27 January 1756 – Birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

An exercise for the deepening of humility and the gaining of perspective. A simple comparison. Consider the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Consider your own life. Look upon the differences without cringing or denial if you can. Humility will follow.

At the age of four, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could play – delicately and without fault – simple pieces at the keyboard. At the age of four, I was toilet-trained.

At the age of five, Mozart was composing his first pieces of music for keyboard and had learned to play the violin with fluency. At the age of five, I was almost able to tie my own shoelaces.

When he was six, Wolfie had embarked on a European tour, performing before princes and emperors. When I was six, I had received an encouragement award for careful colouring-in. (It was my first and only such award.)

At eight, he wrote his first symphony. At the same age, I was wondering why my lack of speed was not translating into more success in kiss-chasey – which was for a brief period all the rage on the primary school playground.

At eleven, Mozart composed his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus. Within only a few years his operas were highly acclaimed, and Mozart was being commissioned to compose further operas. When I was eleven, I was still convinced that naturalist, astronaut and inventor were all viable career paths for me.

When he was fourteen and in Rome, having heard Allegri’s Miserere twice in performance in the Sistine Chapel, Mozart was able to write the entire work out from memory –  thus producing the first unauthorized copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican. At age fourteen, I was struggling to understand why my wide reading and deep insight into the fantasy worlds of JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Raymond E Feist and Terry Brooks was not translating into more success with the many, many long-limbed high-school girls I was dazzled by.

At seventeen, he started his first real job, as court musician to Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo of Salzburg. By strange coincidence, I also got my first job at seventeen – working on the machine-room floor of a newsprint mill. The job involved removing paper pulp from one of the mill’s giant rolling tubes, painstakingly clearing the tiny draining holes by pushing a metal rod through them, one by one, and then marking off the completed areas in crayon on the tube’s rubberised surface. It took three of us, working eight hours a day for four weeks, to completely unblock the tube.

By the age of twenty-one, Mozart had – by rough count – composed over 400 works, including piano and violin concertos, chamber music, symphonies, songs, operas and solemn masses. By the age of twenty-one, I was planning to stretch out my Arts degree by one more year because I had discovered that Austudy would pay for one year beyond the standard length of a degree. In the six years it took me to gain my qualifications – English Honours and a Diploma of Education – I could have become a doctor or a lawyer.

In 1783, at the age of twenty-seven, Mozart wrote his Mass in C Minor, one of the most beautiful liturgical compositions of all time. When I was twenty-seven, I discovered how to do harmonic throat-singing – setting up a steady drone in the throat and creating harmonics by shaping my mouth and pushing air through. While I thought it sounded pretty cool, its main effect was to annoy my wife.

At the age of thirty-five, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died. Writing these words at the age of forty-one, it’s obvious that this is the only sphere in which my life’s achievements outstrip Mozart’s.

File under: unfair comparisions | symphony in diapers

(Image source: wikipedia)


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Well done Ben – when we were 17 and at high school together never did I doubt that one day you would be the one to come up with a piece of work like this!

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