19 December 2001 | petermaxie
A last gasp of classical Romantic Gypsy violin music; Moore's swan song
This film marks the culmination of the most prolific, popularly loved form of music that the human race ever conceived. That is, the Romantic style. You may find, for example, a CD of pianist Horowitz produced a couple of decades ago entitled "The Last Romantic" - and you might understand the sentiment behind such a title. It is a dying breed of music. Rather, it is dead. Left are museum pieces rehashed by earnest musicians who love the style, or at least the memory of it, but performed/recorded for audiences/listeners who for the most part don't understand it. For to understand it, one must absolutely not be pragmatic. And as we've all been told time and again of late, if you're not pragmatic (if you haven't gone to college, for example, in order to obtain a degree/career) you don't have a life. Few these days, not even crack dealers, are willing to trade monetary responsibility for an enhancement of their souls.
Likewise, Dudley Moore acted the lead in this film, and in doing so, he didn't create much of a life, in terms of this film being appreciated by the mainstream. But Moore was one of the funniest comedians that ever graced American film/sound stages. His improvised drunk bits rival Jackie Gleason's improvised drunks. Of course nowadays such drunk humor is politically incorrect, which marks yet one more creative form that has recently bitten the dust. Oh well, at least kids are safe from drunk drivers.
But the greatest moment in this movie was the violin battle. You see, it's a prerequisite for talented, narcissistic classical/Romantic musicians, such as Dudley Moore (pianist), to hold a dark sense of humor. It's the kind of passive resistant, anti-successful state of mind that made Charlie Brown, Woody Allen, Bartleby, John Lennon and countless negative/alternative reasoning popular during the 60s-70s. And that alternative culture, or revolution, was merely a revamping of an earlier, more formidable anti-capitalism known as the period when occurred the French and American revolutions. In music, this was the time of Beethoven's rise to fame. This style he and others (even Mozart to some extent) propounded is known as the Romantic style. And the single greatest musical influence upon these western European proponents of the Romantic style was the music emanating from the streets: Gypsy music. It's also important to remember that such Gypsy music was itself influenced by a combination of east European folk music and the traditional music of the middle east, an area of the world from which all western civilization is derived, and thereby for which all of us should have reverence, or at least respect.
Basically what we're talking about here, what was the greatest influence upon the invention and prosperity of the Romantic music style, is the harmonic minor scale, and the claiming of this scale upon the hearts of a vast majority of music lovers world wide 1750-1980. It is a scale that gave birth to Romantic styled chromaticism, the most prolific harmonic form ever. In its early stages, when Mozart and papa Haydn dabbled in it, women and other faint hearted individuals tittered. When Beethoven got hold of it, such women literally fainted in the aisles. That's how naturally such chromaticism is capable of affecting the emotions of people. It requires an open heart, however. Today such Gypsy styled music is a laugh; that's how jaded western civilization has become. The smallest of minds are bold enough to regard it as merely "Jewish music," which informs us that its demise is likely, at least partially, the result of anti-Semitism.
Such Gypsy/Jewish etc. scale's greatest instrument, or agent provocateur: the violin. Hence, the extraordinarily emotional/comedic violin battle scene in this film, a rare tribute to this dying style of music. If there are any film makers, or any creative artists, who are interested in bringing back to vitality such Romantic/Gypsy/Jewish/harmonic minor scaled music, seeing this film might give them a good start in the right direction. It should also be stated that the Gypsy music that has recently surfaced in "World Music" and in university studies of Ethnomusicology, while more authentic, has, by way of pedantically narrowing the interpretations, caused the less authentic Romantic style to be ignored in its works.