A Critic wrote:
CIA take note here is a new twist to irregular rendition.
“With some music genres, I've developed an independent sense of discernment, and some I'll probably never respect as "art" (rap), but there's a third category which includes a few genres that I do respect as "art", but which I personally don't enjoy listening to -- I have about the same reaction to most operatic sopranos as our coon hounds....”
I take it you have a music background and are informed in this art form. Can I take it that though you say you don’t enjoy listening to operatic sopranos you are still able to describe how their work is valuable? What I am getting at is that this is an example of you recognizing an art work but it gives you no aesthetic pleasure? Might it also be possible that the person sitting in front of you gains aesthetic pleasure from operatic sopranos but is unable to show how the work is valuable?
“An example of aesthetic pain: sitting with friends eagerly anticipating the chance to hear a recording of Tchaikovsky's famous Piano Concerto #1, a piece I've always LOVED, with Stanislav Richter on piano and Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. What could go wrong? That thing couldn't have played for more than 5 minutes before I snapped, literally covered my ears and ran out of the room screaming "Make it stop! Make it stop!"”
A curious example. I’m not sure if you are telling me if it was poorly interpreted or masterfully interpreted, poorly executed or expertly executed, a difficult excellent score or a difficult doubtful score? If you’ve always loved it you have obviously enjoyed it on previous occasions but this seems to have been a discordant experience. As an art work music is ephemeral so it would seem obvious that some renditions would be lesser than others. Did all listeners leave in mass or did some stay and enjoy the piece? I wonder why you feel it necessary to call your experience ‘aesthetic pain’? Are you suggesting it was pleasuarable pain or are you calling it aesthetic because you think you should have gained pleasure from it?
You ask interesting questions -- not the usual obvious ones -- I admire your style of inquiry. I'd be interested in knowing what you're discovering and what conclusions you reach. Although music is "my thing", my husband is both a musical and visual artist, so he's also interested in your research.
The aesthetic pain I experienced was like a dozen screech owls screaming at volume 10 inside my head. The cause was hearing a musical work I loved, and still do, being so badly butchered that it was too painful to listen to. Yet, interestingly, no one else in the room heard the problem. Later at home, I asked my husband to listen to my 1932 recording of that same marvelous work, a brilliant performance (the best I've ever heard) of it, and my husband did clearly hear the difference and understood why I'd had to leave the room earlier that evening.
This hypersensitivity to music is a reflexive reaction, it can be positive or negative, it's not learned, and it's not something easily controlled. It's just the way I'm wired. And I've read about other music lovers who seem to share a similar peculiarity.
For example, a couple of years ago I was exploring music on the internet and heard a traditional music sound so unique and exquisite that, for the first time in all my life, I had a kind of petit mal seizure and fell right down to the floor. Later that week, researching this unique style of music, I found an article by an ethnomusicologist describing his first hearing of it "like a lemon spike being driven into my brain". It was for him, as it was for me, an extremely pleasurable experience. There must really be something special about this particular traditional music, as it's been rapidly gaining a worldwide following like someone just introduced the taste of chocolate to the traditional music world.
The history of the "very bad" concerto recording was interesting to me. I read (later) that the conductor (Von Karajan) of the orchestra in this "godawful" version of the concerto, while famous and extremely prolific (there was no work of classical music too great a challenge for his ego), had developed a bad reputation among world-class musicians, the artists who actually play the instruments. Interestingly, reviews from music critics were divided, and for that I have no explanation -- some described him as brilliant?
The particular bad performance I heard was nicknamed, by musicians, "the conflicting concerto" because the very gifted solo pianist, Stanislav Richter, was "duking it out" with conductor Von Karajan's orchestra all the way through. I did later get this recording off Youtube, and listened to it in small increments (as much as I could stand at one sitting), and I could hear Van Karajan with his orchestra and Richter on the piano fighting for control, adjusting and readjusting the tempo, the dynamics, just stepping all over each other. Since the concerto (solo artist plus orchestra) traditionally yields to the solo artist's interpretation (particularly one of Richter's caliber), Von Karajan's conducting was, IMO, inexcusable.
On the other hand, I have brilliant recordings of concertos where the orchestra conductor not only respects but seems able to really "get" the solo artist's feel for the work, to understand what the solo artist is hearing, where he is going -- and the orchestra conductor is then able to combine his orchestra with the solo artist in a nearly perfect interwoven tapestry of music, and oh my god, tears are coming to my eyes right now as I recall one of those pieces. That, IMO, represents the pinnacle of great conducting.
Von Karajan had, and still has posthumously, a large cultish fan base who consider him "the greatest conductor who ever lived". But when I read their accolades to better understand why they liked this guy, they mostly described his striking Teutonic appearance, his grandstanding antics on the podium, his "flying hair" and "violently waving arms" and "screaming at the orchestra" and "sweat pouring down his face" and other signs of his "obvious passion", etc. -- I'm not convinced that all of his fans were really hearing the music, or had ever heard another conductor's interpretation. But I could be wrong. Maybe it's just a personal preference thing, eh?
Can't really answer questions about opera -- I'm so unfamiliar with that genre. I've read, as I'm sure you have, about the natural talent, extensive training and sacrifices required to "make it" in the world of opera. I know one amateur opera tenor who can readily hear the finesse in performances that all sound the same to me -- but once he describes the differences to me, and I listen carefully, sometimes I kind-of understand what he's hearing.
I tend to give weight to the artistic judgments of people who are artists themselves -- I've noticed that they seem more in agreement with each other about the quality and merit of a performance, whereas professional critics are so often divided, and while some seem to have a gifted ear, others seem to be either competing with each other or cronying up to some sycophant or playing some other kind of ego power game, have you noticed?
Well, enough blabbering from me. Please post some of your findings and opinions, and not just from the world of music. rebecca