6/28/10

Classical Musicians Are Boring

Classical music, as we all know, is boring. Really fucking boring.

It is distinguished from all of the other lively (or “fine”) arts; poets, painters, and even sculptors are generally animated folk who enjoy emotions, colors, and being alive. Musicians—classical musicians, that is—are, on the other hand, tepid and stiff, and would just as soon count beans or sit still as eat, drink or enjoy any sort of pleasure.

The general malaise of scholarship and intellectualism has infested this arm of the arts. Those suited to musical study are cheerlessly devoted to it; the joy of sounds and the interplay thereof give them no delight. It is, rather, a matter of pressing buttons or touching strings in the proper sequence without smiling.

The classical music world, then, is full of grey, dull sorts who’d raher do long division than hum a tune, and find laughter a useless diversion that only serves to steal precious time from their busy schedule of not caring what you think.

What a delight, a surprise, an anomaly, when we find that most exotic of birds: a joyous musician!

Pianist with global reach comes home for good cause

Tom Murray, Edmonton Journal, 6/17/2010

For Maria Thompson Corley, music is more than just an intellectual exercise.

For the vast majority of people who have given up the pursuit of other careers, paths in life which at some point have a beggar’s chance of providing a decent living, so that they may instead pursue their passion for classical music, music is just an intellectual exercise.

Figure 1: George Gershwin, unsmiling and not smoking a pipe, engages in an intellectual exercise (ca 1936)

The Juilliard-trained pianist, who studied under the legendary Gyorgy Sandor, has been immersed in classical music since she was a young girl, but she doesn't look to it as the only soundtrack for her life.

Again, this is implicitly contrasted to most classically-trained musicians, who have no idea about this "Elvis" person they keep hearing so much about.

Figure 2: The soundtrack to unsmiling Charles Ives's life was nothing but stodgy old classical music.

"Oh, no," she says over the phone from her mother's home in Leduc. "It's all about what you feel like at the moment.

Oh, no! No no no! Music is an accoutrement. Like earrings, or underwear. To help you express your mood, absent the proper function of facial muscles.

Figure 3: Young composers Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky only ever had one feeling at any given moment, which is why they composed classical music.

"Sometimes you want to dance," she laughs.


Never, ever in the history of Western culture has anyone actually danced to classical music. Ever.

Figure 4: George Balanchine loved classical music, so he never felt like dancing.

"A while back I wrote an article about Michael Jackson and the editor asked why I would want to do this. Michael Jackson was a big deal to me and my friends growing up. We would try and learn the dance moves to his songs.

Who ever heard of a classical musician that likes pop music? Outrageous!

Figure 5: Erik Satie never smiled, nor did he have any truck with popular music; he certainly didn't earn his living playing cabaret songs in a seedy bar.

"I once spoke with urban kids about classical music, and since there was no piano I just talked about how different kinds of music moved me. The kids would come up and ask me if I knew about Fur Elise or Moonlight Sonata.

I don’t understand this anecdote. Michael Jackson…urban kids…no piano…Moonlight Sonata.

"People do have open minds about these things."

I read this as having a British-style emphatic do.

You could certainly say the same of Corley, who met the exacting standards of Sandor while still maintaining a sense of fun often absent in the rigid world of classical music.

My goodness, that awful, rigid world of classical music devoid of fun.

Figure 6: Known far and wide as a joyless soul, John Cage certainly typifies the lack of fun in the classical music world.

It is of course generally understood that music students, when not practicing or learning the dull, stifling art of music and its history, are forced to sit, chained to a dank grey wall in a dungeon and read Spinoza aloud to one another ad nauseum.

I mean: let’s be honest here. Do you think music schools, especailly Very Serious ones (like Julliard), are full of young, artistically-minded, creative, intellectually curious types who spend their spare time going to lots of concerts with their friends, drinking, and fucking?

Don’t be silly.

Figure 7: Unlike most college students, 18-21 year old conservatory academics and musicians are interested in neither sex, nor drugs, nor rock 'n' roll.

5 comments:

Gustav said...

How does it work when a program for a concert is scheduled months in advance? How would you ever know what sort of mood you would be in that day?

It's really quite a miracle that the moods of so many audience members would align with those of the musicians at so many concerts -- at least as judging by the excess of superfluous standing ovations.

Anonymous said...

Stiff?

My lady friends consider that an asset.

Anonymous said...

Your a dumbass you ignorant fool. Your information is outdated and you are so sheltered. Go out and listen to a youth orchestra and talk to some classical musicians. Or go listen to some actual classical musicians.

Empiricus said...

Yikes, guys. This last comment almost (tm) made me want to come out of retirement.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please come out of retirement. A little part of me dies every time I see "Masters are Masterful" as the latest post. :)