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MOZART / a variation on a life

a little night music 2019 front cover copy.jpg

On New Year's Eve 1777, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is mysteriously transported to a rural Pennsylvania countryside where, after befriending some university students, he attempts to integrate into our present day society - without revealing his true identity to anyone.

The concept behind writing A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC was simple enough: bring a musical genius into our century, with our technology and culture, and see how he would fare. But I rarely write anything purely for entertainment purposes. I write because I have something to say, issues I have with something. Social commentary in the guise of an entertaining story is far more creative and further-reaching than just griping about something. So, out with the hackneyed character of someone from the past being stupid because they can't understand our devices or conveniences. To assume that is idiotic and has been perpetuated by movies. It would be much more difficult for someone from our century to integrate into the eighteenth century, than for them to do so into ours. On to the gripes...


We have lost much in the way of culture. Just log in to a social media site and see for yourself. No argument there, huh? As a hobbyist in historical reenacting, I can substantiate what I say. Courtesy and civility are just the beginnings of the "relearning" experience when creating an accurate character from say, the WWII era. It gets much more difficult to accurately portray someone the further back in time we go. I have presented both WWII and 19th century personas publicly. Victorian Era language, mannerisms, personal greetings, just to name a few things, are most difficult to master if you have never done it before. Imagine having already had that background, then go to a restaurant, bar or park in your hometown - today. Your integration would take less time (and be noticed with much repsect) than it did for me to learn to speak "Victorian". Although it would be a painful process for you personally, you could easily make the transition to our "dumbed down" culture. That was one issue I dealt with in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC with regards to "Wolf", my Mozart character.    

As a musician for all of my adult life, I have had the advantage of watching the music business evolve - and, unfortunately, de-evolve. The former with advances in technology that I could not even have comprehended whenI first started playing and performing in the late 1960's. Synthesizers, computers and recording software, even something as simple as an electronic tuner, have become the norm and are taken for granted daily (but greatly appreciated, nonetheless) by all of us in the musical community. When in fact, I remember standing in a circle facing each other tuning our instruments, making sure we all had the same "E" to start with before taking the stage. Herr Mozart was a man who literally wrote hundreds of musical works (and all their orchestral parts) in thirty-five short years - with a trimmed feather and a bottle of ink! Do you think he would appreciate our technology and would it inspire him to create even more?

"Of that, I have no doubt," to snatch a quote from the book.   

The latter part of the evolution, the "de-evolving" of the music itself, in the style and "dumbing down" of commercial or popular music, is made possible and propagated in the name of corporate profit. I've observed the changes over many decades. Am I biased? Sure, but I won't allow my own musical tastes to affect my analysis and judgment of the business today. I won't even cite a current pathetic musical example. Instead, I will only offer this little bit of fact: the music of Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi, Beethoven, all was the popular music of the day. If radio or the internet had existed then, those are the composers' works you would have heard streaming and playing over 18th century music channels. Now, go turn on your radio or media player, punch any button, or call up a file of what is showing as "popular", and tell me the sophistication of what you are listening to is the same as the aforementioned composers. This, I dealt with in the book, as well - on both levels. 

I also brought to light a current serious problem with all creative people; getting paid in today's music, writing and artistic business infrastructure. The money is there, we just aren't getting it - especially musical artists and composers. The same was true in Mozart's time. Unless you had a royal patron paying you for writing music for their next royal ball or social gathering, you struggled. You took whatever money you could for composing say, a minuet for someone's daughter's piano lesson. Mozart understood this and dealt with it accordingly in the 21st century in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.

There are many other things I brought to light in the story, in which I used actual names, places, and life events from his life. And, to be sure, I did not have an "ax to grind" on every page. "Wolf" is intelligent, witty, a scamp but still adheres to his Catholic upbringing, constantly questioning whether it was the "Devil's work" or "God's providence" that snatched him from a New Year's Eve celebration in 1777 and transported him to the strange and unfamiliar Pennsylvania countryside in 2016 America. These character traits I culled from his actual biography, from the letters written by him, and to him. My source material was from the book, MOZART, by Marcia Davenport, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1931. I encourage anyone who has an interest in history or musical history, or a fan of Mozart, to read Ms. Davenport's book.  

In spite of the many things I "wanted to say", and the points I wanted to expound on about the woes of the corrupt music business of today, I created a Mozart who would be believable and adapt to our world, a likable, fun and entertaining guy to have around, to share a drink with at the local watering hole on "open mic night", as he does in the story. But more importantly, I gave him time - a full life with which he could make music again. Although, it wasn't always easy in our century just as it was not in his, we're loving what he did with that new life just the same.  ~ JW                 

READER REVIEW: "I have been reading J.A. Willoughby's work for several years and each time he impresses me, whether it's a unique story line, an unexpected twist or insightful characters, in "A Little Night Music" it was all of the above and more! You get a taste of history, science fiction, friendship and love. It makes you think of how valuable and personal music is to each of us. This was a fun and thought provoking story. J.A. Willoughby, keep 'em comin' - a reviewer on Amazon

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