What Would Mozart Be Doing If He Were Alive Today?
I was setting up yesterday for my live remote broadcast of the Amadeus Deli from Ohio State University’s Recreation and Physical Activity Center when a Classical 101 listener came up to say hello. Actually, he did more than that. He asked a potentially earth-shaking question:
If Mozart had been born in 1985, where would he be and what would be be doing today?
My jaw dropped at the possibilities. So I decided to have a little fun with the question. Let’s walk and talk.
Of course, the listener’s question was pretty clearly focused on Mozart’s music activities: if Mozart were a young man today (and presumably also a musical genius), what kind of music would he be composing/performing/listening to? We’ll get to that in a moment.
First, I’d like to muse on what Mozart the guy might be doing if he were around today. I think Mozart would be a hipster. I think he’d listen to This American Life on his iPhone while working on his next masterpiece at the iPad set up on the drafting board in his urban loft condo with the exposed brick walls. Mozart was an incredibly social guy, so I’m guessing he would have been the first person to join Facebook, that he’d send out Tweets under the handle @Wolfie and that he certainly would have been the first person to post multi-camera YouTube video of himself conducting his own start-up, “democratically run” chamber orchestra performing his own music in an abandoned, tragically photogenic warehouse. I think he’d play Candy Crush once or twice, then wonder why he did. I think he’d push the pram and drink lattes on Sunday afternoon walks through the park with Constanze, the kids and the dog. And I definitely - definitely – think he’d have funky-looking eyewear, even if his vision were just fine and he couldn’t afford it.
Mozart’s extreme talent and man-about-town personality would have made him an ideal candidate for a ginormous musical career today. It has long been viewed as one of the music world’s tragic ironies: a genius like Mozart never could support himself with a full-time music gig and instead had to cobble together an existence as a freelancer. Well, it must be said that he did have a job at one point in time but was never there and so got sacked.
That kind of shenanigan would still be a problem today. But the effervescent Mozart was great at start-up projects (remember the chamber orchestra in the previous paragraph?), calling together musician friends for performances of this, that or the other and making them happen. And he knew how to have a good time with his fellow musicians and not get bogged down in artistic elitism. I suspect Mozart would be fabulous as a member of a world-class, hipster string quartet, like Brooklyn Rider or the Kronos Quartet. He wouldn’t have a “boss,” per se, breathing down his neck, or a bureaucracy to contend with on a daily basis. He could just horse around with his quartet buddies on the concert circuit between stops at the billiards room.
I suspect that Mozart the composer would have one foot in the world of the concert hall and the other in the world of film or even video game music. Would he still write music in the same style? Of course not. But what his style might be were he alive today is a brain twister, for no composer alive today can truthfully say he or she has not been influenced by Mozart’s body of work. So the question here is, What would art music be like today if Mozart had not been alive 250 years earlier and doing what he did? Wow. As for that “concert hall,” I suspect Mozart would be happy playing or having his music played in venues ranging from actual gilt-and-velvet jobbies to beer-scented bars where musicians show up with their violins and wearing jeans with the knees ripped out and wail away on music by Schubert, Shostakovich or Jethro Tull.
But certainly like all other composers and musicians today, if Mozart were also alive right now, he’d be listening to music left, right and center. So, what would Mozart have stored on his iPod? I’m sure he’d have some Beethoven, some Haydn, some Bach and also some music by other present-day composers of art music . But I suspect most of the RAM would be given over to alt-indie stuff, classic rock and obscure Euro-techno music that no one outside the Dusseldorf city limits has ever heard.
Those are just a few thoughts. I want to hear yours. If Mozart were alive today, what do you think he’d be doing, and what music would he have on his iPod?