Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Trappings of Conventionality

I received a reminder in the intertubish-mail of the weirdness of the Classical Music World.  A benefit for Dawn Upshaw, which is fine and dandy, as she has been a great supporter of new works, but the oddnesses are legion, the most noticeable being (1) the incredibly long list of famous people on the benefit committee, which I'm sure holds court every Tuesday afternoon at the local Round Table Pizza just after the SCA get-togethers to argue for hours about who sits where and by whom and the gauge of the needles used to knit the tablecloths and whether they will have those disposable cameras at every table for the candid tit-flashing shots of the guests as the drinking progresses, (2) The priciness of the tix [Ed: of course] and (3) the small font tag under "Click image to respond." to the effect of, and I quote: "Business Attire. " Enough said!?  Well, actually not enough at all.  Let us please remember fondly a few Tom Wolfe quotes, from The Painted Word, which my wife and I read to each other in the car one long drive from LA to SF while lost in the fog.

"...the [art mating] ritual has two phases: (1) The Boho Dance, in which the artist shows his stuff within the circles, coteries, movements, isms, of the home neighborhood, bohemia itself, as if he doesn't care about anything else; as if, in fact, he has a knife in his teeth against the fashionable world uptown. (2) The Consummation, in which culterati from that very same world, le monde, scout the various new movements and new artists of bohemia, select those who seem the most exciting, original, important, by whatever standards -- and shower them with all the rewards of celebrity." 

"...here we have the classic demonstration of the artist who knows how to double-track his way from the Boho Dance to the Consummation as opposed to the artist who gets stuck forever in the Boho Dance. This is an ever-present hazard of the art mating ritual. Truly successful double-tracking requires the artist to be a sincere and committed performer in both roles. Many artists become so dedicated to bohemian values, internalize their antibourgeois feelings so profoundly, that they are unable to cut loose, let go ... and submit gracefully to good fortune; the sort of artist, and his name is Legion, who always comes to the black-tie openings at the Museum of Modern Art wearing a dinner jacket and paint-spattered Levis's . . . I'm still a virgin!" 

Right. My paint-spattered Levi's are the corset and the frock coat and the riding crop and the bunny tail and other unwelcome non-business-attired choices couture. 

When Sub Pontio Pilato had its West Coast Premiere, I wrote a bio for the program that started with the phrase "Erling Wold has been called a pathological liar and a bisexual sex addict..."  After one of the performances, I oversaw and overheard a colleague point to the bio in the program and whisper to another colleague, "Well, he's not ready for prime time."

Now that I've reach my Grand Old Age I believe I am free to pontificate on all topics and so will drop this small pearl of wisdom: Make gol-durn sure that you always dress and speak and be the person you are and that you want to be or you will find in short order that you have gotten on the wrong train and you can't get off, that you will have to dress in business attire and hang about with people hardly like yourself and then your life will be over and will not have been lived but you will have a nice long list of achievements which can be repeated in the long loop on your video-enhanced tombstone until the servers are unplugged, the water shorts out the cables, and the acid rain washes away the last carved crying angel and all the rest.

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