Monday, February 13, 2012

"Will The Real Handel's Water Music Please Stand Up?" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[writing as "Anna Cruces" for a proposed NPR musicology segment scheduled to air in early 1993, but never used; from The Jericho Files collection]

Good evening. I'm Anna Cruces. You're hearing the wonderful strains of George Frederic Handel's most popular orchestral work, Water Music. Astute listeners out there will, of course, recognize the hornpipe from the old Delco water faucet commercials.

Water Music
is a must for any classic music aficionado's library. Several different recordings of the piece are available, yet interestingly, no two recordings are the same. This begs the question: Which version is the "correct" version and why? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.

This begs the next question: How are we to determine the "correct" version?

And begs yet a third question: How much longer until lunch?

Let us look at the pieces of this musical puzzle that we have to work with.

The largest problem we have is the fact that no autographed score for the work as a whole exists. The only copy that bears Handel's signature is a two movement concerto, re-scored in the Water Music, located in the British Museum. The copies that do exist are different from one another and such copies are merely spurious transcriptions of a piano etude for bagpipes thought to be titled "Sonata for Whoopee Cushion in D-flat Major."

However, differing opinions hold that the stylized Cross-dressers of the Upper Rhine (The Kleidenblätterteig) had a tremendous regard for Taoist philosophy, a factor which has greatly influenced their bowel movements, not to mention their music.

However, such a factor does not exist in Water Music. Instead, the harmonies of the piece hearken the listener back to the late Renaissance-Baroque period wherein the opening salutes in a minor mode that shifts to third gear at thirty kilometres per hour.

A closer look at the next movement reveals Handel experiencing a shift in his lower thirds. He then executes a marvelous groping of the treble clef and the meter rapidly incriminates a rotund disposition. Handel does this, thereby, to relieve stress on the upper ulna, the lower tibia, and the middle child.

This, of course, is in regard to Battenburg's Theory of Musical Inversions in Third World Countries which essentially states that nations without an industrial base often listen to polka music. This supposition is often at the expense of the middle child.

The result is a careful reworking of a stylistic preference to albatross traced to a Rossini overture from his unperformed opera, Desidero Pantaloni. The aria from the overture begins with a highly complex metaphysical treatise on the biochemical regurgitations of late 12th Century German Idealists and their colleagues in France. When the male chorus enters the scene twenty measures later, they are already drunk and singing about peas and chickens.

This calls to mind the fourth movement of "Flute Concerto for Stereo Consoles in early model Gremlins," by Vito Parmesiano deRegina, one of the leading Italian composers of mid-1712 Germany, circa 1710. This vocal duet piece written for a pair of four trumpets is very much in keeping with the jazz-like style of the late Reconnaissance Period (just after the Roccoco Period and just prior to the James Coco Period, not to be confused with the Hot Cocoa Period).

deRegina is highly regarded as one of those composers often called the "Revisionists" and is in the same category as Debussy, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Lennon. Writes well-known Oxford musicologist, Dr. Silence Percival Yiblet: "...the works that are heard serve to enliven the source of a melodic structure that one expects from the contrariness of the original."

But much of the music that is left intact can be traced to the early 6th Century work of a monk named Harvey Rosenbaum, whose most famous work, "Chromosome Dance for Rhinoceros in C-sharp," follows a musical theme that can be found in many works of the same period. Like most Austrian composers in England, Rosenbaum used the Myxomatosis melodic mode in a perverted form with a series of chromatic and prophylactic scales.

This lead us to a brief look at the Roger Movement, begun in the early 1100's by a Franciscan friar named Friedrich "Big Daddy" Frankenheimer-Schmidt. The Roger Movement, which spanned the pre-Renaissance days of the Reformation, focused on the pentatonic gurgles that appeared in a little known form of chant called the Minus Hock (later to be known as the Add Hock). This form of chanting used gurgles that take effect on the root note as well as the upper third, the tonic sixth, the gin and tonic eight, the inverted thirteenth, the genial fifteenth, and the confused thirty-second.

This sparked the little known Elmer Movement which attempted to take the gurgles to another level by proving that the circle of fifths can, in fact, be festooned with garlands and mayflowers and then taken for walks in the meadow. (This movement, however, lasted all of two days and resulted in the death of a wheelbarrow, a yak, and a crate of pickles.)

The Roger Movement, coupled with the familiar arching of the eyebrow and the use of a violin bow as a rapier, resulted in a pragmatic approach to hand clapping, except in cases where only one hand is clapping and a tree falls in a wood.

Such esoteric examinations of appendages in a pseudo-mystical fashion so sparked the appearance of tambourines in orchestral works that Bob Haydn (not related to the more famous Ralph Haydn), a brilliant Irish-born Austrian composer born in Morocco, wrote his famous concerto "Small Dogs Yelping Near a Puddle," a vocal piece for a small tambourine, two kazoos, and a pint of lager. At the premiere, the audience was so moved by the work that they praised Haydn as reigning emperor of an anthill and vanished into the woods, never to be heard from again.

Except when you get that curious feeling that you are being watched.

But that's probably normal paranoia.

Haydn, however, did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Wait! What's that over there?!?


Based on the available canonical evidence, we can then deduce which of the recordings is the "correct" version. It is only safe to assume that the later recording done by Zubin Mehta and Freddy Mercury, with guest conductor Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, is not the "correct" version.

Fiedler also did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Suffice it to say that the alienation of one's inner self is detrimental to the safety of the whole. Or, in the words of that famous Greek philosopher, Fred the Athenian Galley: "E vexat lux patria verum porpoise," which roughly translates to something about sneakers and dead fish.

Thus we can conclude that Handel's Water Music conjures up visions of scantily-clad water faucets.

As for which is the "correct" version of the piece?

I haven't the foggiest.

I just have a pair of Reeboks and a dead cod.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

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