What would be the biggest headline ever?


There have already been some pretty big stories: The moon landing, that was big. And the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And 9/11. But, if you ask me, the biggest news ever would be the day we get visitors from another planet.

Let me paint you a picture of how it happens. Unlike in the many fantasy films, these visitors have arrived in peace. One day they just land in their spaceship, let's say...in Potsdam. Since there's no shooting or anything like that, the Mayor of Potsdam starts to mingle with them.

By this time, the world's media is following each and every development closely. The Mayor is presenting the latest models from the German car industry to the aliens. They follow it all politely, but don't seem particularly impressed. The Mayor is panicking, and starts to show them some up-to-the-minute technical innovations. Still no reaction. The aliens look as if they really couldn't care less.

Soon the Mayor realises that there's no point in bragging about the latest technical stuff; it's clear that these aliens are far ahead of humankind. They have found our planet, and we don't even know where they have come from? The Mayor and his staff are now getting very jittery. How to impress these visitors? The aliens must be starting to think that people from Earth are all total losers. 

But then there is a change. It happens when the Mayor shows the aliens Potsdam's concert hall. What's happening here, they ask? Musicians perform music and an audience sits and listens to it. So the aliens ask, perhaps they could have a concert of their own? The Mayor gets excited. He books all kinds of artists to perform. The aliens will hear some music by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Puccini, Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, Frank Zappa and Leonard Bernstein.

The aliens are totally blown away. They say that in the technical department we on Earth are still thousands of years behind them, but they don't have any music on their planet. They also regret that they have spent so much time and energy on the technical stuff, time they could have spent with the music, with all this beauty.

The aliens know what they want: they would like to take a few artists back with them. Soon, however, when the aliens realize quite how impossible the artists' managers are to deal with, they drop the idea, and decide to develop their own music.    

That is Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala's sleeve essay for his recent album Potsdam, and he is seen in my header photo. Iiro Rantala studied piano in the jazz department of Sibelius Academy and classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music. His albums include Mozart, Bernstein, Lennon, featuring a performance of Mozart's ‘Piano Concerto No. 21, C Major, K.467 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and Veneziana depicting imaginary scenarios featuring famous composers in Venice recorded with members of the Berlin Philharmonic. He has also appeared in the Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic concerts. Iiro Rantala is one of the very few musicians whose new albums I buy automatically - need I say more? 

For years classical music has tried in vain to expand its audience. Among the great musicians who blurred the boundaries between classical and jazz were Igor Stravinsky - the Ebony Concerto written in 1945 for the Woody Herman band - and Leonard Bernstein - Prelude, Fugue and Riffs. Many, including this writer, were first exposed to great music by jazz musicians such Jacques Lousier and the MJQ. Why is jazz so underrated?

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