On jealousy, failure, and perception

What is this, à site for failed and bitter conducteurs? To read someone with so little knowledge try to analyse Dudamel’s conducting, amusés me:-) and this other Guy who think Dudamel is overrated, what do you know? By coïncident I just heard thé best Shostakovich 10 ever on wdr.de, with Eivind Gullberg Jensen conducting, so for me this whole article is just misleading notes based on pure jealousy. Get à life guys!

Agree with PierreC, this site smells jealousy all over. Came over this article a while ago, after I found an amazing Rach 2 with Gullberg Jensen on youtube, and was shocked about the harsh and bitter content. But back then I searched for Crackladen on youtube, and guess what? I found the author in person, conducting. It would be too positive to call him a failed conductor, it had nothing to do with conducting in the first place! At least he was smart enough to remove his videofiles:-)

The most popular (RELATIVE TERM!) post on this website is either one of the random symphony countdowns or the one about Eivind Gullberg Jensen being the worst conductor in the universe. Based on the comments, I’d assume it’s the latter. Every so often someone will chime in and say that they disagree and that they heard Jensen conduct Piece X and it was great, and less occasionally someone will stop in to say that they agree that his conducting leaves a lot to be desired. There is a subtext to the “Jensen is good” comments, and that is that by saying that he sucks you’re simply throwing stones at someone whose lot in life you envy. Not every comment comes out and says it quite as explicitly as the two comments above, but it’s always there, if not on the surface like that than lurking below.

My “career” as a conductor was short-lived in that it never really got started. I studied conducting in college and have a Master’s Degree in it and all that shit, but I never made it very far. There were many reasons for this, some outside my control, many inside my control, but the bottom line is that I failed. This is a touchy word for a lot of people, even if it’s not in reference to themselves, but I’ve never been bothered by it. I tried conducting, not as “hard” as I should have, and did not succeed. There’s a word for when you try something and don’t succeed… I haven’t been actively involved in anything resembling conducting for quite some time now, instead working “regular” jobs and writing about music. I write about music because I don’t always have anyone to talk to about it and feel compelled to get my thoughts out – if I had one of those sweet turn-of-the-century-Vienna circles where we sat in cafes and talked all day this blog wouldn’t be here (to the delight of so many!). I enjoy writing about music much more than I enjoyed performing, which surprises me, because I did truly love performing. I didn’t get to make sports references and truck stop sex jokes when performing, though, and I can do that now so the dream is complete.

The oldest line in the book about “critics” is the bit about how they bombed out at what they write about so they take their failures out on those who succeeded. I can’t speak to whether or not this is true, because I’m not any kind of famous critic. I’m essentially nothing more than a fan, someone with a background and an interest in classical music among other things. Perhaps lurking in my subconscious is a deep-seated bitterness, but if it’s there it’s hiding well, because I certainly don’t find it lurking anywhere near the front of my mind. Jealousy, or more specifically jealous, is defined as “resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself.” The word that jumps out of that definition is RIVAL, which itself is defined as “a person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.” This is where bullshit accusations of jealousy go flying right out the fucking window.

I’m “jealous” of Eivind Gullberg Jensen in the same way that I’m “jealous” of Derek Jeter, who gets to play a fun game and make hundreds of millions of dollars for it (I played baseball as a kid like so many others). I’m “jealous” of Eivind Gullberg Jensen in the same way that I’m “jealous” of Mark Zuckerberg for having more money than God and being able to do whatever the fuck he wants (I had a good idea once!). I’m “jealous” of Eivind Gullberg Jensen in the same way that I’m “jealous” of Ron Jeremy for being a hedgehog with a 9-inch dick who banged porn stars for 20 years (I’ve got the hedgehog part anyway). I do not operate in the same universe as Jensen or any other prominent musician in any reasonable way. It’s not like if one or two things would have broken differently for me I’d be conducting Shostakovich 10 on wdr.de – it’s hard to imagine that with all the breaks in the world I’d have been much more than the conductor of a freelance orchestra. Which would have been terrific, but we’re not talking about the Oslo Fucking Philharmonic here.

That perception is always going to exist no matter how hard you try to fight it. I’ve never been better than I am right now: pretty good job with good people making good money, beautiful woman who I call my wife even though we’re not married, good family and good friends, a pretty sweet living space, access to plenty of good music and music-making, and a pretty damn fine run by all the sports teams I like over the last couple years. As long as I write about music, though, it’s always going to seem like it’s stained with regret to some. The funniest part about the whole thing is that 95 times out of 100 when I write about someone or something, it’s positive. There are countless conductors who I’ve praised to the sky in this space, and even my opinion on the much-maligned (in some circles) Dudamel has shifted significantly. As I’ve maintained for a long time, I want quite literally everyone to be great because that ultimately rewards me, the listener. I should hope that my opinion on Jensen changes eventually, because that will simply mean that there’s more good shit out there for me to hear. It does me literally zero good that I find his conducting heavy-handed, ridiculous, retarded, whatever.

In truth, it bums me out that my deliberately hyperbolic post about Jensen’s conducting shows up so prominently (right there on the first page of Google results, unfortunately), because it almost naturally leads to people who are likely fans of his music-making to search for him, see a provocative blog post, get reactionary, and presumably make the assumption that the entirety of the 150 or whatever posts in this space are of the same ilk. Were anyone to actually stick around and investigate some of the other material here, they might find something they agree with. I know it doesn’t actually happen that way, and it’s too bad. That post isn’t really a reflection of the general tone of this blog, even if I still do think that he sucks at conducting.

Ultimately, I don’t make any effort to hide from the unmitigated disaster that was my conducting “career.” For example, in response to the comment above, I didn’t delete any videos from YouTube – my CrackLaden Google account was hacked and I shut it down pretty quickly, not really taking into consideration that part about Google owning YouTube in my haste to make sure all my other shit wasn’t compromised. I was pretty proud of those videos, actually…I held that Shostakovich PC1 1st movement together pretty well, which I’ve come to discover isn’t as easy as one might think. At the end of the day, all I have to show for my life as a conductor is some great friends, a good story here and there, and a monthly obligation to pay student loans. I didn’t even really “come to grips” with all that, I just sort of transitioned into something else and found myself feeling less and less like someone else and more like myself. I don’t regret any of it, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone their successes, even those who could actually be considered “rivals” in that they were classmates or fellow workshop participants or whatever.

I like the freedom this blog allows me to have when it comes to writing, because obviously I don’t really write about classical music in the way most people do. That’s going to come with a price, and that price is always going to be the same criticism: that I’m uneducated and jealous when I write something bad, that I’m uneducated and a fanboy when I write something good. And my only response to that is simple…

Please tell the fine people with the Stafford Loan bills that I’m uneducated, because they seem hell bent on getting they’re tens of thousands of dollars from me for something.

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5 thoughts on “On jealousy, failure, and perception

  1. Introspective post. Well thought out. Re: your critics at the top of the piece…fuck ’em, because everyone has their own perspective. My perspective is this: I have worked with many local conductors over the years. You and Dick McGee were by far the best I’ve worked with. Your conducting teacher was also a great conductor. The three of you were very easy to follow; I didn’t have to guess what it was you wanted us to do. As you know, as a solo performer, I don’t have a lot of reason to work with conductors; I frankly find them to be a necessary evil for orchestras, etc. I will still always prefer to play over reading or writing about music. But I appreciate what writers, composers, musicians, and most importantly–the piece itself, bring to the heart of music.

  2. If the commenter thinks this blog “smells jealousy,” then: a) he hasn’t read more than one post, or b) his nasal receptors (not to mention his ears) are poorly connected. Both conditions simultaneously are also possible.

    The “jealousy” ploy is a card too easily played, almost never with any basis in reality. I know orchestral players who throw it out every time a critic calls them on sloppy playing or poor intonation. You could lob it against pretty much anyone who musters the gumption to venture an opinion. One of the wonders and joys of classical orchestral music is that it’s a big unruly universe with no-one completely in charge. No argument will ever be entirely settled. Nor should they be.

    Personally, I read this blog because I learn stuff, not it because it reinforces my own convictions. The recent posting on Berlioz is a case in point. I more or less identify myself as a composer, but I don’t think I ever had a lesson or master class that so clearly underlined the importance of the “closing argument,” and how to make it ambiguous and final at the same time; y’know, fresh. What I write won’t be mistaken for Berlioz in this universe or any other, but the posting and its examples gave me a lot to chew on and I forwarded it to friends who teach composition. They liked it too.

    I check in here from time to time because I know I’ll get to ponder something familiar in a new way (such as the recent posting on Beethoven 9) or be given reasons to listen to someone’s music who I haven’t connected with before (i.e. Glazunov). And, folks, the man is just fucking funny. (And of that, I AM jealous…)

  3. I am definitely not bummed that your post about Jensen features so prominently in Google’s search results—that is how I found your blog (I had never heard of Jensen and did a search). As one who spends his day job trudging through writing on music and teaching some of the basic skills of it to undergrads (I am a college orchestra conductor and, secondarily, a music history instructor), I will say, without qualification, that this hobby of yours is among my favorite writing on music. Incisive, real and damn funny. I am playing catch-up on this bog, but it has quickly become my new reading obsession….brilliant!

  4. You’re too kind, Tim. I’m glad you enjoy the place. Thank God that Google result has done something good for someone!

  5. Pingback: Eivind Gullberg Jensen is the worst conductor in the universe: UPDATED! | Everything But The Music

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