The question is no doubt as old as artistic expression. Imagine a viewer of the first paleolithic paintings in the Great Hall of the Bulls in the Cave of Lascaux:
Well, of course Zog is brilliant, but have you seen how he drags his mate around by her hair? It’s hard to see how such a rotten guy can make those beautiful pictures.
Can you hate Wagner’s Teutonic superman beliefs and love “Siegfried Idyll,” abhor Ezra Pound’s fascist propaganda and admire The Cantos, be appalled by Stan Getz’s gratuitous cruelty and be enchanted by his ballads?
The Rifftides item about a video performance by the Israeli saxophonist and political polemicist Gilad Atzmon prompted Marc Edelman, the proprietor of Sharp Nine Records, to send a communique raising the ancient conundrum of disjunction between art and its maker and accusing me of (yikes!) equanimity:
If you’re interested in getting a better idea of what’s been coming out of Gilad Atzmon’s mouth when he doesn’t have a saxophone stuck in it, you might want to check out fellow blogger David Adler. David is a knowledgeable writer on music (and a guitarist, as well) and politically is one of the most reasonable people I’ve come across on the web. A secular, left-of-center Jew – and not shy in the least about criticizing Israel – he does not share your equanimity about Atzmon’s pronouncements. Here’s a link to start – and you can follow the embedded links as well.
Atzmon’s web site includes a section entitled “Politics,” in which he discusses his controversial beliefs about Israel and Palestine. If you Google his name, you will find plenty of disagreement with his accusations against his native Israel.
David Adler edits Jazz Notes, the journal of the Jazz Journalists Association, and writes about music for a number of other publications. Sharp Nine is the label of Joe Locke, David Hazeltine, Dena DeRose, Brian Lynch, and the cooperative group One For All, among others.
Jon Foley says
“Can you hate Wagner’s Teutonic superman beliefs and love “Siegfried Idyll,” abhor Ezra Pound’s fascist propaganda and admire The Cantos, be appalled by Stan Getz’s gratuitous cruelty and be enchanted by his ballads?”
This paragraph in particular brings up a question that I have often raised with friends and others, namely, why is it that many (I won’t say most) of the best ballad players in jazz were, to put it delicately, not nice people? Examples: Getz, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Ben Webster. Is there something about being a frequently nasty human being that, conversely, enables one to have easy access to the emotions necessary to be a superior player of ballads? Are they somehow trying to atone for their behavior by showing their tender side in a musical context? I don’t have the answers yet, but there are too many examples I can think of for it to be just coincidence. (And yes, I can think of the exceptions, too — Zoot Sims was one of the greatest ballad players and also was one of the nicest musicians I’ve ever met).