The link between Seinfield and Mozart may not be immediately apparent but pianist Jeremy Denk helped me see the connection in his fascinating lecture, ‘Comedy and Convention from Mozart to Seinfeld’
Part of the New Yorker Festival, the talk was one of four I saw over the weekend and on reflection probably the best
Denk interspersed virtuoso and comic piano playing with clips from 30 Rock, Portlandia and Seinfeld to illustrate how music often played with the same notions of comedy.
It turns out that Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart would often be creating pieces that set up our expectations only to twist the piece in an entirely new place like the punch line to a great gag.
As he pulled apart various refrains and melodies to illustrate his point Denk’s argument become increasingly convincing.
Beethoven was shown to set up a piece by being deliberately mediocre with one opening passage before suddenly blasting our notion of his averageness apart with sublime melody that he then unexpectedly throw away with a comic ending.It seems then that you can be sublime and ridiculous and still make great art