Donald Stark's Story

Monster Mashup

October 24, 2012

One dark and stormy night, I was brewing espresso at my Mendocino coffeehouse when a friend came in with a stranger.  Dirty black leather jacket, greasy hair down his shoulders, junk-ravaged face, one last lungful of weed expelled into the indoor air. 
“Donald, this is Lenny.  He wrote ‘Monster Mash’.  Lenny, Donald’s a musician, too.  You guys should talk.”
I’m dubious.  “‘Monster Mash’?  Thought that was Bobby Pickett.”
“Yeah, me and Bobby.  Hey, but what about you, man?  What kind of music you into?”
“Oh, all kinds — rock, jazz, folk, classical.”
“Classical?  You like classical music, man?  Like what?”
“Oh, all kinds, but especially twentieth-century orchestral music.  Not everybody’s taste.”
“Yeah, I can dig that.  Anyways, like who?  You got any composers you specially like?
“Well... Mahler, Shostakovich, and some lesser known guys.”
“Yeah?  Turn me on, man.  Like who?”
“Well, I’m particularly into Paul Hindemith.  Underrated German composer.  You probably never heard of him…”
“… Oh, yeah, man, far out.  So, what do you like by… Hindemith?”
“Well, I like the stuff he’s best known for — Mathis der Maler, Symphonic Metamorphosis, Symphony in E Flat.  But I especially love the ballet music he wrote about the life of Saint Francis, Nobilissima Visione…  Aw, man, this is crazy.  I’m sorry.  You can’t really be interested in…”
“No, man, that’s cool, that’s cool.  Hey, that piano over there, is that working?”
“Yes, ’less somebody gummed up the keys.  Kind of honky-tonky, though.”
“Mind if I play?”
“Sure, Lenny, go on ahead.  Been a while since anybody’s come in here and rocked the joint.”
About half a measure in, I realized that walking bass was not New Orleans boogie.  It wasn’t ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll either.  It was Lenny’s playing-by-ear but faithful rendering of the three-voice contrapuntal opening measures, reduced from full orchestra to piano (and in its original key) of Nobilissima Visione.     
Lenny looked at my gawking mouth and smiled as if to say, “If we was gambling, I’d own your pants now, punk.”

Categories:   Composers, Hindemith, Musicians

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