I have interests.
Clearly, that makes me qualified to be an authority on Romance and Mystery.
In my past, I have been both romantic and mysterious, though hardly ever at the same time. Mystified about romance is more like it. And the easy joke would be that I got married in order to cure that—by taking romance out of the equation.
But that would just be an easy joke and a lie.
And there we are with my introduction. I have an impulse to go for an easy joke and then remember that I should be telling the truth. (My wife was the first to point out that my main comedic influence is probably Fozzie Bear.) Hopefully I’ll get to a deeper joke by actually telling the truth.
The truth of the matter is that my relation to Romance writing is that it was my mother’s guilty pleasure around the house. Still is, but I no longer live there. As a matter of fact, whenever novels (or movies) head in the smoochy-smoochy direction, I—like a little kid—get squeamish. Murder, on the other hand, was a guilty pleasure of my father’s. Again with the easy joke. No, murder mysteries are a guilty pleasure of mine, to the extent that I rarely read them anymore because they either suck me in to the extent that I stay up all night reading—I’m talking to you, Ken Bruen— or they don’t suck me in to the extent that I get mad at the stylized writing and easy tricks—I’m talking to you again, Ken Bruen.
It’s a fickle thing, being entertained. I’m never sure if I’m in the wrong mood or if the book is just failing to get me there.
But hey, I’m not really here to critique books. I’m here to enlighten a little in the manner of the musical context of stories. What? Yes. I have a background in music. First performance, then history (with some dabbling in theory and ethnomusicology—which is really just music history outside of Central European Art Music, all with capital letters). We passively consume music all the time. Music, for us, is something that’s in the background of another activity, either to speed it along or to make it more pleasant in another way. Ever have your iPod die mid-workout? Then you know what I’m talking about. But before Edison came along and made household electronics possible, musica was a separate activity. That’s what we’d like to believe. Really, though, it was as much background then as it is now, the only difference being that it was played by people instead of electronic devices and therefore wasn’t really portable.
As an example, eighteenth-century opera was more a place of socialization than of art appreciation and performers were hard-pressed to be heard over the general hubbub. Audience members had boxes for a season and went when either a new performer came into town or when someone might be in the audience with whom they wanted to speak.
But back to me. This is about me. I have several things in my background that seem made up but aren’t. At age six or seven I and the rest of my soccer team (all who were available, that is, several other groups of young German boys – I assume more soccer teams) were on stage with Liza Minelli, providing a background at the Berlin ICC for her to sing “Wilkommen” from Cabaret. I think our payment was new sneakers for everyone on the team.
I wish I could say that I was right next to Liza and that she imparted a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, but no, all I can say I remember is the words to the song. I guess that tells you something about me, too, especially since we were not required to sing along, it was optional.
As you might guess, the first of these two videos is more my speed.
But hey, if we are ever lucky enough to meet and do karaoke together, I might give the latter a shot, depending on the amount of gin that’s been flowing that night.
Philipp Goedicke, Twitter @PGoedi