Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back again

I had to take a mental health break from my blog—make art instead of thinking about it—but got back in gear when I read Jon Pareles quoting Lady Gaga in the Times this morning:

“It’s always very strange when people say, ‘Is this the real you?,’ or ‘Is this really who you are? Is this an act?,’ …I believe magic is real. I believe fantasy is real. I live halfway between reality and fantasy all the time.”

Meanwhile the rest of the world seems bent on substituting linear thinking for emotion, and information for experience.

The same week I watched Lady Gaga’s Madison Square Garden blowout on HBO (on a neighbor’s insanely big flat screen—snob that I am, I don’t have TV access, but I’m grateful for my friends who do) I went to a concert in the Berkshires—the Avalon Quartet performing Osvaldo Golijov, Steve Reich, and Schubert—where my worst nightmare came true. Readers know about my antipathy toward artists’ statements and museum wall text (my reason being that it puts the emphasis on the intellect rather than the senses and becomes the lens through which art is experienced, thereby inhibiting personal reaction) and have pointed out how, at a musical performance, no one feels the necessity to get up and explain it first.

No longer.

Before the Avalon concert began, a man who didn't introduce himself but was, presumably, the artistic director, gave a little speech, incorporating biographical tidbits about the composers and making points about the relationship between speech and music (the theme around which the pieces were chosen), even “singing” a passage from Beethoven's 7th Symphony (dum dum-dum dum dum). I wanted to scream. And that was before I read in the program about the upcoming Tanglewood season, where you'll be able to go to the concerts an hour early for a talk by the conductor about what you’re about to hear.

Next magicians will be explaining their tricks in advance.

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