Saturday, November 23, 2013

Debaucheries of dissatisfaction

A month or so ago, the artist and filmmaker and genetic composer Tim Perkis stopped by for lunch and afterwards we got to talking about the unknown forces that move the world, and he told me of a friend of his who was featured in Time Magazine and thought well now I've made it and proceeded to sit by the phone waiting for the calls to come in only to find that he was slowly starving to death. 

I too have had those moments, and in fact keep, close to my heart, a short catalog of embarrassments that I pause to extract from time to time, fondling and kissing them to remind me of my hopes and dreams and idiocies: that first concert; that first award, polished daily; that first radio interview that brought Fred and Henry over to our filthy house; that first recording released on vinyl and disc; that first opera and the first time performing in Europe; and first commissions for dance and film and orchestra; and all those reviews; and the first publications; and who could forget the first fan mail from those people on the other side of the Iron Curtain, looking for copies of CDs from the perceived American underground?  And through all this one waits for the phone to ring in the growing dark and quiet.  

But any of the how-to-be-an-artist self-help books will tell you the same, something like how rien ne vient à qui sait attendre (pardon my French) but only to those who trust in the Lord or reach for the stars or maybe it is the moon, but really in most cases not much comes at all, and even she who I have paraphrased ended her poem with something about how maybe it all will come but just too late. 

So here I sit, drinking my Sazerac laced with sugar, sugar from a pewter bowl, just a hint of sugar of lead, thinking of Pope Clement II who hoped for a better life after this one, reading a recent blog entry by the fabulous Kyle Gann - did I ever mention his very great talent for coming up with the most beautiful harmonies previously unheard?  Please please listen to this one, my favorite.

I'll wait here while you do. 

Anyway, in the previously mentioned entry, Kyle writes:

I’m trying to teach the class that the canon is an artificial construct, and that it is indeed created by people in power making decisions. Musical academia has its collective narrative, critics tend toward a different narrative, the classical-music performance world has yet another narrative, and the corporate world makes decisions on a different set of criteria. All of these narratives are contaminated by self-serving premises, and none should be misunderstood as resembling any kind of pure meritocracy. And thus every student needs to judge every piece on its own merits as they appear to him or her, and such decisions should not be made on the first listening, or necessarily the second or third.

I envy the clarity of his writing as well as his harmonies, and I believe what he is saying is true, but it's so hard for me to really have faith in it. I keep waiting for that anointing, that Légion d'honneur or OBE that will never come, foolishly regretting all the avenues that have held such promise, forgetting that true happiness lies only in a slow warm remembering of past wantonness, those moments of ecstasy and after, improprieties, mistresses, secrets shared of boyfriends whose tastes in movies are so different from theirs. 

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