In praise of Janacek

John Ray

Leos Janacek is not everyone's cup of tea -- to put it mildly. He was a very innovative classical composer who has a following only among very musical people. Probably only a minority of even classical music fanciers like his work. But I and several of my friends DO like Janacek.

One of the unsung virtues of Janacek is that he has a powerful room-clearing effect. Years ago, when certain friends and I used to give parties, we would sometimes get sick of our guests and wish that they would go home. It is a not-unknown problem -- one for which many people find no easy solution. But Janacek is a solution! When we got tired of our guests, we just took the popular music off the stereo and put on Janacek. We would be alone in 5 minutes after that! People would even leave things behind in their desperation to escape Janacek!

I recently had reason to re-use the Janacek effect. Some young people moved into the house next door to me. And like most young people, they like popular music and they like it loud -- music which I do not like at all. I at first tried the polite thing and went next door asking them to keep the volume down. That did not work. So I deployed Janacek.

Now if they turn their music up I give them a few minutes of Janacek's Lachian dances. If that does not work, I bring out the heavy cannon -- the Janacek Sinfonietta -- with its very discordant-sounding opening fanfare on the brass. The first time I did that, they went out. They could not bear it. Now they just take the hint and turn their music off.

I guess I'm a mean old guy but what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If they can play their choice of music as loudly as they like, so can I. And I do.

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