Master Class

By James Pimbody



Yes, it was a plus for the new rigorous approach to education yesterday, as young Camilla Brown stood before a packed auditorium at the Melbourne College of the Arts and started to wet her pants. She had just struggled through a mistake loaded version of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole and now master violinist Heinrich Himmler stood glaring at her without so much as a word. The world famous virtuoso was conducting a masterclass for the students at the behest of the college's dean, Ms Lillian Want. Finally, as the steam rose from the little puddle forming in front of them, he spoke.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no" he said, "it's dah dah dum  , you dummy, not dah dum dah  !" His voice whined like a dungeon door on heat. Camilla and her accompanist had quite clearly failed to synchronise.

"It would be dah dum dah   only if Johann Sebastian Bach had written it. And maybe it would be dumm dah dah   if Johann Strauss the senior had written it. Or even dah dum di dah   if Johannes Brahms had composed the piece. One could even consider dum da di dum dum   if the great but late Johannes Rosenberg had penned ze vonderful melodie to manuscript paper. But young lady (by this stage he was screaming at the terrified girl) you managed to arrive at none of zese noble solutions, you played dah dum dah   - almost impossible to imagine. You are an outrage and a monster. And what's more you played G sharp in the recapitulation OUT OF TUNE! So my little disgusting worm, you vould play out of tune, vould you? Ve have Vays of making you play in tune! Corporal, take zis miserable specimen outside and have her shot".

At this the dean nervously approached the podium and, wringing her hands in sympathy, announced that she could indeed feel the maestro's pain in what he had just heard but that they no longer had a corporal on their staff to attend to such matters. "Vas? No Corporal in ze music school?" He was very much beside himself and the violinist had to sit down for a minute to wipe his forehead in the traditional manner (with a white handkerchief) and compose himself (if you will excuse the pun). Ms. Want stepped forward and after clearing her throat -

"We have been living through a time of complacency, our lack of direction could always be blamed on the communists. Now this time is over and we must march forward with firm young tummies and straight backs into the challenges of the new age. We must prepare ourselves for the rigours of tough international competition in a rational economic world. That is what this masterclass is all about. This is a chance in a lifetime for each of you. Seize the future, my children - grasp and you will receive. Receive and you can invest. Invest and you will own the future. And with your future assured you will be able to - eh, grasp more of it - eh. Herr Himmler, would you like to carry on now?"

The appearance of the world-renowned violinist at the college was considered a coup as he took precious time out from his Australian tour with the Royal Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to share his extraordinary knowledge and specific expertise with the students. Next up was the 16 year old Sean Trashead. He was wearing one of those T-shirts - Hitler: European Tour 1939-45  . The audience grew tense in anticipation. The music began. As he burned through the 24th Caprice of Paganini, he wore the usual look of the bored youth - occasionally he dribbled out of the side of his mouth. Maestro Himmler was unimpressed. When Trashead had finished he said simply Why are you wearing zat ridiculous baseball cap round ze wrong vay?

The answer was long in coming and when it did so, it came in the form of a sneer, and afterwards young Trashead immediately wiped his nose on the maestro's violin. The audience held their breath in horror. Just at that moment, way off in a distant galaxy -

"Ladies and Gentlemen, in this paper I will be looking at the ways that we, as violinists, can personify the unconscious. Perhaps we could quantify it by an easily identifiable set of parameters. We might even be able to label it the collective human being. A sort of sci-fi hybrid with interchangeable parts - bred for the new reality of simulated bio-machines - strung together from the results of endless running algorithms. This violinist combines the characteristics of both sexes, it has no time for youth or old age - indeed it transcends and encompasses all the ageing processes. (It) has at its fingertips all human experience from the last 200,000 years. Yes, it is almost immortal but not quite (there is still the potentiality for a wrong note; existence constitutes a sly joke - a cosmic clearing of the throat?) When this being starts to exist, it will be exalted above all temporal change - the present would mean to this musician neither more nor less than any year in any other musician's life either before or after the time that the violin arrived in the very psyche of the musical and historical experience. He or she (or both) would travel amongst the dreams ancient and modern and, owing to immeasurable experience and technique, would be an incomparable prognosticator - having the ability of instant recall and replay at any point of intersection in the whole behavioural wipe out of biological and sonic creativity. This total mind zapper would have played the history of music as we imagine it and lived countless times over the life of just one individual violin player, over and over, over the countless lives of violin families, tribes and dynasties, and almost unimaginable numbers of generic species. The big and very serious `It' would posses the inherent sense of rhythm and growth, development and decay - bound up in an endless dance of fingers on the fingerboard. A conception of pure energy consuming yet remaining unconsumed by the fire of frequency."

With another look of disgust, maestro Himmler pulled out his revolver and with cool precision shot Sean Trashead through his namesake three times. The blood splattered like a pointillist painting in a wide arc over the white walls of the auditorium. The young student fell, his trashed head making a sickening thwack as it struck the polished floor boards which vibrated momentarily. " Ah, the pitch of D." noted the virtuoso, putting away his still-smoking weapon. "Next, please." he articulated with a glance at the intensely concentrated audience.

Just at that moment, in a bathroom far away - another violinist is admiring himself in the mirror while attending to his morning ablutions.

"Wow! I really dig my new beard. Makes me look kind of weird but sort of still hip at the same time. Drip, drooping, dewy - yeah! I guess it will go with my new `yes, now I'm getting more serious' look. But not that serious, like I can still share a joke with me mates down at Aston Villa Football Club. Well, I don't actually have any mates there but I can pose for publicity photos anyway. Well O.K. only if I pay them to stand there and look heavy but cool at the same time. O.K. So I have to pay them extra to stand within one metre of me for three seconds and pretend to act like they don't think I'm a real jerk. Wow! That's a real cosmic connection there. Kennedy, why are you such a Jerk? is the amazing title of my autobiography. Well, I didn't actually write it myself - no, I got my publicity chief to do that. But I answer all those searching questions in it, like why do I speak with a fake cockney accent when actually I'm a spoilt middle class brat from Birmingham? And why I have to keep saying `Wow' all the time when actually I was just a little boy in short trousers practising my scales when all that important stuff was going on in the sixties. Wow! But will it affect my rather indistinctive violin playing? You know all these hundreds and hundreds of little hairs, each one making its purposeful motion towards self fulfilment. But maybe unknowingly, like collectively involved, at the same time maybe blocking the psychic connection between my chin and the chin rest on the violin. Wow! I never realised that. Maybe the hairs, through reaching out for the stars, could actually, at the same time, prevent me from showing my full star potential to all my millions of fans throughout the entire universe. How will it affect the sales of my CDs, videos, and T-shirts? How will it affect me when I'm masturbating? Wow! I never thought of that. Perhaps you'd better shave it off, Nigel!"

Meanwhile back at the masterclass in Melbourne, blood is running across the auditorium floor like it's going out of style. The bodies of budding student violin players litter the whole building - those not executed by H.H. have blown their own brains out rather than face the music. The carnage is awesome. But the situation is about to change, suddenly from the back of the hall and to the sound of an earsplitting Techno House riff comes - wait for it - the new computer game from Sega, ROBO GEIGE; featuring the all-woman, all-violin playing warrior - Princess Viol  . According to Sega's publicity department, Robo Geige is the fastest selling piece of entertainment software on the market ever. Madonna's Sex has only sold a disappointing 200,000 to date; Terminator 2 has managed 300,000 video sales; Robo Geige generated $27 million sales in the first 24 hours it hit the market place.

This does not include all the merchandise that hundreds of thousands of kids are buying to look like Princess Viol   herself - helmets, bullet proof bras, Zapper violins, black kick boots, flashing arm bands that blink "I'm gonna melt your lugs, fuckwit" (`lugs' means `ears' in Viol-speak). Sega isn't the biggest player in computer game shopping. It's gross revenues last year of 2.6 billion are dwarfed by Nintendo's $5.7b. But it's future looks terrific and it's all due to Princess Viol.   So what's special about Robo Geige? (`Geige' is pronounced `Geiger' by the way, and is the German word for violin).

First of all she moves and plays faster than anything else on two legs and 16 bits. There's a big appeal in just giving Princess Viol   full throttle and watching her launch into a super spin attack, when she starts rotating her violin and sending off sparks every time she jumps or loops-the-loop around objects in her way. But Viol   has `A' (attitude) - a cynical, streetwise persona that is immediately appealing to young and old addicts alike. If you pause for a moment in deciding what to do next, Princess Viol   turns round to face you, taps her foot, raises an eyebrow and says "What's with you wimp?" She is also capable of complexity. If you play her too aggressively you fail; if you play her purely as a race against time, you fail. You fail most of the time actually. To play Princess Viol   to full capacity you have to take chances. Like crashing through brick walls without fear of breaking the violin or kicking to death harmless old age pensioners who might happen to be in the way.

The more expensive CD ROM version has many more intriguing violent moves of course, it's altogether more creative. If encountered by another violinist, Princess Viol   simply gets vile and thwacks the intruder round the face with her violin and we all watch the face fracture into hundreds of pieces - in beautiful slow motion.

Sega are spending a cool $3 billion on research every year to make sure they are in with a fighting chance to corner the `downloading' market when the technology is finally there. For those of you who don't know, Downloading means transferring the contents of a human brain into a computer. Proponents believe that it will be possible in five years' time. A sensible answer to the mortality question, well, better than Michael Jackson's `freezing' solution anyway. Yes, it won't be long before mass idiocy will be recognised for what it is - the shopping bonanza of all time. Who can be bothered to play rearranging your favourite muzak on interactive CDs when you can have a go at eliminating the history of music instead?

At the sight of Princess Viol  , maestro Himmler drops his violin and runs like hell.

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