Friday, March 11, 2016
Meryl Streep's forthcoming new movie about Florence Foster Jenkins looks simply glorious. See the official trailer above.
But why this story, why now? Strangely, it may represent a very current phenomenon of celebrating people who are determined to do something, but do it badly. Perhaps even celebrating the self-deluded. This makes for "heartwarming" tales such as the excellent Victoria Wood TV drama about Joyce Hatto, about the extent of love that will indulge such fantasies, about following your dreams no matter what, about getting your own back on all those nasty, nasty professionals. Great stories, but a very weird trend. (The real Joyce Hatto incident was less heartwarming. It was a disgrace on the music industry, and a tragedy for her.)
Where does this tendency come from? The TV "talent" show? The concept of "crossover", which over the years has packaged up various people who sing rather badly, on the grounds of marketability/accessiblity/audience-doesn't-know-any-better? Inverted snobbery against, or jealousy of, the really good? Or are we a self-deluding society?
Oh come on, it's just harmless fun, isn't it? People have enjoyed freak shows since the beginning of time, haven't they?... Except now this extends through all manner of supposed disciplines. Highly gifted professionals who have given their whole lives to the study and perfection of an art, craft or skill stand by helplessly as the ignorant-and-proud-of-it run roughshod over them, aided and abetted by internet mobs. I suspect it won't be until we have a US president who follows this same pattern that we realise how dangerous it is.
Nevertheless, I can't wait to see this film. It's out in May.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Or... A Little Black Humour for Tuesday Morning. To begin, here's some music.
It's a tough old life, being a musician. Many of us in this field are reared by doting parents who, along with our schools, convince us at the tender age of 0 that we are born to be stars and have a talent second only to that of Johann Sebastian Bach. By the time we're 20, we've usually begun to understand that this isn't the case, and to wonder how we can make ends meet in such a cut-throat field. By 40, some of us are still at it.
How desperate are you? What does your future hold?
Take the JDCMB quiz to find out...
1. You can't get a recording contract, so you produce your own CD. Do you:
a. Send a well-presented package to an 'artist-led' label and invite the manager to lunch with you, your sponsor and a famous advisor like Ivor Chestikoff to discuss market gaps and interesting repertoire.
b. Do it all yourself, hiring a good PR and making sure your distributors are reputable and respected, but neglect your practising in order to organise everything. Then you give a concert to launch the disc...
c. Decide it's not worth doing at all: it's got to be DG or bust. You devote yourself instead to learning the 48 and writing about how your interpretation is the definitive one and that nobody else knows how to play Bach properly. Only at that point do you make a demo disc and send it out with your tracts to blind everyone with your expertise.
d. Do it all yourself, but decide that PR and advertising is a waste of money: only word of mouth counts. You always carry a supply of your CDs, so that if a music critic happens to turn up at your mum's 80th birthday party, you can talk to him for half an hour about your achievements and give him a copy to take home and write about. You know he wants it.
2. Your sponsor hires the Wigmore Hall for you. Do you:
a. Plan your programme carefully, featuring the works Ivor Chestikoff says you're best in, and tactfully try to avoid the concert being on a Monday evening or a major public holiday. You engage a good PR person at least six months in advance, organise a drinks reception after the gig to which you can invite more potential sponsors, critics and all the people to whom you 'owe one' for their support over the years. You practise like the blazes, give some trial runs at friendly private salons and make sure your concert outfit fits you snugly and elegantly. On stage, you forget about everything but the music.
b. You decide you're going to play Bach's 48: 24 in the first half, 24 in the second, everything by memory, even though so far you've only learned 12 of them. You love a challenge! And what an opportunity: this could make you a real splash. You're so busy memorising the fugues that you forget you need to publicise the gig until a week beforehand. Oh well, perhaps Facebook and Twitter can sort it - "Please RT".
c. You don't need to do PR - everyone will come to hear you anyway, because you're the best, even if nobody knows it yet. It's all down to luck in any case.
d. You splash out on a Vivienne Westwood outfit, have your photo taken in it and put it on your Facebook page and website. Then, to save money, you write your own press releases, though there's no time to have them checked or proofread, and you badger every publication and website with them, plus phone calls, sending emails four times if no reply comes within the first day to the first one. Finally, on the underused blog section of your website, you embed the tags "Vivienne Westwood", "Luciano Pavarotti" and "Katherine Jenkins" to ensure more hits.
3. You've managed to get backstage to meet a famous conductor. Ivor Chestikoff introduces you and the maestro holds your hand, gazes into your eyes and says it's a great pleasure to meet you. Then he tells you to call his secretary to arrange an audition. You do so; the PA says you can go to play to him in Los Angeles, Berlin or Hong Kong. You can just afford Berlin if you go on a budget airline, but it's in the middle of your holiday. Do you:
a. Cancel the holiday and go to Berlin, taking the pieces that Chestikoff has suggested that you are good at and that he knows the maestro will respond to well. You arrive the night before and make sure you're well rested despite your nerves. You arrange to fly back on the last plane on the day of your audition to save the hotel bill. When the maestro asks you what you're doing later that night, you explain you have to get back home to prepare for your concert in three days' time.
b. You can't bear to miss your holiday. You decide to go to LA and you twist a sponsor/parent's arm into paying your fare and a cheap motel for two nights. You get there ready to audition the next day - but you're jet-lagged. Will you play your best? Will you notice the inference when the maestro asks you what you're doing later that evening?
c. You laugh and say you couldn't possibly afford to go to LA or Hong Kong and you can't miss your holiday, so what about looking further ahead? The PA checks the schedule and suggests October 2012 in Moscow or Sydney.
d. You choose whichever is soonest - hang the air fare and the holiday. You play the most difficult piece you know. You wear sexy clothes and you smile a lot. When the maestro asks you what you're doing later, you're free. He invites you to dinner and you go; you get a bit starry-eyed that you are quaffing expensive champers with the maestro and he's flirting with you something chronic, even though he is decades older than you and you'd maybe hoped he'd be fatherly and caring. Then he suggests you go up to his room where he can give you some of his latest CDs. You don't have the contract or a promise of a concert yet, but you go. You will do anything for your art.
Mostly a: Your feet are on the ground and you have a good chance of achieving a certain amount of recognition; with luck and talent you might have a breakthrough. Do you take enough risks to get the extra edge of danger that sets concert halls alight?
Mostly b: You take risks, but you're erratic. If you hit the jackpot, it'll probably be by sheer fluke. You may have something special to offer; or you may find yourself passed over as a harmless eccentric.
Mostly c: Take a teaching diploma or business course, or learn to touch-type. You may need a job.
Mostly d: You're desperate. Very desperate. Someone will notice. See 'Mostly c'.