Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Laaaaughing huh huh huh haw huhh

I love that Guess Who song from the deep recesses of my childhood.

Tonight's gig was funny. Funny in a bad bad way, in a way only my inner 12 year-old can truly appreciate. It was a tiny "orchestra" cobbled together from about 10 musicians accompanying a church choir. We were approximating Faure & a some shrivelled piece of music by a guy (bite me, Rutter) all the choir directors have mistakenly put their faith in, so to speak. I hate when Christian music operates with the same tasteless training wheels reserved for children's music, romance novels and knock-off perfume.

Anyway, that wasn't even what was funny. (And by "funny" I mean amusing only to me and maybe my husband but he's probably just humoring me. Humoring. Ha.) The funny started when we tuned to an electric organ that played very very flat whenever it changed sounds (stops) in the piece. Like our very own anti-miracle organ. (I was going to say the Devil's Organ but that just doesn't sound right...) Remember that scene in The Goonies where they found a big organ thingie in that cave with the pirate ship and had to play horrible notes on it that made their friends teeter above a pit full of spikes? This was worse.

Also funny: the conductor held his entire upper lip thinly quivering taught so he looked oddly nauseated whenever he sang along with the choir. Conductors like to mouth the words without singing pitches, but they usually can't help themselves and end up stage-whispering a lot of it. It's just like when you try to talk to somebody in another car and end up somehow half whispering "DID YOU WANT THAT SPOT?!" all breathy with flailing gestures and if you're not careful some errant spittle. That is exactly like conducting, in case you ever wondered what conductors really do.

So the tuning and the mouthing were funny, but some of the other players struck me funny in a much more perverse way. They were a type of professional (and I am assuming alot here) musician I have run into before; they evidence almost no enjoyment of playing, lament at length how busy they are with so many important gigs, often appear to lack a bit in their technique and (this is the most important element) are so above any other players that they will do their utmost to condescend should the opportunity present itself. I think this personality disease goes most unchecked in the semi-professional scene. The per-service orchestra generally boasts a percentage of this kind of person. Madison Symphony was seriously infected; it took months (LITERAL MONTHS) for anyone to say more than two words to new people. Geniality was a sign of weakness, and I almost gave up on orchestras entirely.

Now I know I can be... a bit over-exuberant and chatty for some tastes. I hate when people say I'm always happy, though now that I'm old I would rather that impression than the alternatives. But this isn't just adult seriousness, this is a conscious effort to be a dour prig in order to appear better than others.

Somehow recognizing the disease tonight made me smile instead of roll my eyes and seethe. Maybe it's because I don't have a job-job yet, and it helps keep me humble. Maybe it's because I know that groups of wonderful accomplished friendly people do exist and sometimes I get to join them (Oregon Symphony). I love playing. I don't necessarily love playing in poor performances, but right now I'm okay with just trying to contribute something that might make the overall experience better. Missionary musicianing. It's not lost on me that aspects of this attitude may be more deeply condescending than just trying to out-snob the other players, but I like to think my motives are better than that. And at least this way I can still have hope for them.

Plus, I keep reminding myself that there are only two more services.

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