Slipped disc: February 2008 Archives
I was as distressed as everyone else to read that an artist manager from CAMI, the biggest classical agency, was robbed in broad daylight on a busy Manhattan sidewalk after withdrawing $100,000 from a nearby bank, or $150,000 according to the New York Post.
That anyone should want to attack a fine upstanding artist manager, day or night, will be a mystery to all decent readers.
And what Mr Seton Ijams was doing with that amount of cash in his sack might be an even greater mystery.
After all, we have been assured time and time again that classical music is a respectable business these days with no brown-envelope payouts or tax-dodge kickbacks.
My guess is Mr Ijams, who looks after Marvin Hamlisch among others, must have had a lot of taxi drivers waiting to be tipped along the street, with maybe a waiter or two and a milkman. These people just won't take a credit card. That's how it is.
Anyhow, I'm launching an appeal for all artist agents who have been mugged in broad daylight, poor things (that's nebbich in New York).
Donations, please, in used bills only.
No artists need apply.
Responses to my personal mailbox are running 3-1 in support of my commentary on Bloomberg that the New York Philharmonic's visit to North Korea is morally and culturally unacceptable. That's high, but not overwhelmingly so.
There is, if course, considerable substance to the opposing case - that is is usually better to make jaw-jaw than war-war, and that the way to unfreeze tensions is not by hiding behind high walls of political preconception.
It seems to me, none the less, that there are two disabling flaws to the cultural diplomacy argument. The first is to apply it to Hitler's Germany. Would a 1938 trip by the NY Phil have averted WW 2 and the Holocaust?
In Pyongyang, New York's finest will be entertaining seasoned killers who, contrite today, may kill again tomorrow - if only by picking up the phone to Teheran and having another quiet swap of nuclear know-how.
The second qualm relates to consumption. Every calorie eaten, every bath taken, every light switched on by the 130 New York musicians and their entourage of 150 handlers and journalists is one kilojule of energy, one tub of water, one volt of energy stolen from a population that has been systematically starved by its unrepentant government. Playing a symphony concert to the Beloved Kim gives nothing back to his malnourished nation.
This weekend, CBC Toronto will be airing a conversation between Dominic Lawson and me on the question of Herbert von Karajan, and whether (as discussed on this blog) a bad man can make good music.
A comment by Richard V Harris has been rolling round my mind.
Biology, he writes, 'is the science of exceptions, and we are not dealing here in absolutes (of goodness), only tendencies. Wagner was a great composer, but we do not see him as having been a good man, largely because he was an anti-Semite. I have no idea as to whether or not he privately carried out acts of kindness more than the average person.'
Well, from the evidence in his letters and autobiography, not to mention Cosima's diaries, Wagner never knowingly performed an act of kindness without intending self-benefit. He abandoned his first wife Minna, milked the affections of rich women like Mathilde Wesendonck, seduced and impregnated the wife of his acolyte Hans von Bulow and flaunted his conquest to her father, Franz Liszt, who had done more than anyone to assist his career.
Cosima was just as bad. When Liszt lay dying in the middle of a Bayreuth Festival, his daughter was seldom at his side. Beside such wilful misanthropy, their rabid anti-semitism can appear almost incidental.
The question that arises is: did Wagner have to be such a brute in order to achieve his Ring? Every act of creation requires a degree of egotism. Do the greatest acts demand the most inhuman conduct? Discuss.
I am inclined to agree with his argument in respect of original creators. Aesthetically, and scientifically for that matter, lack of moral fibre is no impediment to genius. Byron was a rotter. So were Shelley and Dylan Thomas. Picasso was no paragon. Rodin was a bit of a shit, and as for Klimt, Schiele and the Viennese school... decadent, the lot of them.
Music, though, for some mysterious reason, is different. In music there are few instances of a great composer who was not, in some way, a good man. Misanthropes abound, but Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Britten were decent to the core. Bach was a friendly teddy-bear for the most part. Mozart was much misunderstood. Sibelius was a moral rock hiding behind a vodka bottle.
Mahler once said - and I think he meant composers: 'there are no great men without some goodness'. Schoenberg said of Mahler: er war ein Heiliger - he was a saint.'
There is, of course, Wagner - but he's an exception to all known rules.
So why do composers tend to the good? You tell me.
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog