It must be that Eric Alterman doesn’t get much mail.
Certainly, he is kind of an old-fashioned guy. He doesn’t allow comments on this “blog.” And he doesn’t post all the time. I hate Fridays because it is the beginning of the weekend, and there are lots of reasons to hate the weekend. But there are three reasons to be excited about Fridays: Paul Krugman‘s second column of the week, FAIR’s CounterSpin, and Eric Alterman. On Fridays, on his The Nation blog, he provides links to what he’s written during the week in addition to an article by the always interesting Reed Richardson.
On 27 January of this year, he posted an article called The Winter of Our Discontent. Ah, anyone quoting Richard III is a friend of mine. In the article, he mentions going to see a number of plays and concerts and generally makes me feel bad that my life sucks so badly. But he opens the article with two things that brought a smile to my face:
Okay. Yes, Shaw is generally a lot better than Shakespeare and it is nice to see others admit to this. But I was especially happy to hear him say that he prefers Mozart to Beethoven. In general, in the classical world, Beethoven is thought to be better. And there is no doubt he is great, but I tend to think he appeals more to the young. Certainly I loved him when I was a teenager. But now, that whole century of Romantic music more annoys than anything else. Again, however: I still enjoy Beethoven, especially compared to the likes of Schumann and Wagner.
More than this, however, much of people’s appreciation for Mozart comes down to this argument that I’ve heard ad nauseum, “It’s too bad Mozart died so young, otherwise he might have developed into… [wait for it] Beethoven!” This is ridiculous. Yes, it is tragic that Mozart died so young (but it would have been a good deal more tragic had he died at 30, given the amazing things he created during that last five years). But had he lived longer, he would have developed into… older Mozart. His artistic trajectory was not to Beethoven. Mozart didn’t have Beethoven’s peevish musical temperament.
Then, on 2 February, Alterman printed a letter:
What? To begin with, I love how Ben just throws Mozart’s most important work (his operas) aside, “Yeah. He wrote a few operas.” And there’s the whole thing of claiming that Alterman said that Mozart was better than Beethoven when he only said he preferred him. But that’s not the main thing. I couldn’t believe that Alterman would betray our cause for so little cause. So I popped off an email to the scoundrel. Either Eric Alterman doesn’t get much mail, or he has a soft spot for petulant little music snobs (Ben and me): he printed my letter:
This is coming off last week’s column about a 20 minute conversation he had with The Boss. He is so deft at sticking the knife in and twisting it simultaneously. I am, as it turns out, well aware that his life is infinitely better than mine.
Damn you to hell, Eric Alterman!
 Fun fact: “opera” is the plural of “opus.” But the plural of “opera” (the ones we are talking about) is “operas.” This could be confusing. A composer’s first ten compositions are opera one through ten. Would ten such composers’ opera be the operas one through ten? I suppose not, but isn’t it pretty to think so?