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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Composers at the Diner

Reflections at City Limits Diner, or
Preparing for "Larry King Live"

CAST:  COMPOSERS Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel,
Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninov
Young Woman

SCENE: City Limits Diner, at the Westchester Mall, White Plains, NY on a sunny
August afternoon. The purpose of the lunch meeting is to prepare for an
appearance on "Larry King Live" later that evening. Seated in a booth are the
COMPOSERS: Enrique Granados, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Alexander Scriabin,
and Sergei Rachmaninov. Isaac Albeniz has not arrived yet. The Diner is busy. In
an adjoining booth is seated a Young Woman and a small child, age 7 or 8. The Young
Woman is picking at a salad, while talking into a cellphone. The Waitress
approaches the table.

W: (with a forced smile) Hi, I'm Lisa and I'll be your Waitress today. Can I get
you something to drink to get started?

EG: Gracias, but we are still waiting for another.

CD: Where is Albeniz? I don't have all day.

EG: I'm very sorry; he said he'd be here. Maybe he had trouble parking. (To
Ravel) Where did you two park?

CD: Ah, Mon Dieu! Just like my family! Wherever we go the main topic of interest
is "where did you park?"! What does it matter for God's sake!

MR: Well, I am sure he will be here shortly.
(WAITRESS is waiting, becoming impatient)

SR: Let's tell the young lady what we'd like, no?

AS: Smirnoff for me.

W: Huh?

MR: So early, my friend? The day has barely begun!

AS: Time is relative; in the larger scheme of things there exists no time, no
past, no future, just the moment carrying us into the next moment to our
ultimate silent death!

W: Um, should I come back?...

CD: Just coffee for everyone, thank you.

AS: But..

SR: Let it go, Alex. Please! (rolls his eyes and sighs deeply)

WAITRESS leaves.

MR: Well, while we are waiting for our friend, we should discuss our television
appearance on "Larry King" tonight.

CD: (sarcastically) Yes, it should be thrilling.

EG: You are not pleased, Claude? I think it is an exciting opportunity; millions
of people will be listening, watching, and we can speak of music, the supreme
art! I am very eager to do this! A bit nervous, I admit.

CD: That is all well and good, Monsieur; however, I am here only for the money.
And I deserve every franc for subjecting myself to this. How can we possibly
convey the depth of music in 48 minutes? And this Monsieur King, who is he
anyway? He is no musician!

AS: He looks like Satan; I believe this is a cosmic occurrence.

CD: This American media! Everything is so overblown! Everything so
simple-minded! (Mockingly) "Tonight we will discover the truth behind the great
music of the late 19th century! Right after this message from Preparation H!"
What a country!

SR: Please, Claude! You are depressing me!

AS: (to Rachmaninov) What a surprise! Well, now you can write another schmaltzy
piano concerto! Ha ha! (laughs excessively)

MR: I don't think that was very kind, Alex. After all, what harm is there in
one's music achieving popularity?

AS (suddenly serious) We are not carnival acts! We are artists; the public's
disdain is evidence that we are on a higher intellectual and mystical plane! I
rejoice when the public trashes my music! We must accept that true art is ALWAYS
years, centuries ahead of the wave of cultural acceptance! Our art is necessary
for it's own sake!

EG: But don't you appreciate knowing that you have connected to the hearts of
your listeners? I will never forget performing La Maja y El Ruisenor for the
first time in Madrid! It brought tears to the eyes of the audience!

CD: No doubt. (smirks)

EG: Excuse me, sir! I take offense at your callousness! You can't tell me that
the lukewarm reception of your Pelleas et Melisande did not upset you?

CD: Not in the least. As long as my music pleases ME, I am happy! If you do not
like it, well.. C'est la vie!

MR: I must admit that I agree with my countryman. Music is after all, just for

AS: How provincial!

YOUNG WOMAN in next booth shuts off celphone, and turns to the group.

YW: Excuse me, did I hear someone mention that you will be on "Larry King Live"?

EG: Si, Signora.

YW: (to CHILD) Courtney! Mommy is trying to have a conversation now; will you
excuse me while I talk to these gentleman? Thank you very much, honey!

(The COMPOSERS share puzzled glances)

YW: (to Ravel) Sorry; she gets very anxious if I don't pay attention to her
completely during meals. I'm sure you can relate! (Laughs. Ravel says nothing,

MR: Oui, Madame.

YW: How exciting! What will you be talking about!

SR: We will be discussing our music; we are composers from Europe.

YW: Oh, I see! I love music! Courtney is going to be taking piano lessons this
fall. (To CHILD in a baby-voice) Aren't you, honey? Aren't you? Yes, you ARE!
Yes you ARE!!!!

CD: Good Lord.

YW: (turns to COMPOSERS) Well, I will try to watch. I'm so sick of hearing about
Donald Trump, aren't you?

(COMPOSERS stare blankly).

CHILD: Mommy, I want to go to Nordstroms!

YW: Excuse me, well good luck!

MR: Merci, Madame.

(WAITRESS returns with tray of coffee)

W: OK! Here you go! (Serves coffee to all)

ISAAC ALBENIZ suddenly appears, out of breath; sits down beside CLAUDE DEBUSSY.

IA: Sorry to be late; hello everyone.

(COMPOSERS say hello, acknowledge IA)

SR: (with a slight smile directed at CLAUDE DEBUSSY) Tell us, Isaac, where did
you park?

IA: Level P2 I think; I don't know. This place is very confusing. What are all
these people doing here? I don't see the attraction.

AS: Materialism is the food with which the masses feed their souls; never
enough, never ending.

SR: I did see some attractive suits in the large store; Nordstrom? Whatever.
Very elegant.

MR: Ah yes, but one can only buy a fine cravat in Paris.

CD: (impatiently) Is this what we are going to discuss on Mr. King's program?

IA: What's his problem? (takes out a cigar, and proceeds to light up) Fantastico.
This came from Havana;1897 I think. (Draws in a long puff, and exhales).

MR: 1897? For some reason I seem to remember 1897 as being a very good year..

CD:  Brahms died in 1897. It was a great year.

YW: (turns suddenly to Albeniz) Excuse me! You can't smoke in here!

IA: (surprised) Of course I can! See? (Puffs again)

YW: You CANNOT smoke that in here! It is the law! My daughter cannot be
subjected to that! Please!

EG: Isaac, why not put out the cigar; we do not want any trouble here...

IA:  Signora; I was smoking these from age 6! A good cigar adds years to one's
life. (to CHILD) Would you like to try my cigar? (smiles at CHILD)

YW: ABSOLUTELY NOT! PLEASE put that out! (Dials a number on the celphone and
begins talking into it) Linda? It's Phyllis; I'm at City Limits and some rude
person is smoking a CIGAR right next to me! Oh my God! I can't take this stress
in my life today, I CAN"T!

IA: (takes a long look at YW) No problema, Signora. I apologize for upsetting
you. (Extinguishes cigar)

SR: I really must insist, gentleman, that we discuss our business here. I have
other plans today!

MR: Yes, let's just share a few thoughts on music, so we can be prepared for the
program at least.

AS: Well, the initial problem is one inherent in any discussion of the arts. One
cannot speak about music and do justice to it; one cannot describe music using
language! There is simply no way to convey the experience of music verbally!
This is why in my Mysterium I am striving to create a synthesis of ALL artistic
and aesthetic experience; light, color, sound, text; the artistic experience is
essentially a spiritual and mystic experience after all!

MR: Sensual, as well. But really, Alex, you cannot believe that as artists we
should take ourselves so seriously? The mystical is a fine area of study, but
most people are simply sensual beings, not far removed from the animals.

CD: Well put, Maurice. Which is why your Bolero holds a particular fascination
for many, despite its-

EG: (interrupting) despite having stolen it from our culture!

MR: I prefer to think of it as paying homage to the rhythmic and melodic
richness of Iberian tradition! But, as I've said, that particular piece has no
special place in my heart. It's a piece for orchestra without music.

SR: (laughs) A piece for orchestra without music! That's funny!

AS: I don't think I have ever seen you smile, Sergei, much less laugh out loud!

EG: Don't you mean "LOL"?

CD: What?

EG: LOL, as in AOL terminology.."laugh out loud"?

MR: I don't understand....AOL? What?

SR: (to Albeniz) I think your countryman is confused, Isaac. Isaac?

ALBENIZ is snoring.

EG: Isaac, for God's sake wake up!

IA: What? Oh, so sorry. These theoretical discussions bore me, I'm afraid.
Pedrell used to try teaching me about chord structure, harmonic resolutions,
etc. Nothing could be more boring. I want to make music, not scientific

CD: I'd rather be tarred and feathered than endure one moment more of Franck's
theory classes!

WAITRESS reappears.

W: Can I take your order now? As an appetizer today we have the Westchester
Platter: potato skins, nachos, and City Limits French Fries.

MR: What is so French about your French Fries, mademoiselle?

W: Well, they are very light and not filling.

SR: Like your Children's Corner Suite, Claude!

CD: Yes, I suppose. Maybe YOU should try writing something light and not filling

SR: I prefer music with substance, thank you.

CD: Oh, I see. Well, perhaps you will write some eventually.

EG: (to WAITRESS) The Platter sounds fine, thank you!

AS: If this were a dream I would interpret it this way: We are each of us here
in the belly of Mother Earth, waiting to be served our Last Supper. Afterwards,
we will be read our life's transgressions and summarily executed accompanied by
three harps and a solo oboe. After Death comes, we will experience the feeling
of free-falling through Eternity.

CD: How lovely.

IA: See here, Claude; there is no need to be insulting! The fact is that none of
us seated here will ever attain the level of worship directed at the "old
masters". So let's just accept that!

EG: You mean the old GERMAN masters.

IA: Of course! To the musical world, the "three B's" are immortal. The rest of
us are incidental.

MR: If we're fortunate, we may be the subject of some obscure Continuing
Education class someday, taught by any moron with a Music Degree. (sighs)

AS: Sadly, I must agree.

CD: "Sadly" is an understatement. It amazes me how anyone with a bit of
sensibility can listen to Beethoven's piano sonatas and not be completely
nauseated. That man wrote AGAINST the piano, not FOR the piano. And those
trivial development sections! The same boring routine over and over. He should
have been a bricklayer; he writes music based on a mindless blueprint.

MR: Well, I have more respect for our German colleagues than you do, Claude.
There is always room for craftsmanship in music. The effect of "spontaneity"
requires much forethought and planning!

CD: Forethought? Planning? Are we building a bridge over the Seine or making
music? Music is instinctive and all about color, texture, organic elements we
find in nature which follow their own evolution, not some dry formula laid out
by imbeciles who can't cut it as musicians!

SR: I'm sorry, Claude, but nobody can deny the absolute genius of J.S. Bach. He
summed up every aspect of musical evolution and elevated every form he worked
in. His counterpoint-

CD: Counterpoint? A clever parlor trick, but again having nothing to do with the
true nature of music.

EG: Which is?

MR: (laughing) "La plaisir delicieux et toujours nouveau d'une occupation

IA: Bravo!

MR: Not my words; those of Henri de Regnier.

AS: Useless occupation? You do not seem to grasp the high calling we have been
appointed! We are the saviors of art, and the only hope for sparing this
civilization from banality! Don't you see? Without artists what is life worth?
Our impending doom only becomes a heavier cross to bear! And MUSIC is the
supreme art! Useless occupation? Where would this Earth be without the
contributions of great artists? Glinka, Mussorgsky, even Tchaikovsky-

CD: Tchaikovsky! God spare us from that sap!

AS: I will not! Your cavalier attitude toward your art is a danger to the fate
of mankind! This world is starving for true art! Thank God for our gifts, our

(Over the Diner's speakers Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias are singing "To All
the Girls I've Loved Before")

MR: Yes, (listening) thank God indeed!

WAITRESS brings a tray of Westchester Platter, and dishes, which she places in
front of each composer.)

W: Here you are, gentleman. Anything else?

               After a pause, GRANADOS answers,

EG: I think this will be fine. Thank you.

W: Are you sure? We have some great lunch specials!

CD: No, thank you.

W: We have wraps, and even turkey burgers! Anyone?

AS: No, thank you very much.

W: Is that your "final answer"? (giggles)

CD: Of course. What do you mean?

W: "Your FINAL answer?" Get it? Don't they have "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" where you come from?

IA: Ultimo? Definitivo?

W: Never mind. (leaves)

EG: It is getting late. I think we should try to make the point that our music
has a history of integrity, as deserving of respect as any German or Austrian
composer. I am very proud to be a Spanish composer; to combine the best of the
Romantics with musical vestiges unique to my country; the tonadilla, the copla,
the fandango, etc. Don't you agree, Isaac?

IA: I am a Moor!

EG: Yes, but the point is-

MR: The point is well taken, Enrique. There is no doubt that the Germans
influenced all music; Franck himself was enthralled by Wagner'' chromaticism

CD: And his incessant modulations!

MR: But on the other hand we have our Gabriel Faure, who wrote completely
anti-German music. And not to mention Massenet, Bizet,

EG: And Debussy, of course.

MR: D'accord!

SR: The unifying element in all music is emotion. We are all human, and we all
have known pain. Music can speak to this common experience most exquisitely; yet
at the same time, we can all give voice to our native land.

AS: Says the man who lived his last years in Beverly Hills.

SR Hey, don't knock it if you have not tried it! The other day I saw Brad Pitt.

EG: (excitedly)Where? What was he doing?

CD: This is sad...

MR: You know who I love? That cute petite Marion Cotillard!

IA: I will take Salma Hayak any day.

AS: This discussion is quickly deteriorating; like the world and its values.

IA: Lighten up, Alex! Don't you ever just kick back with a good cigar, a glass
of sherry, and enjoy life? We're dead a long time!

SR: And what will your final words be when Death knocks at your door, Isaac?

IA: (pauses) I'll sit up in my bed and say "Well, that's the end of me!"

CD: Sounds practical enough!

MR: I agree. Life is short; if we can contribute a little pleasure to lighten
the load, we have done well.

EG: This is what we must say on Larry King tonight, agreed?

CD: I don't care. As long as I get paid.

SR: Yes, Claude! As I once commented to a colleague who asked me about the
acoustics in a certain concert hall where I was performing: "If the CHECK is
good, the HALL is good".

IA: Salud!

EG: We better get out of here. If I am in the mall too long I get

CD: Yes, it's really time to go. (to Rachmaninov) Do they validate parking for

SR: You are very frugal, aren't you?

AR: He's cheap, you mean!

SR: (to Debussy) Yes, perhaps you are a Capricorn?

All rise and look for the WAITRESS.


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