (homemade unicum a Hungarian cellist-conductor-friend had flown in, undrinkable despite its ideational VSOP),
we were both drunk and I, I was harping on and on all about Schneidermann as I usually do to people, non-people, like that,
to make unto them an example and instead this critic he said:
ridiculous! your Schneidermann is at best a minor composer, my friend (I wasn’t his friend),
the critic he said: never leave it to the performers, the interpreters to hand-out greatness, that Schneidermann he’s at most a footnote and a footnote only whether sharp or else flat (I then protested with zeal),
and I don’t care what you say! this critic he said, I’m the safeguarder — his own drunk nomenklatur — of posterity! and I’ll tell you, me, that there are many more worthy and terribly overlooked composers out there, many more terribly underheard composers who are or they were equally if not more sad, tragic and genius!
why, take Verbinski! (he spit out 1850-1907 as if dates are enough justification),
take Verbinski for instance who he was born in 1850 into poverty and who died in 1907 in even greater poverty (which I would have to assume would make him the greatest genius),
a genius if I’ve ever heard one and do you think that anyone plays him anymore? played him ever? I ask you, me, and I told him, drunk, that yes, that I’d once heard of a Verbinski, that a Verbinski yes he comes to mind, is somehow familiar but that I can’t quite place him, from who or from where (and you, Zeit, you probably thought that I was calling your bluff, or just playing along),
don’t know where I had heard him or of him and maybe even from Schneidermann himself but that no I answered him the critic, no way, that he couldn’t be greater than Schneidermann, than my Schneidermann, it’s just not possible, I mean what about the piano sonatas? the nine string trios that they represent the height of that instrumentation ever, since K. 563, since the efforts of Webern and Schönberg at least (Schneidermann to me: string trios are string quartets that wrestle with angels, lose a limb, hobbled-quartets he once said, lamed-quartets)?
the spring cassation music for seven horns in F, solo trumpet and baritone voice?
that chorus for 12 children on that poem of Paul Celan’s, or Ancel’s as Schneidermann he often said, though not as much as he said Antschel,
Die beiden Türen der Welt
geöfnnet von dir
in der Zwienacht
but he the once a critic for a major metropolitan newspaper and always a critic (drunk),
how he just insisted: VERBINSKI, VERBINSKI, VERBINSKI as if the name it was a product the critic he was selling and on commission ear-to-ear, and so the next hangover what did I do? I went to the library, nothing (I wouldn’t ask Schneidermann, pride his and mine),
then asked the most knowledgeable musicologist known to me in the world, an older homosexual gentleman but that shouldn’t matter in Basel and, well, they both told me:
that no, that sorry, that this Verbinski he never existed, no way, sorry again, no mention of him whatsoever anywhere or when and so even if he ever was then who could he be?
that posterity or the history of posterity if you will that it’s just never that negligent, that sorry, and that your friend (non-friend),
this critic who he was drunk on just two glasses the second his ashtray that he was just using a made up man to make his point,
was trying to elicit feelings all about a man pulled out of the hottest air of his ass,
out of any intellectual thinness, Verbinski a man who historically didn’t, who at least probably never even existed,
like why should I care to cry about an invention? or has the world spun to the point where a symbol of artistic strife, failure, dedication, failure — ultimately — has to be conjured up, lied-about? like is the only way to embody the injustice of the world in a figure that isn’t, was never, in the world? of-the-world?
a figure thought up and fleshed out — and under-the-influence — on the spot?
and when we have the real thing, the true deal named Schneidermann who he’s just right around the corner, cinematically dimly-lit? Or was.