Would the NEA Fund Mozart?


"LICK my ass quickly.

Lick me, lick me, lick me.

Lick my ass really well.

Lick it nice and clean.

That's a real pleasure.


Schmear it up with butter.

Because licking my ass is my daily pleasure."

The recent revelations of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's less famous, more sensual lyrics raise familiar questions about art, decency and the press. Besides being titilating, the lyrics we printed have other serious values.

For example, they show that artists--even great artists--have perfectly human quirks. And they show that questionable lyrics have a noble precedent.

WOULD the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fund Mozart? Given the precedent of the Mapplethorpe-Helms conflagration, we cannot be sure. Would Tipper Gore push for labeling copies of Mozart canons?

While Mozart's "licking" lyrics are racy, they do not take away from the composer's other works. We hope the NEA would fund Mozart, because his work is not exclusively devoted to what a Harvard music librarian called an "innocent, juvenile preoccupation with bodily functions." What should matter in the NEA grant process is artistic merit, not adherence by an artist to strict community standards or a particular moral structure in his or her privately financed works.

While Mozart's lyrics do not match those of 2 Live Crew in their offensiveness, some of the issues are similar. While no one speaks of banning Mozart, The Harvard Gazette chose not to print the "licking" excerpt, instead choosing a tamer quote and calling other lyrics, in the librarian's words, "guilelessly explicit." The Crimson may struggle less with such issues. Still, we think every newspaper would perform a valuable service by fully and unabashedly informing its readers of Mozart's silly fun.

A full knowledge of Mozart's other, more sensual side serves to reinforce the idea that a few poorly conceived pieces of questionable taste do not impugn the value of his or her entire body of work.

Lick that, art lovers. It's a pleasure.