From Spectator, Trenton High School, October 1916.
THE MADMAN'S NARRATIVE.
BY GEORGE ANTHEIL, B1.
I am not mad. They are all maniacs here; all but me. I, alone am sane; a great composer, yet they tell me I am also mad. Surely, sir, you will not make that mistake. See how calm I am, how measured I talk. Notice my intelligent brow, my total absence of conceit. Probably you have even heard of my symphonie, sir, the greatest ever composed? No? Ah, then you are unfortunate not to have heard of Herr Professor Schneider, the great futurist composer. Perhaps you do not know of the years I have spent studying harmony and counterpoint? You are ignorant of the fact that I have carefully analyzed the great futurists in music, Wagner and Strauss, spending hours in studying their wonderful tonal combinations, kaleidoscopic coloring, recherche chords and ingenious chromatic and whole tone resolutions. I studied the science of sound vibration and overtones, going into new paths that your great hero Debussy never thought of. And why all this, pray? Because I wished to compound a symphonie that would exceed all former tone poets efforts; music of rare and delicate combinations so planned that it would lift the soul of the hearer from its monotonous level and carry it up into the regions of Paradise inhabited only by smokers of sweet opium. Carefully as a chemist compounds his elements did I compound my tones. Carefully as an artist paints his masterpiece did I orchestrate my symphonie. Two whole years of my life it demanded and naught did I gain by it except the satisfaction of having created something which will never be created again. And when at last it was finished, I lost no time in securing a symphonie orchestra and hall for its production. The long-looked for time had come.
Pardon, sir, but would you mind handing me that glass of water? Thank you. My head throbs with music; ah, such wonderful rythm that beats within my head! But to resume my story, sir. Where was I? Ah, yea; the orchestra took its place and I came out of the wings with my baton. As I bowed to the audience, I noticed with satisfaction that the hall was crowded. My new symphonie was promised to be out of the beaten paths of musical composition and many had, no doubt, come out of curiosity.
I rapped upon my stand for silence and a great hush reigned over the vast assembly for a few seconds. Then it began, my symphonie, the greatest ever composed. The strings reinforced by the woodwinds and the deep wailing of the 'cello combined with an occasional growl from the bass viols was like the beginning of the world; like a new planet having found itself and slowly beginning to revolve, gathering speed and momentum till at last it goes whirling its way about the universe with uncomprehensible speed. Here the history of the world began; here was built the pyramids; here were the temples of the Babylonians; here was the finery of the oriental Persians; here the martial splendor of the Spartans, the classic beauty of the Greeks, the superstitions of the barbarians; all was represented in that immense tone-picture, as it unfolded itself, measure by measure, movement by movement. The violins soared up into etherial heights and the 'cello overflowed with powerful melody. The very air seemed enchanted; one hardly breathed. On anBon sang the orchestra, the tympanies rolling in furious thunder, the violins and clarinets in a whirlwind of chromatics, the piping flutes, the screeching picoloes, the mournful oboe, the lovesick viola; all were heard in that immense wall of sound.
Suddenly, I noticed the tone dying out. Several of my first violinists had lost consciousness. Their instruments had dropped from their hands and their heads nodded as though in sleep. Presently a 'cellist dropped off and now a flutist. I was in despair. The symphonie was nearly finished and frantically I urged my remaining musicians on. But the sound vibrations grew weaker and weaker, and with it the number of the conscious members in the orchestra slowly decreased until the last bass viol player dropped off with the last note of the symphonie. Furious, I turned around to observe the audience: one and all as lifeless as statues. I tried to arouse my musicians but they were all its senseless as stones. Placing my ear over the heart of my flutist, I heard no pulsation. He was dead! They were all dead!
May I trouble you again sir, for a glass of water. Such intoxicating music is going on within my brain. Listen, I have such a wonderful idea for scherzo, tra-la-de-dum-da, I would let the strings together with the bass take the upper portion and the 'cellosah, but to go on with my story. I soon awakened to the danger of my position, for no matter how great the shock, or how sudden the catastrophe, my iron will and resourcefulness always remains with me. I realized that I would be held responsible, so to stay there meant ruin.
Presently my eyes chanced to fall upon the miserable score that had caused my misfortune. I was about to tear it to pieces in a ragebut no! If the symphonie had enchanted their souls from their bodies, why could not the charm be worked backwards and disenchant them? Quickly seating myself at the piano I reversed the symphonie. A faint but perceptible flush crept into the cheeks of my orchestra. Encouraged, I went on until I had ended with the opening note. I turned to the audience, and saw that my efforts were successful. All were now fully disenchanted and conscious.
But, my dear friend, when one thinks his troubles at end, they are often only in the making. Suddenly a quarreling broke out in the orchestra. Several declared that others had their instruments. A flutist declared with much heart-felt blasphemy, that a certain violinist had his fiddle. A 'cellist insisted that he never played a 'cello in his life and that his regular instrument was the oboe. Everyone insisted that he played a different instrument than that which he possessed. But the orchestra was not the only place where this lunacy prevailed. In the audience, men insisted that other individuals had taken their coats, hats and other articles of apparel and tried to recapture them. Rioting broke out and the uproar was tremendous. The humor of the situation struck me and I laughed till my ribs cried out in righteous anger at such dynamatic explosions. But even as I laughed, cold fear gripped my heart. There was a curious similarity in this mania. Everyone had something which belonged to someone else. Then it dawned upon me. I had in my excitement performed the symphonie backward at too great a tempo, thus not giving the souls time enough to locate their respective bodies.
Please can I again request you for a glass of water. I have such wonderful melodies running through my mind. They burn in my blood like a fever. If I could but again have access to a piano, a pen and some music paper. But the idiots will not even let me so much as see them. They say I am a maniac, a madman. The fools know not what a great mistake they have made. But to continue my narrative. Instantly wishing to rectify my mistake, I seated myself at the piano and replayed the score, this time from beginning to end. I then waited patiently for about an hour, and then again reversed the symphonie at a much slower tempo than previously, When I had completed its reverse execution, I glanced at my disenchanted audience and noticed with satisfaction that there were no more signs of riot or quarrel. Every soul was at its correct destination. Then with a greatly enlightened heart, I seized the score and made my escape through the crowd. Upon reaching my study, I burned that diabolical combination of sound, thereby removing from the musical world and mankind one of the greatest dangers that ever threatened it.
many thanks to Arthur Antheil McTighe for digging this up!!