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Mozart’s Marrow

by Michael C. Keith

As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise,
human science is at a loss.
                                   
-- Noam Chomsky

 


Michael C. Keith is the author of numerous books, articles, and stories.  He teaches communication at Boston College.

It took new forensic techniques in 2023 to verify that two teeth from the long-purported skull of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were, in fact, those of the composer. This information instantly caught the attention of ProKlone’s CEO, Leo Howard, who for years had hoped to create a genetic twin of a legendary historical figure. To date his attempts to reproduce Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, and Charles Dickens had all failed. But with significant recent advances in the science of cloning, he was confident he could resurrect one of the world’s greatest composers and in so doing achieve fame and even greater fortune. He had an insider on the staff of the Salzburg Mozarteum, where the maestro’s molars were kept, that would extract the DNA vital to fulfilling his formidable, and illegal, objective.

When the DNA arrived, ProKlone scientists and technologists, ignorant of the fact the genetic substance belonged to Mozart, initiated the process of cloning, and shortly a fetus was growing.  Howard was ecstatic and wished he could announce his success to the world, but he knew he would face federal prosecution as well as an avalanche of scorn from the religious community. He believed recognition would eventually be his, but that it would come only after Mozart’s clone could demonstrate to the world his true identity. The critics and naysayers would think twice as the new Mozart added to his cherished canon of symphonies and operas, and Howard would be revered as the genius that had made it possible. He was giddy with the prospect of winning prestigious awards and the admiration and esteem that would come with his remarkable contribution to the world’s culture. 

Howard and his wife, Anna, adopted the baby clone. They had been childless, and the staff at ProKlone had been led to believe that this was the main reason the company had defied the law. To everyone at ProKlone it had been a justifiable infraction of the regulations because they revered the Howards, whose generosity and kindness inspired extraordinary loyalty and dedication from the people they employed.

The baby was named Wolfgang and raised with the same degree of affection and care as his namesake. He was home schooled and introduced to music the moment he entered the Howard household. His growth was closely observed and minutely recorded, and when the infant reached the age of two, his parents gave him a violin especially suited for his size. At his birthday party, Wolfie, as his parents lovingly called him, amused the invitees by using the instrument like a battering ram. Despite the Howard’s efforts to cajole the child into treating the violin more kindly, he continued to pummel everything around him with complete abandon.

                                                                   * * *

Over the next three years, Wolfie exhibited a singular, if not obsessive, interest in the game Mindball and demonstrated no affinity for the music instruction he received from a respected local teacher, and Leo’s frustration with his adopted son’s seeming disinterest in song and melody began to turn to alarm. At age four the original Mozart had composed music and performed it with astounding sensitivity and dexterity, but his clone’s talents appeared to reside elsewhere. What most intrigued the new Wolfgang was using the piano keyboard as a launch pad to leap in the air and the bow of his violin as a sword--on more than one occasion he had speared his tutor and parents with it.

“Wolfie, no!  It is not a weapon. It is for making the beautiful music in you,” scolded Leo to his disappointing creation, but his chiding had no impact on the youngster.

“Why don’t you let the poor child alone?” interjected Anna, who had never been told her beloved son was derived from the DNA of the great Austrian composer.

“He has greatness in him and it is our responsibility to help him realize it.”

“You expect too much from him, Leo. He’s just an ordinary little boy, so let him be,” blurted Anna clutching Wolfie as if to protect him.

“He is anything but ordinary, my dear,” snapped Leo angrily exiting the room he had designed for his son’s musical instruction.  

                                                                    * * *

At no time over the next few years did Mozart’s duplicate assume any of the characteristics the original was known to possess. Indeed, in most ways he seemed to display the opposite behaviors.  Whereas Mozart was described as precocious and resolute, his facsimile appeared rather dull-witted and adrift. Nothing seemed to interest him very long, and he showed no particular ability or talent.  He seemed as ordinary as Anna had declared.

The Howard’s little Wolfie therefore did not compose symphonies at eight or operas at eleven.  There was nothing exceptional about him, and to Leo he was an embarrassment. By the time Wolfie entered adolescence, he had developed a profound dislike for the child he had manufactured.  There would be no glorious debuts or public pronouncements about his successful recreation of the long dead maestro, lamented Leo. 

It was only after he had lost nearly all hope that his progeny would amount to anything extraordinary that the boy surprised him by announcing he had composed a song.  This took Leo by complete surprise.

“You have written a piece of music, Wolfie?” he asked incredulously.

“Yeah. Want to hear it?”

“There is nothing in the world I’d rather hear,” answered Leo, his head spinning from the idea that his son might display a special gift after all.

“Come on,” said Wolfie, guiding his father to the music room where he took a seat and excitedly awaited the performance of his latent child prodigy.

“Are you ready?” asked Wolfie, assuming a peculiar stance rather than sitting at his clavier or taking hold of his violin.

“Yes, Wolfie, go ahead,” said Leo with growing apprehension.

The diminutive 14 year old unfolded a piece of paper that obviously contained his handiwork, cleared his throat, and began to sing.

                        Yo, my bitch, come over here

                        Don’t act like you don’t know

                        That your ol’ man be hungry

                        For the tricks of a ho’

Leo sat immobilized as Wolfie rattled off one shocking stanza after another, each more loathsome to his progenitor than the last. Between each quatrain, Wolfie gave out a deep guttural sound followed by a high pitch yodel that reverberated throughout the chamber and sent chills up Leo’s back. 

When he finished, he informed his father that his piece derived from something he named ScatLink, whose inspiration he took from old line Hip Hop and Jazz.

“So, father?” inquired Wolfie with anticipation.

“The lyrics are appalling and the music horrendous. It’s a cacophony of crudeness. It has no merit at all,” proclaimed his father, rising from his chair.

He quickly left the room leaving his son alone in his disappointment, but Wolfie remained undeterred despite his father’s harsh assessment of his work. For the next three years, he produced a vast repertoire of ScatLink compositions, which eventually caught the attention of renowned pop music producer “Big Mofo.” Soon Wolfie became a star in his own right and was anointed the brilliant father of a new genre of music, one that paralleled in its greatness that of the masters of the ancient concert halls.

                                                                     * * *                  

Leo Howard was slow to acknowledge his son’s fame, but eventually he came to believe that Wolfie had, in fact, fulfilled his dream of becoming (if not actually revivifying) a legendary figure. Thus, he proudly announced his deed to the world. At first his revelation was met with skepticism but once he proved he had cloned Wolfie--now knownto his adoring fans as “BaadAsSL”, (the last two letters derived from the music form he had devised)--he was universally hailed.  Howard was soon chosen as Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” whose cover he shared with his son, and then to his sublime satisfaction came his most coveted accolade, the Nobel Prize. To great fanfare, Wolfie accompanied his father to Oslo, where he performed a new composition in his honor.

                                    You may be my faux dad

                                    But that ain’t all bad

                                    Cause you took from the grave

                                    What made me the rave . . .

The seventeen riveting stanzas were followed by comments from the Noble Committee, which declared the work of Howard’s brainchild to be every bit as significant as that of the authentic Mozart.  Almost no one disagreed.


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