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September 16, 2005

Blair Tindall on Classical Music

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Thanks to Dave Lull for pointing out this lively interview with Blair Tindall, oboist and author of "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music," a memoir-ish book about what the world of classical-music performance is really like.

Here's one dandy (and heartening) passage from Paul Comstock's q&a with Tindall:

Tindall: "A mystical attitude about the place of music can create a devastating effect, driving both audiences and amateur musicians – fearing they lack the intellect to understand -- away. Music is beautiful, uplifting, and can make life so much more than it already is, but…it is still just music.

"To anyone who reads, writes, practices, and performs the stuff, it is ethereal, yet straightforward. Those schooled in music performance understand how much rote practice is involved; scales, arpeggios, repetition. To produce a great performance, even the most talented and renowned player must be applauded for this necessary and diligent preparatory work.

"Music is a resource that anyone can understand, and even participate in. Even those without musical training can drum on the beach, enjoy a picnic at the local orchestra’s parks concert, or sing in a church choir once a year. Music is everywhere…and classical music is composed of the same 12 tones and the same rhythms as pop songs and much other music."

Why aren't more people as open-yet-sensible about the arts as Blair Tindall? I've already One-Clicked myself a copy of her book. The California Literary Review, which published the interview, is a very lively web arts publication, by the way. I'm having a good time catching up with their interviews and reviews.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at September 16, 2005




Comments

Today, American colleges graduate 6,000 music performance majors a year who must find alternatives to the 250 auditions advertised annually in the union paper – many of those for part-time jobs.

So much for my assumption that if you are a highly skilled musician then your life is gravy. No wonder the use of beta-blockers to still those pounding hearts.
I usually buy the off brand CDs of classical music because they are cheaper and quite frankly I don't know enough to be able to tell the difference from the most expensive varieties. Many of them are performances by Eastern European orchestras. With that kind of competition I don't know how so many American outfits survive.

Posted by: cliff on September 16, 2005 9:20 PM



My father once got a little upset when he heard that someone had bought a CD titled "The Most Relaxing Classical Mudic Album ever" (or something like that). He said, "Bach should not calm you down, he should get your blood boiling!". But, then again, he was the only person I knew that actually listen to Classical Music. That is, it wasnt there to get him in a modd or serve as backround to some chore. He listend to Bach and Mozart the way kids listened to the Beatles or the Stones (or, for boiling blodd, Metallica).

I mention this because I sometimes wonder what would happen if the Classical Music scene rid itself of all it's formality. No more tuxedos, no more fancy halls; just talented people (dressing however they please) who love music looking to rock your soul.

And for anyone looking to take a dip into Classical Music but they are not sure where they should start, this might help with identifying/relating composers:

J.S. Bach = Rolling Stones
Mozart = John Fogarty (Creddance Clearwater Revival)
Beethoven = Jimi Hendrix (or The Who)

This is just a rule of thumb.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on September 16, 2005 10:20 PM



Oops, that should be Creedance, not Creddance.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on September 16, 2005 10:21 PM



It has always amused me how classical music is held up as beyond the ken of most regular old folk. It DOES scare people off, and it's a crying shame. You don't need to know much of anything about anything to be able to enjoy it. One of the great joys of my life was watching my mother, in her late seventies, become crazy about opera. It began with the Three Tenors phenomenon. (I know, I know.) And it wasn't just Boheme and Tosca -- she loved Billy Budd and Dialogues of the Carmelites as much as the standards. Sometimes I think it was my NOT taking a "You have GOT to listen to this" attitude that allowed this amazing thing to happen. (How well I remember various music nuts hovering over the controls of the old Heathkit and shouting over the din: "Listen to the brass in this passage! Wait, wait, here comes the clarinet, the tempos's a bit fast and the violas can't be heard, blah, blah, blah.." No such thing as Easy Listening in my household.)

The weirdest people I've ever known have been in classical music. And the most interesting. And without a doubt, the hardest workers I've ever known. It IS hard work. Most people who make a living at it get started pretty young and when it's evident they have some talent, it's work, work, work. The scales, arpeggios, lessons, etc. I've never known anybody who didn't know they wanted to do it from the beginning. My teacher used to say if a student asked him if they should become a musician, he knew there was going to be trouble. Well, like the book says, there's LOTS of trouble along the way, but the love of performing is ultimately unstoppable.

Posted by: Flutist on September 17, 2005 12:45 AM



Cliff -- Those really are incredible numbers, aren't they? I wonder what the numbers in the other arts fields are like. I'd bet they're similar. Which makes me wonder about arts educations. Given that only 5% (at most) of the kids who are really serious about a given arts field are likely to wind up making a living at it, why teach the arts as though they're all in the running, and on the verge of having careers? Of course, that'd mean being realistic, and that's often something people don't want from time in the arts. They seem to want their fantasies and be attached to them even more than in many other fields ...

Ian -- Those are great equivalents, thanks. Let's hope some people take you up. And an interesting question too: How would classical music do if it presented itself less stuffily? There was a bit of a time in the (wouldn't you know it?) '60s and '70s when a lot of classical types tried that out: concerts in informal settings, wearing jeans, etc. A hippie approach to the music -- Peter Serkin was big in this, and one branch of it led to the "original instrument" revival of early classical music that's still with us. (And which is a very nice addition to the menu.) So it's got a lot going for it. On the other hand, can it really compete in the market, when the market itself seems to foster or encourage certain values (immediacy, impact, shallowness, flash) that are semi-inimical to the enjoyment of classical? On the third hand, why shouldn't it be a flourishing high-end niche market, like New Urbanist housing and artisanal/organic food? On the fourth hand, maybe part of what the current audience is buying is the snobbery -- maybe they like it. Beats me, anyway. I'd sure love to see them try, though.


Flutist -- That's a wonderful and very touching story about your mom. Sounds like the music gave her a lot of joy. And the classical scene is weird and cool all at the same time, isn't it? The Wife had her toe in it for a long time, and I've tagged along here and there. Fab people, but often as unworldly and nerdy as can be -- well, it makes sense: they've been in practice rooms since they were five! Have you tried the Tindall book? She seems very reasonable and balanced, though many of the Amazon reader-reviews are outraged at her...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 17, 2005 11:31 AM



I've been listening to a lot of Haydn recently (I bought some bargain CDs of 4-5 of his symphonies and put them in my car's CD player.) My wife recently got satellite radio, and when I was driving her car on a family trip to San Diego, I tried out various channels, including the "Bluegrass" channel, which appeared to be the fiddlin' and banjo pluckin' forms of country music. (Apologies to all and sundry for being so ignorant of bluegrass.) After about an hour of listening to this, it suddenly dawned on me that Haydn and bluegrass were 'kissing cousins' so to speak; they seemed to have a common ancestor or something. (They seemed to build their sonic patterns in similar ways or something--as a musical ignoramus, that's the best description I can manage.) Am I crazy to see this parallel?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 20, 2005 10:15 AM



Thanks to Dave Lull for pointing out this lively interview with Blair Tindall, violinist and author of "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music,"

Should read >...oboist...>

Posted by: Kane Citizen on September 20, 2005 10:56 PM



Kane -- Oops, thanks, and corrected.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 21, 2005 10:00 AM






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