No Title Can Accurately Describe the Awesomeness!

And the Band Played Badly

I found this delightful piece hiding in plain view in the New York times. It hilariously undermines many of the trappings of classical music we regularly chide and deride here at Detritus. In fact, I’d argue that this is detritus of the highest order. And the lack of humor of the critics is also hilarious. Excerpts and commentary below, the entire piece can be read via the link above. Or, you know, at nytimes.com.

WHY should real musicians - the ones who can actually play their instruments - have all the fun?


Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases.

Excellent. That reminds me of the old Portsmouth Sinfonia from the 1960s and 70s.

The announcement of the orchestra’s founding led to a great wave of applications to join. Our suspicion that there were many people yearning to play in an orchestra but who were too frightened or too ashamed to do anything about it, proved correct. There was no audition, of course, although we had toyed with the idea of a negative audition in which those who were too good would be excluded. This proved to be unnecessary. Nobody like that applied to join.

Some of the members were very marginal musicians, indeed. One of the clarinet players, now retired from the orchestra for a period of re-evaluation, stopped at the middle B-flat, before the instrument’s natural break. He could go no higher, which was awkward, as that left him very few notes down below. Another, a cellist, was unfortunately very hard of hearing and was also hazy on the tuning of the strings. As an aide-mémoire, he had very sensibly written the names of the notes in pencil on the bridge. This did not appear to help.

This had me laughing heartily. Next, they hire a conductor (!) and begin rehearsing.

Our initial efforts were dire, but we were not discouraged. Once we had mastered a few pieces - if mastered is the word - we staged a public concert. We debated whether to charge for admission, but wisely decided against this. That would be going too far.


So should we go to the other extreme and pay people to come? There was some support for this, but we decided against it. Instead, we would give the audience several free glasses of wine before the concert. That, it transpired, helped a great deal.

I bet! However, it would have been ludicrously aweseome to give each patron a ticket and two dollars, or something.

Anyway, it turned out that people were more than willing to come see the Really Terrible Orchestra. Wouldn’t you? Just the refreshing idea is enough to make me want to go. The critics, however, didn’t get the joke. Or the idea that music can be inclusive!

“How these people presume to play in public is quite beyond me,” wrote one critic in The Scotsman newspaper. And another one simply said “dire.” Well, that may be so, but we never claimed to be anything other than what we are. And we know that we are dire; there’s no need to state the obvious. How jejune these critics can be!

Predictable. Humorless. Critic-like. I can only imagine what our favorite critics on this side of the pond would have written.

There is now no stopping us. We have become no better, but we plow on regardless. This is music as therapy, and many of us feel the better for trying. We remain really terrible, but what fun it is. It does not matter, in our view, that we sound irretrievably out of tune. It does not matter that on more than one occasion members of the orchestra have actually been discovered to be playing different pieces of music, by different composers, at the same time.

That is unquestionably awesome. I can’t wait for the CD!


Murderface said...

Where's the 'jejune' tag?

Sator Arepo said...

Good call!

AnthonyS said...

Totally makes me want to dust off my viola and start a viola, euphonium, trombone and piano jazz combo. Uncle Milty and Sator Arepo on the brass, and what the hell-- ErikL can play the piano, right?

It would be awesome. Soooooo awesome.

We'll start with Giant Steps.

Sator Arepo said...

You have a viola!?

Giant Steps? Why not go straight to On the Corner?

Aaron said...

"We have become no better, but we plow on regardless."

I think this is now my motto.