Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

The mouse has roared. Now what?

After this era of bravura and blast, what will we do?  What kind of leaders can best lead us out of the onslaught of verbiage and pomp?  How will we ever recover from the slew of lies and daily diatribes that, like eating apple pie topped with gruel, have become our daily fare?  How long will the recovery take: a month, a year, a decade?  How many of us will still be around to enjoy the bright sun and new hope, when we will finally be able to tackle the huge common challenges facing this world? Will Eric Fromm’s utopian vision in To Have or to Be ever come to fruition, when we will live with only the essence of what we truly need, rather than treating our lives like gigantic candy shops?

There is a current online advert for CITI bank showing a round-headed young boy of about six, surrounded by an enormous array of multi-colored candies. His eyes are dazed with wonder as he turns round and around, as if all the sweetness around him constitutes the sum of life’s opportunities (see the You Tube below).

When such a scene constitutes a child’s highest dreams, what have we become?  These inflated ideals, many epitomized by the current US President, are gaudiness, gold-trimmed fire places, and the “me” which is greater than the “we”.  How will we ever recover from the poisonous venom that his infected our youth, many of who now dream of the same excess and values (or lack thereof)?  I cringe to think at how long it will take the world to extricate itself from this nightmare, this bad dream that has left one American party impotent and the other quibbling.  What might be the shock that shakes us out of our doldrums–heaven forbid: A massive world epidemic?  Another World War? An asteroid traveling off course?

We feel the fatigue setting in. The peeps of the mouse that roared have become like a Chinese water torture, the drops (or tweets) are seemingly insignificant, but one by one they erode the very fabric of what we have collectively dreamed, especially for those of us who were formed in the late 1960’s.  Perhaps the dream started to fade at Martin Luther King’s assassination; for many of us it was Robert Kennedy’s. But NOW, as we recline under the warm sun or the dark winter skies, the drops of filthy water are cleverly disposed on our foreheads; they slowly and methodically do damage, so eventually we all stand in danger of being like that round headed, clean-cut child: fascinated at the array of colorful sweets, but numbed at the impossibility of choosing, as well as he impossibility of being happy savoring just one piece of candy.

So under the putrid breath of the mouse that roared, we slowly become anesthetized either like Kafka’s gigantic cockroach or like Alain Robbe-Grillet’s “hero” in this author’s 1957 novel La Jalousie. Here a timid guy who merely looks through the blinds sees vague images that create a paranoiac hell in his mind. Whether it be a week, month or decade, we too have a long road to recover from our nightmare of marginalized meaning.

What we probably need from this all this bravura is a gigantic pause.  The Japanese call it “Ma”, that sacred silence that allows for growth.  Broadway writers Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse called it Stop the World I Want to get Off.  So as the mouse continues to roar, we must find the path of least resistance, hopefully finding shelter from the pitter-patter of drops and the grinding of worn gears that continue to plague our lives.

Quintet No. 2 (Portals), 1st movement (excerpt), by S. Horenstein, performed by the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet, Festival de Chaillol, summer 2018. ASCAP/ACUM, all rights reserved. (To hear, click on the blue link above; the music starts very softly)

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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