3/5/08

Arrival of the Bruised Minister!

Once more, a point I think (?) I agree with is obscured by writing. You know, about music. The writer seems passionate, which is great. The writer also feels that there are problems with the culture surrounding classical music, which is true. The writer is also a writer, which is problematic.

This is NOT a Classical Music Concert Review

An auspicious beginning!

On Tuesday night, world-famous Polish pianist Emanuel Ax waddled to the front of the Harris Concert Hall stage and declared that the Schumann piece he was about to play contains every human mood, ranging from misery to ecstasy.

He “waddled”? Wow. That is some respect right there. Manny Ax is very, very famous and respected. Oh, well, the brazenness of youth and so forth. What Schumann piece was he describing?

The scene was dramatically set - the audience was about to be engulfed by the magnitude of the human condition and taken on a timeless tour through the range of emotional temperments, such that lives would be affirmed, epiphanies would land on the tip of every tongue and salvation would settle into our ears with every titillating tone.

Temperments” is not a word. Epiphanies…would land on tongues? I like your enthusiasm, kid, but this is poor. Try breaking up paragraphs into coherent sentences. Or something.

So, as Mr. Ax waddled back to the piano, the proverbial fireworks were lit, and I sat on the edge of my seat, eagerly waiting for liftoff.

Fireworks…liftoff. Rockets? Waddled?

But, something went wrong.

I can’t wait to find out what went wrong! Your unnecessary comma makes me giddy with anticipation.

Thirty seconds into the piece, the gentleman sitting to the right of me had already fallen asleep on my shoulder, and began snoring.

This prevented liftoff? Of the rocket? Or fireworks. Something? Schumann?

It was at this point I began wondering what I was doing at the concert.

You came…to hear a Schumann piece, I think. Or hear a world-renowned pianist? What was the Schumann again?

At 23 years old, I was arguably the youngest attendee by far, and the entire concept of a "classical music concert review" floated toward a futility.

You…are young…so you wondered why you attended the concert? “Floated toward a futility”? Arguably the youngest? This seems like a verifiable type of thing.

I mean, who is even going to read such a thing?

Unfortunately, I am!

The more poignant question, however, is who is even going to attend classical music concerts in 30 years? Is it because the tickets are too expensive? Is the entire scene too asphyxiating?

This sentiment is fair and worth considering. The weakening of the American arts scene is one of the concerns here at the Review. Also, the poor quality of writing about said scene.

Or maybe it has something to do with the arcane jargon surrounding classical music.

In fairness, it can be confusing to the uninitiated when technical terms are used to describe any art. However, I argue that interested patrons might further their enjoyment of the art(s) if they familiarize themselves with the generally accepted “jargon” conventionally used to describe it.

For example, Tuesday night's accompanying text to the concert cogently explained, "F-minor arpeggio that falls, then rises ... but one half-step higher, in G-flat. The move upward by a semitone (or its inversion, moving downward) ... the descending figure five steps higher (D-flat to C)."

The F-minor arpeggio, up, F-Ab-C was followed by a descending Db-Bb-Gb. Got it. Also, the “accompanying text” is commonly referred to as “program notes”. Or is that to jargon-y for you?

Listen, I studied years of music theory, but still have no idea what the hell this means. So what does that mean?

Listen, if you don’t know what an F-minor arpeggio is, you were clearly not paying attention. Because that’s like in week 2 of Freshman theory. Again, I sympathize with listeners not accustomed to technical lingo. Again, I argue that some understanding of the mechanics and language will only enhance your enjoyment.

Then, of course, there was the issue of Emanuel Ax, who probably could not hit a jump shot or swing a bat to save his life, performing music that was written 350 years ago, therefore bringing into question whether the "younger generation" is simply not interested in listening to a performer who has spent his life in stodgy music conservatories performing a slice of art that can no longer connect.

Whoa. That’s one awesome sentence. Can I break this down? I’m not sure. Oh, wait: yes.

Let’s see. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) did not really write music 350 years ago. 350 years ago was [counts on fingers] 1658. What the fuck is a slice of art? What does Manny Ax’s ability to hit a baseball have to do with anything? Is it that the “younger generation” (in unnecessary quotes) can only relate to sports? Because that’s not true, nor is it Mr. Ax’s fault, or that of “stodgy…conservatories”, which is a hack cliché anyway. “…[A] slice of art that can no longer connect...” is one of the stunningly poorest sentence fragments that I have ever read. Finally, Mr. Ax has spent most of his life touring, playing the piano.

Deep breath. So your point is that the “younger generation” thinks classical music is stodgy and/or dead?

I refuse to believe this.

A stunning reversal! What?

Listen, I am not trying to belittle Mr. Ax, because he is better at playing the piano than I'll ever be at anything in my life.

Even writing?

Really, what I am trying to say is that something is not working, and it hurts because, honestly, I loved Tuesday's performance, and I am as passionate about classical music as any person in this community.

Wonderful. Enthusiasm for classical music will keep it alive. You are the one still “even going” to concerts in 30 years! I am so glad you loved the Schumann. What piece was it, again?

The issue is trying, somehow, to connect with this art in such a way that the pretentious bullshit gets thrown to the fire, therefore distilling the art and bringing it to life.

Sigh, yes, there is some pretentious bullshit out there. Some of it is there for a reason (knowledge about music), some is not (trappings of concertgoing, for instance).

And if there is any starting point for Tuesday's concert, it is that both Beethoven and Schumann were clinically insane. Yes, they were raving nuts who lost it toward the end of their lives. Why did they lose it? Well, why do any of us lose it? Because, believe it or not, they were humans that felt the exact same mix of emotions that we feel everyday - jealousy, hatred, love, despair, etc. They drank, had sex, yelled, laughed and lived life as hard as you and me, and probably harder.

Um. Wow. Points for enthusiasm fading…fading…

That is probably the hardest thing to accept about classical music - that, at the core, its themes are universal, and therefore, it is a matter of finding the right words and phrases to describe it. Forget the "G-minor rising to an inverted third descending to a diminished half-tone" crap. Instead, listen only to what you hear, and do not react to the strangling layers of society surrounding the music.

Listen…to what I hear? What did...you hear? [cringes, covers head]

What did I hear on Tuesday? Well, I heard the lunatic Beethoven sitting on both sides of me, and screaming two different melodies in each of my ears. One was Ax's right hand, the other his left, and I felt torn between which to listen to - like multiple conversations going on at once and wanting to hear both. But, if you could listen carefully, you might have heard they were both saying the same thing, but in different voices.

Lunatic…Beethoven…

The piece hung low and grave like a bruised minister howling with penitence, but rose, steadily, gracefully, out of despair, and toward a point of repose - a lightness that we feel in our chests from time to time when doing something we love.

My new screenname is totally “Bruised Minister”. That is awesome.

And if you were able to hear this, or some manifestation of it echoed in your own life - if you could feel it blaze in your gut and cool your veins all at once - if it carried you away and engendered one new emotion or a thought that you never experienced, even if for only a moment, then perhaps it was worth it, or, perhaps it is worth giving it a shot.

Again, the subjective, insane descriptions you’re giving are tempered by your unbridled enthusiasm. But why, why won’t you tell me what pieces you heard?

Or, maybe, you understood why Emanuel Ax's hair looked feral and primal as he backed away from the piano at the end of the concert - why his tie was soaked in sweat, and why he was nearly out of breath, panting like a mad man running his tongue over the razor's edge of staying sane, sober or clean.

Tongue over the…razor’s edge of…sanity? Wha?

Not bad for a guy who can't swing a baseball bat, eh?

Jesus. Great punchline.

Good lesson today, folks. Enthusiasm is great. So are writing and editing. So is my new D&D Character, the Bruised Minister, a self-flagellating cleric. (RIP Gary Gygax.)

6 comments:

AnthonyS said...

Man, just when I think you guys have found the very worst, you score again!

Blah blah death of classical blah blah conservatories blah blah old people blah blah social trappings blah blah....

AnthonyS said...

BTW: Love the D&D tag. A Detritus first.

May I suggest a new character? How about a Lawful Neutral Half-Elf Druid with a special skill of Editing. He can traverse the realms and edit music criticism (unless he misses his saving throw, of course).

Ygorl, the Slaad Lord said...

Third.

Congrats, AS, for your successful Greater Spell Focus. I grant upon you the Belt of Dwarvenkind: This belt gives the wearer a +4 competence bonus on Charisma checks and Charisma-based skill checks (as they relate to dealing with dwarves, of course).

Murderface said...

Holy crap. I haven't finished the piece, but I had to inform you, SA, that you almost made Martini come out of my nose with the "Even writing?" pith.

Huzzah, sir.

Murderface said...

Crap. I still haven't finished the piece, but I got to "clinically insane."

Insanity is a legal term, not a clinical term. You are hereby ordered to cease and desist any and all usage of this adverb-adjective pairing posthaste.

Punishment for failure to comply with this directive will be swift and severe.

Murderface said...

Also, "Bruised Minister" is the name of my new metal band.