Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Preliminary Notes For A Space Opera

“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings.”

[Alban] Berg is remembered as one of the most important composers of the 20th century and to date is the most widely performed opera composer among the Second Viennese School. He is considered to have brought more human values to the twelve-tone system, his works seen as more emotional than Schoenberg's. Critically he is seen to have preserved the Viennese tradition in his music. His popularity has been more easily secured than many other Modernists since he plausibly combined both Romantic and Expressionist idioms. Though Berg's Romanticism at one time seemed a drawback for some more modernist composers, the Berg scholar Douglas Jarman writes in the New Grove: "As the 20th century closed, the 'backward-looking' Berg suddenly came as [George] Perle remarked, to look like its most forward-looking composer."

Berg died in Vienna, on Christmas Eve 1935, from blood poisoning apparently caused by an insect-sting-induced carbuncle on his back. He had been reduced to near-poverty and it is said that to save money his wife carried out an ill-advised operation using a pair of scissors. Later he was taken to hospital, although too late to prevent the onset of blood poisoning. He was 50 years old.

Alban Berg’s Wikipedia page
describes how he got stabbed in the back
(well, ‘operated on’ by his wife)
but doesn’t say if before dying
he sang a song. He wrote operas,
including one that he called “Lulu.”

“Lulu” starts with her husband dying
when he finds Lulu cheating on him.
Later Jack the Ripper kills Lulu.

There’s a genre of science fiction
called “space opera” that typically
doesn’t include music or singing.

Someday I’ll write a space opera
in which a space musician gets killed
when his space wife stabs him in the back
with a deadly pair of space scissors.

The whole rest of my space opera
will be the space musician singing
with everyone else on the spaceship.

Before he dies recounting his woes
and his triumphs, he’ll forgive his wife
even though she’ll sing with someone else
and the theme of his forgiveness song
will be that the distances of space
are so vast when humans travel them
humans cannot hope to remain sane
but he’ll forgive his wife because love
he will sing makes music possible
during the rare moments when people
temporarily defeat distance
even the vast distances of space
and somehow remain close together
just long enough while sanity lasts
to sing a song with one another.

Someday I’ll write a space opera.

The cast all dies. Except the spaceship.
But that’s okay. Spaceships can sing too.
At least in science fiction they can.

Someday I’ll write a space opera.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Lulu” at Wikipedia


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