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Mackenzie Patel


Hello World Travelers! Obsessions with novels by Tolstoy, tempestuous compositions by Tchaikovsky, and jars of Peter Pan peanut butter define my existence, at least at this point in time. However, for quite a few years my radar of pop culture erased any signals involving mainstream television, movies, or sappy Nicolas Sparks’ books. But today, on the 15th of December, 2015, I loudly declare to this shifty internet world that this exclusion of popular culture has been torn down more surely than the Berlin Wall. Although this mental breakdown of pretention has been brewing for ages, it was solidified in my complete infatuation with Mozart In The Jungle, an Amazon Prime series that I proudly binge watched in a matter of hours. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars were my gateway drugs into to this trendy galaxy of the masses, and I gladly embrace the memes that litter Pinterest and the existential fan fiction on Tumblr.

Classical music has transformed from discombobulated violins into a beautiful sea of rhythm and passion in the past few months. It was no surprise that from the first episode of Mozart In The Jungle, I was utterly hooked. The premise is as follows: Rodrigo, a suave and theatrical Spanish composer, throws the stuffy and ostentatious New York Symphony into upheaval with his wild locks, devilish glare, and overbearing personality. Ousting out the formerly renowned maestro Thomas, Rodrigo attempts to reinvigorate a dying and irrelevant institution of music. Enter Hailey, a dashing albeit poor beauty that toots away on her oboe in exchange for unpaid bills, lessons with angsty teens, and an unstable love life. Screwing up her chance to play in the prestigious orchestra (broken oboes and a storm of profanity were involved), Hailey becomes the assistant of Rodrigo who insists she possesses “the blood” of a true musician. What with drama within the orchestra, old piccolo players attempting to be sexy once again, and spontaneous classical music in barrios, this Amazon pilot series is a jewel among a coal mine of baseless, shallow, and talentless television shows. Find out more about this amazing cupcake here.




I am enamored with this geeky creation of comedy because classical music is woven so deeply into the fabric of the script and plot that I can’t watch enough of it. Quips about Tchaikovsky, the unfettered fervor of a symphony in distress, and references to Sibelius and Ayn Rand are so refreshing and different from any other show I’ve watched. It’s Big Bang Theory for the musical dorks in this social media universe or a more riveting History Channel devoid of alien theories and pawn stars. The bassoon solo from Scheherazade was one of the first pieces featured beautifully on the show; needless to say, I’ve found my cult of Tchaik and Rimsky-Korsakov enthusiasts, even if it is populated with star-studded celebrities unfamiliar with reality. Although it’s evident the actors don’t play the violin or oboe, the actual music, so vibrant and infused with a Spanish zing, plays out of my plastic speakers in a way the blank screen of YouTube cannot replicate. I now have a compelling visualization of the Sibelius Violin Concerto and the bucolic Lark Ascending by Vaughner Williams. Each episode is about 25 minutes, and I sincerely hope that Season Two (premiering this January!) is just as whimsical, moving, and hilarious as the first one.

A few of my favorite scenes and lines include:

  • Rodrigo, the willy-nilly rebel that he is, randomly held an orchestral performance in an abandoned lot in a rundown neighborhood. A flash mob without the careful planning and intended audience, this scene, full of wonder and dancing and pure happiness, was incredibly creative. Although Rodrigo got arrested for this peculiar jaunt, his newly tamed hairstyle and mischievous smile weren’t damaged at all by a jail cell and wild press attention.
  • One of the percussion members, an older man with scant hair whiter than notebook paper, is the self proclaimed drug dealer of the orchestra. With a drumstick in one hand and Vicodin in the other, this seventy year old bad boy was still alive enough to conjure the emotional rush of Sibelius and Beethoven. The scene in episode three went a little like this…

Orchestra secretary: “I’ve been hearing some rumors….are you dealing drugs to members of the orchestra?”

*awkward pause and shifty eye contact as old man mumbles about his brother being a doctor*

Secretary: “…I need some Percocet.”

This was also the episode where Rodrigo so elegantly and emotionally played Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams as an older orchestra member nearly died in the hospital.

  • Because this show is stellar, one of the episodes was entitled “You Have Insulted Tchaikovsky.” While old ladies with heavy pearls, badly applied lipstick, and empty bourgeois expressions slavishly drooled over Rodrigo, he created a symphony of champagne rim music during a fundraising event. Sounding like Fur Elise, this unique compilation was nearly as enchanting as the street party in NYC shanties.

Besides these specific instances, the subtle hints of classical music, so blaringly loud to someone as enthusiastic about that “dead” music as me, were highly appreciated. Maestro Thomas’ mistress was labeled as “Constanza” in his phone (Mozart’s wife), Les Toreadors from Carmen was casually playing in the background along with the Magic Flute Overture, and Rodrigo reserved performance tickets under the name of “Phil Harmonic.” And of course, as Maestro Thomas threw a hissy fit involving broken glass and petulance, he shouted, “The 1812 Overture is obviously not good enough for him [Rodrigo]!”


Dudamel in action!

Finally, MITJ is a tower of decadence and style because the parallels between the almighty Rodrigo and Gustavo Dudamel, an actual conductor from Venezuela, are hard to miss. Commanding the attention of all with eccentric personalities and wild locks of black hair, these fictitious and real conductors are of the same tempestuous strain. In the show, Rodrigo is from Mexico and has that special quirk of sensitivity mixed with gritty ardor that Gustavo Dudamel emanates so forcefully in real life. Acknowledging the loose character portrayal, the opening scene of Season Two will show “Rodrigo” conducting a symphony actually taking place in Hollywood under the direction of Dudamel. Read the follow up on that celebritzed rendezvous here. Overall, Gustavo Dudamel is an electrifying leader, and I’m so pleased a TV series is finally depicting a famous orchestra (and its unconventional conductor) in all its raw and seedy glory. Watch Dudamel conducting an impassioned performance of Danzon No. 2 with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra here.

Catch the premier of Season Two of Mozart In The Jungle on December 30th!

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