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 Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-03 13:03

Watching a television programme once that brought together several of the world's top Classical violnists, the jazz violinist St├ęphane Grappeli also performed. My father's comment: "He looks so happy when he plays! He makes it look so effortless. Why do the the Classical players always look so fraught?" my question: "Why do Classical musicians have to look so miserable?" I'm sure this puts a lot of people-especially youngsters- off of Classical music.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: BethGraham 
Date:   2019-09-03 16:19

Because classical music is Serious Business?

I've always been struck by how few orchestral and band musicians express joy through their body language. (hope you know what I mean: That's one awkward sentence!) I've always supposed it comes down to the "culture" of that type of performing.

I get flak in my church choir for moving with the music too much, and I guess if there was too much "joy" being expressed it could be distracting for an audience. Still, I've always found it odd that musicians often appear so dour when they perform.

Beth

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-09-03 17:40

Simon Rattle commonly looks quite joyful, except when the music dictates otherwise; a large grin while delivering the final hammer-blow of fate at the end of Mahler 6 would probably be rather undesirable. I'm all for moving while playing, up to the point where it becomes audible; beats in sustained notes, or swelling and diminishing because of one's movement rather than because the musical line demands it seems more or less like self-indulgence. Our primary job is to cause the listeners to feel the joy (or despair, or whatever the music is intended to convey); it's hard to do that if we don't feel it ourselves, but it's still good to remember where the emphasis should be placed.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-03 17:52

I've always found Rattle too histrionic. I don't really mean portraying emotions the way an actor does. I mean just looking happy the way some jazz musicians like Clark Terry did.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Jack Nelson 
Date:   2019-09-03 19:34

A composer is not interested in the physical gyrations of individual members of the orchestra, he/she is only interested in the sounds being generated. Can you imagine the distraction that would be caused if each individual orchestral member were to perform as though they were performing a solo? I contend that solo performers are most often focused, not only on the sounds coming from their instruments, but on how they are being visually perceived by an admiring audience.

The joy felt by individual orchestra members comes from their knowledge that they are faithfully fulfilling a composer's intentions. This joy is felt from within, with no need to demonstrate it physically . . . just my contention.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-03 20:05

I'm not asking for "gyrations"; it would just be nice to see them smile a bit more. Does faithfully reproducing what is in a score mean you have to look as though you are attending a funeral?

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2019-09-03 20:15

I gave up the old smile embouchure a long time ago. Sorry to be sooooo sad.

John Gibson, Founder of JB Linear Music, www.music4woodwinds.com

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-09-03 21:13

The joy felt by individual orchestra members comes from their knowledge that they are faithfully fulfilling a composer's intentions. This joy is felt from within, with no need to demonstrate it physically . . . just my contention.
----------------------------------------
+1


I mean just looking happy the way some jazz musicians like Clark Terry did.
--------------------------------------------------------
Imagine 90 musicians looking "happy" during the end of Mahler's Ninth Symphony
or the beginning of Tchaik 6!


It's always amusing to note how non-professionals perceive what professionals experience during a performance. Of course, there are 90 different personalities on stage and each of them will react (or not) in his/her own way depending on their mood that particular day.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Jack Nelson 
Date:   2019-09-03 21:25

It's hard to smile when you're playing a clarinet, especially if you're focusing, intently, on reproducing, perfectly, a composer's creation. Even when you're resting between measures, you're focusing on the next segment. Again, the joy is within.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-09-03 21:31

Well I come down on side of it being an intensive amount of coordinated work. You're listening, counting, analyzing, watching........and all the stuff you need to do with your instrument (fingering, reeds, embouchure, pulling out, pushing in) to mechanically get the results you need for the moment.


For those of you who are part time musicians it would be equivalent to having a camera in your face in the middle of a very busy day bookkeeping, day trading, tilling your fields.......you get the idea.



Of course as a soloist there are some theatrical expectations that come with the territory. You don't want to repulse your audience.







.................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-09-03 23:50

ruben wrote:

> Why do the the Classical players always look so
> fraught?" my question: "Why do Classical musicians have to
> look so miserable?"

I have to take some issue with your premise. I often notice facial expressions on both soloists and orchestra players that suggest an emotional involvement in what they're playing. Lifted eyebrows, a little bit of shoulder rocking, closed eyelids (not for too long, if you're in the orchestra) at a particularly intimate-sounding moment, knitted eyebrows during more intense or demonic-sounding passages, and smiles during rests while listening to others involved in the performance.

I think most of classical musicians' feelings toward the music show in their facial expressions while they're playing or while they're listening. I see it all the time when I'm watching good soloists and very competent orchestras.

I do understand what you're asking about - sometimes all you see in classical musicians' faces and body language can only be interpreted as intense concentration, intense fear of mistakes (or both), or boredom as they do their best at a performance that doesn't really interest them much. But from my own experience watching classical performance, I don't think things always look as bleak as you describe. :)

Karl

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-09-04 00:55

Were not miserable we're serious. We're always striving for perfection, which is difficult to achieve on a constant basis. We're also trtying to please the conductor, who's often our boss. We may often be under a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time. but not in the least, miserable. I played as a pro in a major orchestra for 51 years, loved it.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-04 01:10

Just a couple of clarifications:
- I never implied that they were miserable; just that they looked it.
-It doesn't put me off in the slightest because I've been playing Classical music my whole life long and I know the intense focus and perfection it demands.
On the other hand, it does put off youngsters and people that are new to the world of Classical music. I also do think there is a tradition of romantic tragic affliction linked to Classical music that goes back to the 19th century that it is not necessary to preserve.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-09-04 01:45

I have seen shows on TV of doctors performing heart surgery. They never look as if they are having fun.

For all of his years of performing, Stanley Drucker always looked as if he was having the time of his life.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-09-04 01:53

Ed wrote:

> For all of his years of performing, Stanley Drucker always
> looked as if he was having the time of his life.

So, most of the time, does Ricardo Morales.

Karl

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: davyd 
Date:   2019-09-04 02:07

In performance, we've got our game faces on. If that's "dour" or "miserable", so be it. Professional athletes are similarly focused; I don't see young people being put off sports as a result.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2019-09-04 08:09

I agree. Serious, strive for perfection, please the conductor, etc. I "move" a bit more than I used to when soloing or playing in the group. And a bit more than that when the Dixieland chart comes up. But, it's what it sounds like that counts, not how it looks. I would doubt a symphony or concert band full of wildly moving and smiling musicians would lure young people (or 76 year old Mick Jagger fans) over from the pop scene (which, IMHO, has sucked since about 1988). Nor would such happiness mean millions for the top classical players as opposed to maybe $100K or so.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom (PDF samples here)


Post Edited (2019-09-04 08:14)

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: michele zukovsky 
Date:   2019-09-04 10:21

we never got paid enough.
and the only good conductor is a dead conductor.

:-(

zukovsky@usc.edu

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-09-04 14:37

So this guy goes into a pet store to buy a parrot. The store owner has just gotten three exotic parrots for sale. The store owner explains, "This parrot is $1,000 and he is an excellent talker with a vocabulary of over one hundred words." Pointing to the second parrot he explains, "This one is $4000 dollars and he speaks in three languages and can sing the arias from over twenty major operas." Now looking at the third parrot, the guy asks, "Wow, this one is $20,000 dollars, what does he do?" The owner say, "We're not sure, but the other two parrots call him Maestro."






....................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: vintschevski 
Date:   2019-09-04 15:41

Why do rock musicians look like total idiots?

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-09-04 16:42

When i played in the BSO we always did many pops concerts with popular, jazz players as well as other "lighter" type music and I think we all looked different. A much less stressful atmosphere, lots of laughing at the jokes and comments. But yes, there were many times i was having a ball playing "classical" concerts as well but alwasy looked serious and professional on stage. My question, how many students actually attend symphony concerts to watch the players? Maybe the handfull that love classicail music and already are devoted to play it. When i was student it never turned me off while i sat in the nose bleed seats at Carnegie Hall wishing if only I could make a career doing that. So I did, for 51 years.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-04 16:58

..because at least half the time, they're on drugs!

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Jack Nelson 
Date:   2019-09-04 17:08

Perhaps the best time to smile is at the end of a performance in response to the accolades from the audience showing their appreciation for your focus, intensity, and perfectionism.

Michael Jordan always smiled at the end of a spectacular drive to the basket, not during the dunk, itself.



Post Edited (2019-09-04 17:11)

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-04 17:16

Jack; This proves Michael Jordan was not a basket case. I used to smile when I dunked my donuts.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: Jack Nelson 
Date:   2019-09-04 17:25

ruben:

I like your sense of humor!

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-09-04 18:26

Ed Palanker wrote:

> My question, how many students
> actually attend symphony concerts to watch the players? Maybe
> the handfull that love classicail music and already are devoted
> to play it.

I tend to agree with Ed on this. For me, interest in playing "classical" music came before I attended a real concert. My interest developed from playing - actively participating in - music by myself at home and in the concert band at school. Later, community orchestras and the pit orchestras of a couple of local community theaters.

My earliest experiences in a concert audience, first at the old Robin Hood Dell and later at the Academy of music, were in seating that was too far from the stage to see much of the players' faces. I'd have to say that their *appearance* really had little or no influence on my attitude. I was hooked by the experience of active performance long before I ever saw a performing musician's body language clearly enough to have mattered.

That's why I feel as strongly as I do (to put on my educator's hat for a second) that performance programs for young students, in their schools or through outside organizations, are far more important in developing music appreciation in future adults than classes that emphasize listening and learning *about* music.

Karl

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-09-04 19:18

we never got paid enough.
and the only good conductor is a dead conductor.

---------------------------------------------

Wow, what an attitude (and I say this as a professional musician in the orchestral world)!

Isn't LA the highest paying orchestra in the country now?

(FYI, Ms. Zukovsky was co-principal for many years in the LA Phil and her father, Kalmen Bloch, was her predecessor)

Seriously, I wonder if this was really posted by Ms. Zukovsky. The conductor remark was beyond the pale, imo.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-09-04 19:30

Ed: the difference between you and other orchestral musicians is the variety of your activity: teaching, writing, chamber music, etc. Plus your boundless enthusiasm which I am sure will never abate. Fortunately, you are not the only one. There are other orchestral musicians with your attitude and they are the happy ones and the ones that make other people happy.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: JEG 2017
Date:   2019-09-05 20:20

Reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister many years ago - she asked why symphony musicians didn't move around more like chamber music players.

The current question has been well-addressed by many responders here, and I agree with Ed Palanker about the seriousness of the profession. And I agree with Karl about the importance of education and exposure to the music in schools.

I was at Tanglewood this summer for a weekend of concerts plus the Tanglewood on Parade activities. Tanglewood is high-pressure - three separate concerts a week for eight weeks, plus extras such as teaching, chamber music, and concerts like Tanglewood on Parade. But they don't sit there looking like they dread the conductor's downbeat.

If you watch some of the fundraising programs that pass for classical and other music genres that are now regularly on stations like PBS you can see musicians, some at the top of their profession, playing with the most blissful looks on their faces, or else striking some kind of pose to show how "serious" they are. For many viewers, this is how they form an impression of art music, for better or worse. And portrayals in the movies and on TV don't help either.

I was fortunate to have a short and only moderately successful symphony orchestra career which didn't pay much, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, pressure and all.

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: GBK 
Date:   2019-09-06 00:52

JEG wrote:

> I was fortunate to have a short and only moderately successful
> symphony orchestra career which didn't pay much, but I wouldn't
> trade that experience for anything, pressure and all.


For the record, I've played concerts and rehearsals with Jess, and aside from him being a very fine clarinetist and bass clarinetist, we always had fun together and very much enjoyed what we were doing ... even when the music was difficult.

...GBK

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 Re: Why do Classical musicians look so miserable?
Author: richard smith 
Date:   2019-09-06 18:42

old age

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