Sunday, March 05, 2006

Music Hath Charms

The Growler has been appalled and amused by some of the recent comments about Parker-Gray crime and the role of the Alexandria police, which reached a new reductio ad absurdum when one visitor stated "I keep hearing that the police should get out of their cars and do something? Like what? Yell 'Come here criminals'?"

Like apprehend criminals, you moron. Geez, does the Growler have to spell out everything around here?

Anyway, it looks like it is up to the Growler to restore some measure of intelligence and sanity to the troubled neighborhood with a fresh proposal ripped from the headlines, i.e., today's Washington Post.

"Hartford, Conn. -- Activists propose playing classical music in Barnard Park to annoy drug dealers and prostitutes, making them leave. 'Beethoven is not going to save you,' University of Carlifornia at Los Angeles musicologist Robert Fink said. 'Some of the greatest composers in history are now being viewed as some kind of bug spray or disinfectant.'"

Now the Growler hates thinking of Beethoven as the aural equivalent of Raid, but believes broadcasting the classics at Queen and Fayette is a splendid idea. The cops don't have to be involved (except to change the CDs once in a while), the ACLU and NAACP will be at a total loss, and the cultural tone of the neighborhood will be greatly elevated.

But the choice of music is critical. Dr. Fink is right. Beethoven won't save us because he's gone too mainstream. When millions of cell phones play "Fur Elise," when the "Ode to Joy" accompanies car chases on Hollywood action film trailers, and a second hand version of "A Fifth of Beethoven" opens Judge Judy, there's not enough shock value in blasting Beethoven at the guys with blunts for sale.

So what types of classical music are most apt to run the drug dealers and crack ho's out of Parker-Gray?

Well, the Growler thought first of Baroque music. Maybe a continuous loop of Bach's 24 Preludes and Fugues stiffened with an offering of the Goldberg Variations on weekends. That should make 'em antsy at the Spa Court. But it would probably make the Growler bugsy too. As for the others, Handel is too majestic, and Vivaldi and Frescobaldi have been overexposed in every elevator on earth.

The Classic era is right out. Too ... classical. Besides, we don't want cross-contamination with the Baby Mozart CDs all the young parents on Payne and Fayette are playing to their wee ones so they can ace their SATs and get into Harvard at 17.

There's a lot to be said for the very late Romantics. Forget the Russians. Mahler has possibilities. Maybe Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht for string orchestra, the single most overwrought piece of music the Growler has ever heard. Perhaps some Webern or Berg -- a little 12-tone row cacaphony to get just the right nails-on-blackboard effect.

But for sheer annoyance you've got to opt for opera.

Not just any opera. Mozart is too beautiful, Italian opera too lyrical. And the Growler is frankly concerned about unintended consequences from exposing crackheads to the lushness of Puccini. Besides, "Quando m'en vo" is already imprinted on everyone's brain cells from decades of spaghetti sauce commercials.

That leads the Growler to abandon the Italian scene and propose one towering name over all others.


Yes, Wagner -- one of the Growler's guilty pleasures. Not the early works, nor the last one, Parsifal (too much of a snooze). Certainly not the "Ride of the Valkyries" (way too much fun).

Instead, think Götterdammerüng. Five or six hours of Teutonic intensity unleavened by humor and capped by an extremely loud Immolation scene, the flooding of the Rhine River, the destruction of Valhalla and the redemption of the world. That should clear the streets pretty quickly.

Yep, that's the formula. Wagner.

And to anyone who protests that it is unfair to use high European culture to clean up the drug trade in Parker-Gray, the Growler's got an alternative

Chinese classical opera

Oh yeah, baby. That's the ticket. That'll scare 'em straight. And maybe we can splice in a few Bollywood sound tracks. Nothing like hearing East Asian sopranos who can really wail.

Good. Now that the Growler has the solution for crime in Parker-Gray, it's time to move on to ending the war in Iraq, preventing a worldwide avian pandemic, and revitalizing King Street.