Monday, January 16, 2017

A Report from the Music Department at Mosul University

An old friend of mine, the head of the Music Department at Mosul University, has agreed to send me the occasional report as his school has been in the news a bit recently.

My dear friend,

Yes, things have been a bit fraught lately, I must admit. Here is a photo I took the other day, from my office looking out on the quadrangle. Standing just outside is a member of the Iraqi Special Forces counterterrorism unit:

Click to enlarge
We hope that things will settle down pretty soon, after all, the Battle of Mosul, which began on Oct. 16, 2016, has already lasted longer than the whole invasion of Iraq in 2003. Let me tell you, it will be a relief to finally be able to get music supplies again! Our stocks of reeds, strings, rosin and valve lubricants have been running dangerously low, though the students, a resourceful bunch, have been coping amazingly well.

Of course the main problem all along has been that the Islamic State folks just don't get what we are doing. That's a bit of an understatement: their actual policy is NO MUSIC and, yes, Death to the West, but that is a side-issue. You people who live in the West have no idea how difficult it is to run a music school based on the Western Classical Tradition when you have to put up with a constant stream of death threats and the occasional suicide bomber. Honestly, sometimes I think that the only appropriate repertoire for our orchestra is the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky because at least it features explosions. Cannon fire, C4, what's the diff? We could pair it on the program with Beethoven's Wellington's Victory.

But it is our ear-training classes that have been suffering the most. For one thing, a lot of our students (and faculty) have significant hearing loss from the shelling and automatic weapons fire. Minor sixth, major sixth? Who can tell the difference? Our professor of counterpoint, on loan from Tel-Aviv University, hasn't been seen in several years. He is either hiding in his office or the victim of an assassination. I don't think it was because of his no plagiarism policy, but you never know.

My personal beef this week is that we haven't had decent bagels in the faculty lounge for breakfast in months. What happened to all the Jewish bakers? And why does all the meat in the Faculty Club have to be halal? Really!

Rest assured, though, we will soldier on (just a metaphor!) and await our final liberation, much like Paris did in August 1944. Though in their case, they merely had to put up with the occasional festival of German music played by the visiting Berlin Philharmonic, while we have to sneak around surreptitiously just to organize a rehearsal of a Haydn string quartet! Let me tell you, those imams have sharp ears--they can hear a V-I cadence even through a brick wall.

I have to close now as I am organizing a welcoming concert for the Peshmerga fighters. Do you happen to know of any good cantatas in Kurdish? And can you email me the score and parts right away?

Yours gratefully,

Ignatz Moskowitz
Dean of Music
University of Mosul

[Yes, this is a satire. I don't actually have a friend at Mosul University and they probably don't even have a Music Department. I was just reading about the capture of Mosul University from ISIS and this popped into my head.]


Marc said...

Bravo! I didn't 'get it' until the nonchalant 'misplacing' of the Israeli professor of counterpoint.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think that counts as a successful satire then!

Christine Lacroix said...

You really had me going for a while there too! Bravo.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Christine!!

Keep an eye out for the Friday Miscellanea this week as there will be an item on The Piano Guys.

Christine Lacroix said...

I'm not a Piano Guys fan. I know that they are very popular and I've given them a chance but I think I've said before I don't like classical music that has been processed. I'll be very interested to read your take!

Bryan Townsend said...

Right, you're a 2Cellos fan! Sorry. It's just a news item anyway.