Over the past six months or so, I've been dipping into the Lexicon,
a compendium of less than generous reviews over the past 200 years.
Highly recommended, I was laughing out loud throughout. Critics sure
don't write like this anymore. It will probably not surprise you to
hear that Wagner heads the Slonimsky list, at least in number of pages
devoted to him, at 26; Schoenberg comes in second with a respectable 22.
How's your Invective Meter? I've blanked out the composers' names and
works where appropriate, and I'll provide the answers this weekend. I
wish I would have gone through the book with a highlighter because I'm
sure I've forgotten some good ones.
1. [This piece] is one of those whispering, clucking, picking little
pieces which [name] composes when he whittles away at small and futile
ideas, until he has achieved the perfect fruition of futility and written
precisely nothing "The Ultimate Significance of Nothing" -- this would
be the proper title of this piece. The audience laughed it out of
2. [This piece] is a crass monster, a hideously writhing wounded dragon
that refuses to expire, and though bleeding in the Finale, furiously
beats about with its tail erect.
3. Is [this composer] a human being at all? Is he not rather a
disease? He contaminates everything he touches -- he has made music sick.
4. [This composer] elected to play his composition dignified by the
title . Note the omission of key. Ultra-moderns cannot be bothered
with such trifling designations. [He] plays the piano part from memory.
...Would it make any difference if memory failed and different notes
were substituted for those written in the score?
5. We cannot consider [this work] an advance over his preceding works;
we cannot rid ourselves of the idea that the attempt to play in two keys
at the same time is as disastrous as the attempt of two railroad trains
to pass each other on the same track.
6. Here is a composer -- the only one with the possible exception of
Charles Ives -- who operates on the theory that if you know how to put
a bunch of notes on a piece of score paper you are, presto, a composer.
Forty-five years have passed since [he] wrote [this piece], and it will
certainly be another forty-five before it is programmed by popular demand.
7. The Prelude to [this work] reminds me of the old Italian painting of
a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel.
8. If you are perverse enough to endure over an hour of masochistic
aural flagellation, here's your chance! [This piece], with all its
elephantive forces, fatuous mysticism and screaming hysteria, adds up
to a sublimely ridiculous minus-zero.
9. After [this piece], I had a splitting headache, and all through the
night I dreamed about a goose.
10. [This piece] was abominable. Not a trace of coherent melodies. It
would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of
these hideous discords....The whole crap could be reduced to 100
measures, for it is always the same thing, and always equally tedious.
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