John Man, local moralist who regularly attends concerts with pocket scores, was recently overheard explaining to fellow audience members how he only likes contemporary composers who are dead.
“You can’t trust the breathing ones,” he explained. “They are always writing new pieces and upsetting the canon.”
Man has a long list of dead contemporary composers ranked according to his unique scale he calls My Objective Merit, or MOM for short. “MOM is always right,” he said, “and always has been. At the top of the list is Bartok, of course. His music is a fixed and eternal reference point to the universe, like the British Empire.”
Bartok, who died before the last veteran of the American Civil War did, may not literally be considered contemporary, in the sense that he isn’t, but Man explained that this did not matter because Bartok feels contemporary. “It’s all about the feeling for me,” he said. “For example, have you heard of this thing called toothpaste? It feels much better than scraping your enamel off with lumps of coal. But at least we’ll be able to use coal forever.”
“Of course I like other contemporary composers apart from Bartok,” he explained. “If I’m really pushing the paddle steamer out I might listen to Ligeti, who famously liked to use rhythms. And from time to time I even indulge in Messiaen, who wrote even more adventurous harmonies than Korngold, if you can believe that!”
In the rest of his spare time Man is the president of the Bartok And Ligeti Lifetime Superior Appreciators of Contemporary Composers Society, or BALLSACCS, and loves to explore all the repertoire that has been published in complete collected works editions. “These collected works wouldn’t be complete if the composer could write some more works in the future; that’s why I like composers I can store in a box on my shelf, like an urn. I’d trust my life to an urn.”
Man was last seen chasing after a fellow audience member who had innocently revealed that he did not like Bartok very much. As he ran out of the concert hall, Man could be heard screaming “but MOM says you are wrong!”