Lawd, do I need the break.

Except during Lent, I leave the radio in my office on all day, tuned to the local classickal station.  (Yes, I know that using good musick as background noise is revolting to purist sensibilities, but there it is.  Rest assured that it’s not the only way I listen.)

About two weeks ago, the station started feeding holiday tunes into its playlist.  At first, they constituted a mere smattering among the regular works, but – kudzu-like – gradually came to dominate.  The past 72 hours or so, the station has played little, if anything, else.

By this afternoon, I was about ready to jam pencils into my eardrums.  As I listened to the umpteenth variant of “Silent Night,”  it suddenly occurred to me that Christmas musick suffers from what one might call the Humanities Doctorate Problem:  There are only so many reasonable ways to present the classics, only so much that can sensibly be said about them.  On the other hand, there is a constant pressure for originality and innovation.  The result?  A lot of damned tomfoolery. 

As it is with Ph. D dissertations on Shakespeare, so it is with arrangements of holiday musick .   Everything good and intelligent has been done already.  The only avenues left for “new” expressions are simply abominable:  Ersatz treatments along the lines of “If Bach Had Written ‘Jingle-Bells'”;  near-sacrilegious medleys featuring combinations of  ‘O Come, Emmanuel’ with ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’;  renderings of ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ and ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ in full operatic mode (I heard a series of favorites served up by Leontyne Price today – capped off by the inevitable Schubert  ‘Ave, Maria’ that gave me what Mr. John Keats called the guts-ache).     

It seems to me that there ought to be a law.