Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
Friday, March 12, 1999

The Salem Evening News

The Speaker decrees:
"Let them hear Bach"

By Barbara Anderson

The Speaker of the House has a plan to save the children.

Tom Finneran wants to raise money from business and labor to provide "culture baskets" to all infants born in Massachusetts; he wants to give them Bach and Beethoven and baby-type literature.

Must we have Bach? His music just seems to go on and on, without punctuation; like jazz, it gives me a headache.

I can enjoy some of the classical composers, especially if their music became a movie soundtrack. But my favorite composer is Ennio Morricone, who scored the spaghetti westerns that also gave me my favorite actor, Clint Eastwood.

If only the government had given my parents a culture basket when I was born, with instructions on how to raise me right. Then I could have passed a love of Bach and Beethoven on to my son. Instead, he had to listen to show tunes and the Jefferson Airplane.

Alas, he's 34 years old; it's too late. Oh regret, oh guilt.

I called him, cross-country, to apologize. He's accustomed to the conversations that come from out of nowhere.

"Do you like Bach?" I asked him, expecting him to reply, as a result of his barren childhood, "Who is Bach?"

"He's OK," Lance said, "but his church music doesn't have the passion of Beethoven, or of course the wildness. Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony' is my favorite piece of music ever."

"When", I asked, stunned, "were you exposed to the 'Ninth Symphony?'"

"It's the soundtrack of 'A Clockwork Orange.' I saw it 12 times."

"A Clockwork Orange." For those of you who spent your youth at the symphony, this was a Stanley Kubrick film, based on a 1963 novel by Anthony Burgess. Ugly, violent, and bloody, it told the story of Alex, a savage young rapist and murderer.

Alex loved classical music, especially Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" (including the popular "Ode to Joy"). He played it on his stereo at night as he relived that day's rapes, robberies and beatings: "The lovely blissful tune all about Joy being a glorious spark like of heaven, and then I felt the old tigers leap in me and then I leapt on these two young (girls)..." and you can imagine the rest, which ended with "I dropped off to sleep, still with the old 'Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy' crashing and howling away."

To stop his life of crime, Alex was brainwashed by a well-meaning government which intended to make him sick at the sight of violence. The technique worked, but he lost his love for Beethoven at the same time he lost his free will.

The film is now considered a classic. Maybe we could put a copy of it in the baby basket too.

So the moral of the story is: Beethoven ain't necessarily the solution, Mr. Speaker.

But back to my phone conversations with my son, who was reconsidering his statement about Bach.

"Actually", he admitted, "I do like his 'Toccata' and 'Fugue in D Minor.'" He heard it first in Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery". He learned to like jazz because Frank Zappa used top jazz musicians on his rock albums, and he became acquainted with Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony" from Peanuts' Schroeder.

Before hanging up, Lance mused that while he likes most music, he can't stand the show tunes he heard during his childhood. "The Jefferson Airplane was OK, though", he said.

Well, his parents did better in the book category, reading our favorite classics to him aloud until he could read them himself: "Tom Sawyer," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Moby Dick." Lance is presently enjoying his way through the Russian and French novelists; he credits me and his father with his love of books.

The Beethoven he owes to Stanley Kubrick. Stan and I raised him somehow without the help of Tom Finneran and a government-inspired culture basket.

As for his over-exposure to the evil Alex (where was I when he was watching this video 12 times!?), he utilizes his interest in teen-age pathology in his career as a juvenile probation officer, though brainwashing is not one of the methods he uses to help kids.

Incidentally, when I told my son why I was asking about Bach, he suggested that if I write about this, I should recommend that taxes be cut so parents can buy their own babies the books and music of their own choice.

Boy, whoever taught him politics and tax policy certainly did a good job!

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. She writes regularly for the Viewpoint page. Her biweekly column also appears in other publications.

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