My worst experience had to be in high school playing Duke of Earl on the flute at football games, I’ll never get those precious hours back. Why do conductors and composers torture musicians? Were they inspired to become parasites and see if another family would claim them as their own?
– Anna Montgomery
We like it better when the composer is dead.
– The wag that sits third row in every second violin section in every orchestra, ever.
Conductors extrovert their will on the wanna-be.
Composers sit alone, some scheme in mind
some puzzle without the parts
until those pieces forge themselves on the framework
of theory problems that arose along the way.
And after this bit of cosmic flotsam solidifies
it becomes Intention, like plasma turns into a moon,
and Conductors guard their opinion of it
with a mania reserved for religious dispute,
but colored with a type of synesthesia
that leaves no room for your D#s
to taste different from their ideal.
So do what they’re thinking,
and not what the count would seem to indicate.
It’s a fool who looks at the pointing baton
and not the moon.
based on a dVerse prompt, and a comment exchange with my cyber-friend Anna Montgomery from some time ago. 🙂
There are performers,
Acting as singers and dancers in an Iowa State Fair.
In the original they were singers and dancers
In a Broadway musical, and perhaps
obliged to act like they weren’t as good as they were.
Tonight’s performance is in a community theatre
which perhaps simplifies the process.
There is an audience on the stage
watching the performers
who are performing the act
of watching; they comment on the show
at the fair they’re not part of.
There is the audience
which is here to see State Fair
the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical
They are the only ones free to acknowledge
that the song they’re hearing was cut
from Me and Juliet,
which was a play within a play.
The orchestra, for want of a proper pit,
sits behind the audience
and watches the play when
they’re not playing
And pushes the audience
to laugh at the right times.
A customer tries to buy shirts with “a boiled cotton scent that reminds him of his grandmother.”
A famed conductor agrees to create a music festival with definite Aryan overtones, I can see from the poster for it that the clarinet mouthpieces they use are impossible to play. I am horrified by the fact that the orchestra would do this. The conductor assures me privately that the project is like “subtly digging an obnoxious guest you have in your own home.”
I wake up wondering if these two things, and an even vaguer memory of another transaction where I stand wondering if I’ve already paid, or should pay, for something I’m not even sure I still have, have any threads of connection I could braid into some kind of poem.
I lay awake wondering if I can make it from the bed to the point of writing it down without losing it all, like carrying a handful of oil.
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
– Martin Mull(?)
At first, we’re told, guttural cries
were what passed for expression.
Passed is not the right word, but professional
critics often rule out categories, deny
expression after the fact, and have tried,
from Mozart to Schoenberg, to call attention
to the various sins against form, the tension
between the old skins and new wine.
Schoenberg, for his part, had no use
for laws that came after the fact,
said they burst under special kinds
of tests — exceptions which make us loosen
rules disprove their need. He backed
off to be free of a tonal bind.
He backed off to be free of a tonal bind
of his own making — tired of being
a test case poster child, perhaps,
or just to hear an audience
understand again. Now we do
dance about architecture, expanding
criticism to throw the rope around the free form
and strangle it.
The jazz cats
cut class when they passed
out theory blue books. Nuts
to the squares who have to sit
with a slide rule and figure out
Coltrane blowed a G#13
just to know, just to get back
to the guttural cry, to every
Originally written in the ’90s, and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.
We played Mahler’s First Symphony tonight
in a civic orchestra sort of way
but it gave aging rich women a place to
go in their wraps and
my mother-in-law sat with my wife and
said she saw horses and did ‘three-legged-dances.’
There are so many moving parts,
I said. The work has defied the best
orchestra’s efforts to play it, and
to play it, not listen to it, is to
count measures of rest after rest
and wait to come in
wait to come in.
The clarinet part is to sound
like a cuckoo and the conductor
makes crazy faces to inspire you
while his back is turned
to the audience.