John Fowler



These Four Pieces were composed during Focus! The Webern Legacy in the 50th anniversary year of Anton Webern's death, a 6 concert series at The Julliard Theater and Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, New York, January 20-27, 1995 which presented virtually all of Webern's known work.

© Copyright 1995 John Fowler


Into Space

Later the same day, the Doctor, riven by disgust, parted his hair on the other side and rode off into the dark. Splinters of red violence struck the sky's glazed plate as he hovered in mid- flight and a mannered blues crew on the lift blew major fifths and other crude chords lacking melody.

"The ship," he murmured, "ship to shore--only for a dial tone! I'd give this mystic planetoid a home."

But only whole-tones, scalar, angled, protean- -Ravelian--pierced his ear as, skimming low, the airship planed the Himalayan snow.

"Home--or caring--I'll take no risk but plant this first kiss on Suzie's right or left butt- knolled knocker and sleep on breasts too big to eat!"

Oh unholy, plaintive Doctor, fear not, only defeated.


At the Concert - (a.)

The Doctor, a Doktor Berg, was a large man, with stooped, romantic shoulders that caused his baggy suit jacket to hang long in the front. Tony, who took 3 steps to every 2 of the Doktor's, seemed little more than half his size.

They paced the empty, red-carpeted halls while Suzie primped in the desolate ladies' room. "What a pit," she complained as they squeezed into their last-row seats. (She referred to the toilet--for the orchestra was on stage.)

The sky outside, a piercing blackness, entered the hall as the orchestra tuned and re-tuned.

A Gertrude Stein look-a-like rose from her seat to adjust her coat even after several bars of the 1st movement had been played. Suzie was dismayed, but neither A. nor D. were disturbed as they listened with closed eyes.

Suzie squirmed to adjust her bra, a thing she was not accustomed to wearing. It was a long 1st movement of seemingly endless canon and counterpoint.

"A lousy orchestra but a beautiful piece of music," A. whispered at one point. B. nodded his silent assent as Suzie bent to scratch her left ankle. Somehow her right breast brushed the Doktor's knee.

"What an offering, " he exclaimed softly.

"Make no doubt about it..." Suzie replied.

"Or in it," A. interpolated.

"...I'm all ears," Suzie giggled.

"Don't repeat a single thing; that's the rule!" Doktor cried as applause arose.


At the Concert - (b.)

Later that same night, while listening to Four Stefan George Songs (Opus Posthumous)*--or was it Five songs on poems of Stefan George, (Opus 4)--by Anton Webern--the Doctor fell asleep. No tones woke him till the 3 flutes of Dallapicolla's Sicut Umbra raised him to semi-consciousness.

"Blasted acoustics!" he muttered, "always something to complain about or suffer from. Yet, nether worlds do exist, as we know, pressed on a kiss of glory. Anton, dear Anton, did you really love the Nazis? Or only too long hold in awe an empty, evil ego-culture? Did you never go beyond Romanticism--beyond Myth and Symbol?"

Tedious bears wheel in brass marimbas;
cellos brace up mezzo-sopranos.
Sleepy doctors--concert masters--
direct string nonets.

Lucky clarinet,
elected leader,
leans licorice sticks on
polished keys.

Strains of Milton Babbitt's space,
lean as nuns without a habit,
snort woodwind notes
and learn to samba.

Women dressed in jeans
sing opera arias--
more than bargained for--
yet stagehands, moving pillars,
cause gentle sound catastrophes.

Mingling at intermission,
Mengele selects performers:
one last solo before the smoke....
Im Sommerwind.**

songs of interdiction,
composed on serial rows,
bask in nodding

Sleep, sleep,
the trombone weeps,
as, drily, tenor
saxophones and harps speak:
of the spirit.

"This is all very nice," the Doctor said as he plucked individual hairs from his nose with silver tweezers, "but where's the recipe? No stew's without receipt; no proofs without the pudding. Oh! this stinging, exquisite pain!"


* It could not have been the Four Stefan George Songs for they were omitted from the program that evening due to the illness of one or more of the performers.

** (1904)


After the Concert

The next night, Suzie was nowhere to be found. Anton und Herr Doktor sought her all over. Without ailerons or fables, guns or dress rehearsals, failure was foredoomed. Gussied up in furs, their Tyrolian chapeaus were dismissed as mere affectations.

Larks in grey suits wander the streets of Vienna.

"She missed a breath," Anton whispered as the song ended.

"I thought as much!" the Doktor cried, "but did not want to say it."

The dykish pianist wore an off-white, tailored suit.

"Pure romantic rubbish," D. breathed.

"Not too harsh!" A. warned, "You may be next."

"Sopranos, sopranos in glittering jewels and black velvet decolletage; "O hin--o traum!"*** Anton cried.

"Yes," the Doktor whispered, "they are gone."

As Webern looked away, a shot rang out.

"This night--marred by too many poor performances," D. said. "Come, let us go where we have not yet been."

But A. had already gone.

"You place brilliant shafts of light in my path," Suzie said, "and you may have spoken more highly of them than you did--or haltingly among the mere glissandos."

"Ah, Suzie, your return does me good," the Doctor sighed, "Another night on that damned bus would have done me in. Though how the loss can be made up....


*** Begone--o dream

Four for A.W. was first published as a paper chapbook limited to 5 copies for reading at Bellamellio's, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, January 29, 1995. It is part of a work in progress, an extended narrative sequence in which the Doctor and Suzie are leading characters.
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