Getting out: High culture goes lowbrow

There’s a great episode of “The Simpsons” that starts with Homer and Marge relaxing on a hillside overlooking a magnificent amphitheater, taking in the Springfield Pops’ rendition of … the main theme from “Star Wars.” Complete with a laser light show. His affinity for all things bright and flashy notwithstanding, Homer’s upset about the music. “They’re butchering the classics,” he exclaims. “Could that bassoon have come in any more late?”

Like many of the show’s best jokes, this one cuts several ways. It’s funny that Homer’s suddenly such an astute critic of classical music, for one — but the sharper barb is that our appreciation of the fine arts has deteriorated to the point where performing the score from “Star Wars” is the best shot an orchestra has at selling tickets.

Then again, this underrates the brilliance of John Williams’s compositions, not only for both “Star Wars” trilogies but for a host of other beloved films: “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Schindler’s List.” It’s no wonder big names like George Lucas turn to Williams, time and again, to give them a soundtrack that’ll confer onto their works an epic, timeless quality. And in the event that the pictures themselves are sub-par (or, in the case of the recent “Star Wars” prequels, absolutely dreadful), Williams has another thing going for him: His compositions emerge wholly intact, a part of the film, yes, but memorable on their own merits.

So it’s probably not with tongue in cheek that the National Symphony Orchestra presents “The Music of John Williams” next weekend at the Kennedy Center. Rather, the NSO means to elevate Williams’s canon to the rightful level of high art — the sort of high art that even Homer Simpson could enjoy. That is, as long as the bassoon player is on his toes.

NSO Pops: The Music of John Williams
Thu., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.;
Fri. and Sat., Oct. 26-27, 8 p.m.
Kennedy Center; $20 and up



Mackey’s
Public House
1823 L St. NW

Looking for a low-key watering hole at which to unwind after the performance? Just a short ride downtown from the Kennedy Center rests Mackey’s, an Irish pub not likely to be too crowded after 9 o’clock on a weekend. That’s not a knock on the place; after all, one can only abide Adams Morgan’s sweaty dives and Georgetown’s packs of besotted 20-somethings for so many nights a week.