What would you sacrifice for a good performance?

August 20, 2008 at 03:39 PM · When I play a concert, a musicians union steward makes sure we have proper breaks and that the rehearsal does not exceed the agreed time. In Beijing, performers don't have unions and rules. They endured some extreme hardship in achieving the perfection and synchronicity that they displayed in the Olympic opening ceremonies.

Is it worth it?

Replies (84)

August 20, 2008 at 03:52 PM · I don't know how to imagine what it is like to come from a country like China, or somewhere in the middle east where women wear a veil... I've met people who both loved and hated their customs. It's a totally different mindset, and I've decided not to judge country or person.

Could I withstand what the Chinese have in the Olympics, if it meant a perfect performance?


August 20, 2008 at 04:05 PM · I feel quite sorry for them. I could nto endure a 16 hour a day rehearsal. Maybe they went a bit too far.

I am a little annoyed about the faking with the special effects and the singer. I heard about those before, but I didnt know whether they were true or not.

Did anyone also notice that some of the gymnasts look like they're 12 or 13?

August 20, 2008 at 04:08 PM · Could I withstand it? Probably.

Would I want to? No-way. Not worth it.

August 20, 2008 at 04:09 PM · Brian,

1/2 of the Chinese womens gymnasts--looked more like 8 or 9 yo....15-16? No way. That is the beauty of an authoritarian government, you can cover up anything that shows your system for what it is--and have control of all the records and evidence and you do what you want....as shown by the paralyzed dancer, the faked cute kid singer etc etc.

August 20, 2008 at 04:35 PM · And in some ways we are too lax over here. When I played in a professional orchestra the conductor had apoplexy if we were nearing the union end time for rehearsal and we weren't wuite there yet.

August 20, 2008 at 04:44 PM · I find it amusing when a soloist or conductor fusses about orchestra rehearsal time. It is not like THEY get paid scale minimum...

August 20, 2008 at 06:15 PM · Beats throwin' red-hot slag all day.

August 20, 2008 at 05:21 PM · Wow, Marc. I didn't think that they could actually do that....but wow. But they can get away with it. It's kind of sad that that girl who tied wit Nastia on the uneven bars is probably only 12.

August 20, 2008 at 05:54 PM · A Chinese friend of mine recently related stories of growing up in Beijing. All the kids in her apartment building played the violin and not one of them chose it for themselves, but were forced into it by their parents. They had to practice 6, 7, 8 hours a day, and their parents actually beat them if they played out of tune or were too "lazy" to practice--my friend said they would always hear the crying of some little kid who didn't play well enough and as a result was getting whacked.

Pardon the cultural insensitivity here, but how much more of a twisted, nightmarish perversion of the art can you imagine? Taking music, that most free and sublime of human endeavours, and turning it into some sort of abusive child slavery, is among the most disturbing things I can imagine.

August 20, 2008 at 07:21 PM · Ms. Gerety, that is one of the most saddening things I have ever heard. I believe that music has to be something you enjoy and want to do yourself, if you want to succeed.

I have sincere condolences extended to all of those families.

August 20, 2008 at 07:19 PM · Just before the Olympics started, there was a fascinating yet very disturbing programme broadcast on BBC TV here about a famous Chinese circus school, where kids went to learn acrobatics/gymnastics etc with the hope of eventually becoming a member of the acclaimed Chinese National Circus troupes.

It was quite horrific to see the pressure these young children were under. One little lad of about 11 or 12 for example being verbally and physically abused by the teachers because he had dared to eat sweets and normal favourite food when he was at home and came back to school a few pounds overweight. After having a really vicious telling off from the staff with lots of insults etc - his gym teacher made him stand on his head for half an hour or so after class as a punishment while other students were cleaning the floor around him... the sweat and tears were pouring down his face but she wouldn't let him get up... All the time she continued to pour abuse at him about how he was lazy, unworthy of being his parents' child etc etc. It was horrendous and heartbreaking to watch. In any civilised country it would be classed as child abuse - nothing less.

There were many similar scenes, including footage of some of the horrendous injuries these children suffer whilst doing highly complex acrobatic/gymnastic routines - and also some revealing insight into the crippling pain former acrobats were now suffering following the end of their careers, all caused by the brutal regime they had encountered.

I think the saddest and most depressing thing about the whole programme as it followed the daily lives of these children at this so-called "elite school" was that not once did you see a child smile or laugh, either alone or with their friends. It was so noticeable that it stood out a mile - you know how kids are, they always find something to giggle or laugh about - whereever in the world they are - but here - no laughter, no smiling, no happiness. It was really upsetting to watch... I wouldn't want to work in a culture like that.

Revealing articles about the performers in Beijing, sadly not surprising.

August 20, 2008 at 07:34 PM · Laurie,

You're asking the wrong question, and perhaps feeding our obsession with perfection. While musicians should strive for technical excellence, their performance should be concerned with

musicality, communication, and gesture.

This whole obsession with perfection and who's #1 is unmusical.

August 21, 2008 at 08:22 PM · Apparently the Chinese, both culturally and by government fiat, are willing to sacrifice the health, well-being, and sanity of their children and fellow-citizens to achieve the goals they've determined to be of importance.

Whether or not we agree with them, I'd say we'd better be aware and wary of their discipline and ruthless mindset. This tendency certainly applies to a lot more than music and circuses.

August 21, 2008 at 09:00 PM · Yes, but many of us are willing to practice 4-6 hours a day to achieve perfection on the violin. That's pretty intense. Not as intense as, say, never taking a bathroom break, but still more intense than your average professional in your average profession.

August 22, 2008 at 03:24 AM · Well, I just logged another day that started at 5 a.m. and is about to end at 11:30 p.m. It's my version of the olympics. Today, I think I earned maybe a gold medal for completing loan paperwork for about 50 school owned violins and violas; sadly, I probably disqualified in the practice preliminaries, as I had to ignore my violin to spend 4 hours on lesson plans and music to bail the 4th grade teachers out of a PTA program.

Teacher unions are illegal in Georgia, so work conditions reflect that. The freelance orchestras here, even those with AFM contracts, have pay scales much lower than farther north, as we are also a right-to-work state.

August 22, 2008 at 05:53 AM · There is a signficant difference in demanding a sacrifice form others and the willingness to give of yourself. In my experiences in life, there are those who ask (or expect) a sacrifice but are not sharing the cost; there are others who do share the cost. The second group I respect, but the first I do not.

There are some things for which I would endure significant hardship; even to the point the Chinese endured.

Music, unfortunately, does not reward me to the level that would would validate that hardship. Maybe, if I practice..... but that is not hardship, that is release!

August 22, 2008 at 07:07 AM · "4-6 hours a day ...more intense than your average professional in your average profession. "

In more occupations than I suspect you realize, you're risking life or limb 8 hours a day. One time on your site when the violin teachers were complaining about not being called "Mr." I suggested they take up coal mining. I respect the teachers' knowledge and what they can do for you, but really....

Just about every factory worker is in constant danger of losing a finger or a hand, or getting crushed. I've taken a lot of wierd jobs on a temporary basis, and one time in a large book factory I got my right hand timed wrong in a machine that compresses pages in books, and it got compressed. I didn't want to jeopardize the job, so I didn't report it, but it was at the end of a shift, so I got a cup full of snow from outside and kept it in snow all day instead of going to bed. It stung for a couple of days but it was ok. I worked in another place where we threw pallets on a conveyor. One day the foreman called us all together and said on the previous shift a guy had gotten his finger caught in the chain on the conveyor and lost a finger. He said he didn't want to see somebody else looking at his hand and screaming "It's gone! It's gone!" Back at the book factory, a guy had gotten a finger cut off by a book trimming machine and re-attached three times. He said "It's a little bit numb now." The son of a friend of mine got crushed in an industrial trash compactor when the button got hit while he was in it. One guy I went to H.S. with was killed in a coal mine, and probably a few others that I don't know about were too. And those people in China, all of them work hard at dangerous jobs.

This particular "professional" thing you're wondering about is a damn cakewalk through the tulips. You can't be serious. Always avoid elitism in your thinking. I've seen things you wrote that tell me you're a lot smarter than that.

August 22, 2008 at 06:03 AM · Jim, you know what you are talking about. I have spent time in furniture shops, on job sites, etc. and even when you work safely, there is risk. for 8 hours a day (or more) there are things you are working closely with that are much tougher than you. Even if there are no accidents, the little things like muscle cramps, splinters, pinched fingers, etc. are just part of that job for some people every day. I now ride a desk, and play for myself and the pets.

I do however understand the musicians that have a hard time understanding how the pressure and pain aare used to force the music. that is why I classify those that share the pain and those that don't. If someone wants me to go the extra distance, but the don't also commit themselves as much as they ask me to commit, they will not have my respect.

August 22, 2008 at 07:08 AM · One time I met "Robert Jr." Lockwood, the only student of Robert Johnson. He was eighty-something. I asked "How did you live so long?" He said "I never worked in a factory." :)

August 22, 2008 at 09:39 AM · What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


August 22, 2008 at 10:20 AM · Scientists, especially at elite universities, tend to have a similar mindset. They like to think that science is harder and more demanding than other professions, and that that makes its practitioners special. I find this mindset a little tiresome.

Although I don't have any life-threatening health problems, I've never been physically or mentally very strong, even when I was younger; I've always needed a lot of sleep, regular meals, and I get sick easily if I don't take care of myself and/or if I overdo it in any number of ways. I've had to learn my limits the hard way. They're real and they don't go away by just by wishful thinking. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I suppose, except when it kills you.

I've stopped admiring hard work and sacrifice in and of themselves. I think everything depends on what that hard work and sacrifice are put in the service of. I admire it in the context of putting food on the table for oneself and one's family, in saving lives, in defending one's country, in serving other people, in raising children to be good citizens, in nurturing and preserving good human relationships. But, beyond what I consider reasonable limits, I don't particularly admire it in the service of abstract ideals like beauty or perfection.

I didn't watch the opening ceremonies; and reading about the kind of behavior that made them possible makes me glad I didn't.

August 22, 2008 at 11:28 AM · Sorry folks.. but I find the ignorance, arrogance, predjudices, and hypocrasy displayed here to be utterly appalling. I would not know where or how to begin to illuminate, nor how to find the time.

Were any of you actually at the rehearsals, and can speak of fact? Or, are you espousing your views upon media and hearsay? In case you are unawares, even your own courts do not judge upon hearsay.

Are you so self-centred to think yours is the ONLY profession that demands excellence and dedication. Have you heard of medical practitioners? Or rescue teams in emergencies?

Chinese are brutality incarnate? What about those who gave their lives for their children recently during one of the world's worst ever earthquakes? Or the soldiers who died trying.

Chinese the world over raised nearly $2billion for aid to quake victims. Most came from within China, where per capita incomes are very low, and the contributions therefore very high. What did you give? Did you give anything to your own victims of hurricanes, etc?



August 22, 2008 at 11:45 AM · Take it easy, Ron. Did you actually read the thread before you responded? Jim made the point that many other professions require hard work and sacrifice, above and beyond music. One of my points was that I sometimes see a similar misguided sense of "specialness" among scientists (my profession); unfortunately such an attitude is not unique to musicians or any other profession.

I don't know where you got "Chinese are brutality incarnate," but your post is the first where that concept appears.

And this thread isn't (or wasn't) about earthquake victims. What do you expect to accomplish on their behalf with that post? Your profile says you're from Shanghai, so if this is important enough to you to warrant a thread on violinist.com, why don't you start one that educates people about this tragedy?

August 22, 2008 at 12:03 PM · Thanks, Karen, for that post. I totally agree.

Yes, Mr. Gorthuis, I have no idea where that "brutally incarnate" quote came from. As someone who posted on this thread with concerns about the hurt and exhausted people in China, I feel a bit offended. I would NEVER call Chinese brutally incarnate. That is stepping over the line. And I am sure that the rest of the posters on this thread also have self restraint and maturity enough not to say those things. I am not a hypocrite, nor am I arrogant, nor am I prejudiced (three names you called us in your post). Ignorant, maybe we are, as the most of us are living here, in the US, not in China, where all of these unfortunate events have happened. Please do not accuse us of being bad people if you haven't studied the whole thread, as we have done.

I am sorry for being so rude, as I am only a child, but I felt like I had to speak my mind. Forgive me.

August 22, 2008 at 01:29 PM · "I don't particularly admire it in the service of abstract ideals like beauty or perfection. "

I never heard of anybody admiring hard work for its own sake. Except maybe the Quakers... But it's interesting that nothing will make you feel better than hard physical labor, as long as you keep your fingers and toes. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of that kind of work here anymore. It all went to China :) This doesn't have anytbing to do with the topic either, but about 1974 you could just about raise a family and have a good life on the national minimum wage. It was carefree times.

In Ron's defense, he didn't put that phrase in quotes. He was responding to the tone - suggestions the Chinese are ruthless and sacrificing their kids. People themselves are the same everywhere. If they're doing different from the way you do it, you can figure out why.

August 22, 2008 at 02:15 PM · While I have never lived in a communist country, I suspect I prefer my average but free life.

August 22, 2008 at 03:06 PM · hello, hope everyone has had a great summer like bush who seemed to have had a real good time, with some genuine laughs, for a change, in china. i must report that my kids have put me through some serious, close to total slavery this summer. it is too painful to tell. exhausting but quite satisfying nonetheless. i did not get to do all i wanted to do in this land for the free, ala sitting in front of a TV holding a cold one; for the common good of being a parent, yeah, i was forced to accept that a man with a pocketbook has to do what a man has to do, something brian the budding violinist/philosopher/humanitarian may get to get a glimpse of after perhaps 3000 more summer camps where not only will he become a better player but hopefully an individual with a bigger capacity to accept, to understand and to think critically and independently...he, along with other opinionated adults on on crusade of save- the -young- violinist-if-not-the-world may realize that what some chinese families put their kids through, entire screaming building or not, is not unlike his own mother insisting...you are not practicing enough, that being good is simply not good enough. same dish just cooked with different spices.

so, we are back to square one,,,violinists in their practice hours tippytoeing toward china the blackhole...so mysterious, so inviting yet so difficult to understand yet so easy to render an opinion onto...

perhaps one way to get a more reliable assessment is to do what ron did...live there and tell the tale. perhaps the second best way, possibly the worst way, is to jump on the bandwagon called western media, aka other people's opinions or agenda. did you really believe saddam had WMD when bush was told to say so during your walmart visit? did i digress?

you know, with the proceeds from all those $9.99 violins sold on ebay, i must say the money is put to good use for the opening ceremony which in my singular opinion was quite awesome. you see i was looking for entertainment and entertainment only, like my fellow americans, unlike smart people on this site. for that moment, i blinded myself and wanted to forget all the underage laborers in both china and the west, the asian kids in julliard who play until their fingertips get bloody, the chinese kids who think they must excel or they will let down a nation, the jewish kids in russia who practiced to avoid getting belt-buckled...brian, what is your sob story on that?

i even forgot about pavarotti's lip syncing in his last concert. i swept all human right issues all over the world, including china and the USA, under my ottoman, from the strawberry pickers in the USA to tibet people who want independence because their leaders in india has told them so. heck with them! this is my hour! i want entertainment!

oh brian, i saw your regurg on the chinese infant gymnast. type in "bone age" on google and read up another way to assess a person's chronological age, when everyone seems to be a CIA age-profiler, something your pediatrician would do. and the romanian couple on NBC were, in a nut shell, nuts. whatever you do, don't complain AFTER you lose. bad, bad form. and calling others "half persons" is not wise when you yourself have trained a 14 yo years ago to wow the world.

oh, to get back to laurie's question in my own way. if i were to put in charge of directing the ceremony, would i have agreed to giving diapers to the ocean of performers? yes, you can bet your warm groin i will! if i were a perfomer, would i have complained one way or another it is hard work? hell yeah!

would i have demanded precision at all cost as a director? yes, yes, yes! because the whole show is about precision. If i were an orchestra conductor, i would do the same, something apparently some musicians find it hard to understand:). i guess it all comes down to your position and perspective, right?

did you catch the women 10m diving final last night? how about that final clutch dive to catch the gold? beyond entertainment, there are lessons: as violinists, how to perform your very very best under pressure while avoiding unnecessary splash.

your job is to figure out how to perfect (sorry, wrong word for those who have set your eyes on the bronze) your craft. do what you know and do it well and leave the rest to others.

good day!

August 22, 2008 at 03:07 PM · Well al,

As far as the age of the gymnasts goes...there were complaints written up months before the games (if you were paying attention), there was also an article in the NYTimes....there has been official Chinese gov't paperwork online found (substantiaing the claims) and quickly deleted both in the last 72 hours, and there has been an investigation by the IOC launched into the matter.

August 22, 2008 at 03:21 PM · true. what is the current verdict from IOC then?

you see, this world is not black and white. in fact, rarely ever. all shades of gray.

who has the final say? IOC.

what is the latest from IOC? no problem.

you see the game is controlled by IOC with influence from china. i think it sucks, but among millions of things i think suck even bigger time.

what shall we on v.com do about it? feed into the unknowns? you have time for that and you think you will go places with that?

to digress on something i have touched on: i was lead to believe by bush that saddam has wmd apparently with convicing evidence. and there were also conflicting reports back then. so?

a better way to resolve these conflicts is for you violin players to play harder and put some clips on youtube for my enjoyment. the rest is just noise not worthy of our time. do you agree?

August 22, 2008 at 03:20 PM · The current verdict from the IOC-is that they are investigating. So that would be neither black nor white.

Considering any cover-up would involve the Chinese gov't it is unlikely it will find anything, but there you go. Knowing the lengths the Chinese gov't went to to try and put whitewash over all their less than clean walls (literally and metaphorically)-it is not beyond possibility.

August 22, 2008 at 03:23 PM · "IOC-is that they are investigating"

the last i heard is that they are done with their lightening fast investigation. you need to read news more and watch the olympics less:)

August 22, 2008 at 03:30 PM · That is as of this morning watching the BBC feeds....BTW-remember that in the US we only get TV coverage starting at 7PM at night, and all video feeds online are verboten or cut off?? ;>)

The latest I have....


August 22, 2008 at 04:34 PM · Actually, I WAS talking about elite performance. That was the whole point of this thread.

I suppose you could say, "Yeah, I can run, too. Being an Olympic marathon runner is a jog through the daisies compared with working in a slaughterhouse," and you would be right, on some weird level.

I realize that there are dangerous and difficult professions in which people risk their lives. Also, I realize there are odious, time-consuming, soul-sucking, exhausting jobs. I've never worked as a manual laborer, but I have fried fries at McDonald's eight hours a day for an entire summer, I have worked as a newspaper reporter, as a telemarketer, waitress; it's a long list. Physically and mentally exhausting stuff that makes you collapse at the end of the day.

So I'm not saying musicians have it worse than other workers or professionals. But you don't have to practice 4-6 hours a day, on top of whatever else you are doing to survive, for 20 years to be a manual laborer.

I'm not even talking about most musicians, even most professionals. I'm talking about elite performance in any field, be it a country producing an Olympic opening ceremony, or a violin soloist on a world tour, or an Olympic athlete training for a gold medal, etc. What would you do to achieve an elite performance?

Most people can push a performance, with a lot of hard work, up to about 90-99 percent. But the last 1 percent, the elite level, takes exponential amounts of work and sacrifice. Some people get to 99 percent, and when they see what it will take to get all the way to 100, they say, "No, I want a life." Or maybe they say, "No, I won't abuse these performers."

August 22, 2008 at 05:53 PM · "What would you do to achieve an elite performance?"

i think that is a good and fair question...what can we do to reach our own peak performance regardless of a standard or others' standard?

on one hand, it is tough to imagine training phelps to be a gymnast and for that matter shawn johnson to be a world class swimmmer. sure, one percent insipration and 99% perspiration, but in some cases, with elite performance at the highest level, that one percent of inspiration, consisting of natural born attributes, is MORE important than the 99% perspiration. similarly, to reach a world class violin soloist level, that 1% inspiration is also much more important than all the sweat and tear and joy you can muster. born talent first, and then hard work and luck. luck is very very important. the swimming god handed phelps 2 extra gold medals his time.

with the rest of us, it is really about sweating and focusing and believing ourselves while fighting against the odds. if we can maintain a sense of balance and extract some joy out of the journey, all the better. we are the awkward phelps on the gym floor but there is no turning back. with determination and sweat, we can go very far and perhaps to reach that world class elite level set by others is not that important after all.

August 22, 2008 at 06:14 PM · Laurie, in a job where a slip will get you messed up bad, you'd better get elite.

But my point really was the people enduring the hardship of creating that fine opening ceremony had it real nice compared to the people who make the jeans you buy at Walmart. I'm wondering how you can even think of this as hardship. Actually, you called it "extreme hardship." I call it a vacation from making jeans :)

August 22, 2008 at 06:13 PM · Welcome back, Al Ku.

August 22, 2008 at 06:24 PM · That there fry grease is pretty gnarly, too. I was definitely an elite fry fryer, then. That is except for the one time I burned myself with the grease, but fortunately it was just a splash.

August 22, 2008 at 06:54 PM · And furthermore - :)

When you begin to think what you're about is just so artistic and special, then you thumb your nose at humanity. I know you like Rostropovich. Look at him closely and figure out who he's playing to.

August 22, 2008 at 06:34 PM · "it's interesting that nothing will make you feel better than hard physical labor, as long as you keep your fingers and toes"

Boy oh boy, do I disagree. Try doing a twelve-hour waitress shift with no breaks for $2.11 an hour. You don't feel good after that. You feel exhausted and exploited and a little bit hopeless.

August 22, 2008 at 06:38 PM · "but about 1974 you could just about raise a family and have a good life on the national minimum wage"

Which country were you living in??? My mother made the minimum wage in 1974 and had to accept bags of donated clothes because she couldn't afford to take my sister and me shopping for school. We couldn't afford an air conditioner. She re-used aluminum foil. Good life, my patootie!

August 22, 2008 at 06:49 PM · Shailee - that's hard but it's not real physical. Throw red-hot slag for eight hours, and you sleep like a rock. Then you pop up in the morning and your lungs fill with air like never before and you run down there and say let me do it some more!


Regarding the other thing, I was a young adult in '74. I had a 1 bdrm. in Gatlinburg, Tn. that was $65 a month (free air con.).

August 22, 2008 at 06:54 PM · Ron,

I believe that most Chinese truly want a good future for their children and I'm very respectful of that. I just think it's terribly misguided if/when it causes suffering in the present. I recently read about pianist Lang Lang and his father, who told Lang it would be better for him to jump from his apartment balcony than not be accepted to the conservatory; he apologized profusely when he realized how disturbed Lang (who was punching a wall) was. It doesn't seem like something he is proud of today.

I think there are elements of some cultures that create the environment for this: do as you are told, speak when spoken to, you do not dishonor your family, etc. Naturally, some individuals apply these ideas more liberally and others to an extreme, but they can nevertheless be deeply ingrained in a collective psyche and should not be treated flippantly.

I also believe that when some people refer to 'the Chinese,' what they really mean is the Chinese government.

August 22, 2008 at 06:50 PM · As for the original question, what to give up for an elite performance (not that this would apply to me but I'll answer it anyway)---I think I wouldn't mind the long hours, but I would draw the line at wearing diapers and working until I keeled over with heat exhaustion.

Anyway, haven't there been studies that show that creativity and productivity decline with exhaustion? I always wonder about that with doctors---I know I would never want to be treated by a doctor on his 35th hour of a 36 hour shift. It seems dangerous to me.

August 22, 2008 at 07:17 PM · Jim,

You might be interested in this analysis of the history of the federal minimum wage from Oregon State professor emeritus Court Smith. I don't take everything I read as gospel, but is it possible your glasses are a little rosy?



Pavarotti was quite ill with pancreatic cancer (also, I don't think they could have put his face with someone else's voice and tried not to disclose it -- somebody would have figured it out -- but correct me if I am wrong). The little girl just wasn't good-looking enough. I'm not going to draw a conclusion from that; come to your own.

August 22, 2008 at 07:10 PM · "Throw red-hot slag for eight hours, and you sleep like a rock. Then you pop up in the morning and your lungs fill with air like never before and you run down there and say let me do it some more!"

And then about 20 years later you walk around with an oxygen tank because you've developed emphysema or black lung disease. What doesn't kill you *doesn't* always make you stronger.

August 22, 2008 at 07:12 PM · Just because you are playing at an elite level doesn't mean you thumb your nose at humanity, that is not what I said. But it usually does involve a lot of sacrifice and a pretty tortured lifestyle.

August 23, 2008 at 12:41 AM · Jim Miller, did you get a job throwing red hot slag this summer? How was it?

August 22, 2008 at 08:28 PM · Emily Grossman, no but I'm tempted.

Nicole, I don't need to read about it - I was there.

Laurie, the pain of the sacrifice doesn't compare to the pain of throwing red-hot slag.

Now, playing at an elite level is fine. You want to do that just like I want to throw my red-hot slag elitely so we don't catch something on fire. But if you begin to think your elite is more elite than my elite, your pains are worse than mine, you need to have a consultation with Mr. Rostropovich to get your feet back on the ground. Mister, Comrade, whatever he likes.

August 22, 2008 at 08:28 PM · Jim,

Sorry, I won't try to confuse you with mathematical evidence again!

August 22, 2008 at 08:59 PM · Isn't the main point about freedom? I would rather be average by choice than elite by force.

August 22, 2008 at 09:02 PM · I'm tempted to look at it, but just to see where he went wrong.

August 22, 2008 at 09:04 PM · Mr. Miller--yes, we get it, we artists and musicians are whiny, irrelevant pansies born with silver spoons in our mouths, who don't know the meaning of hard work or sacrifice or, dare I speak the word, suffering. Everything's just so damn EASY for us!

Do me a favor, and next time you feel the urge to start ranting about how irrelevant and decadent musicians are, try imagining a world without us. No music. No art. No literature. Not even anything for the hardworking laborers to relax by listening to at the end of a long day.

The workers make life possible, the artists make life LIFE.

August 22, 2008 at 10:21 PM · So, how are you makin' life LIFE these days?

You know, I didn't say anything bad about musicians, except that I did imply they're no more important than the people who grow your food and make your clothes :)

August 22, 2008 at 09:38 PM · It's these heated discussions that make violinist.com so awesome.

Who says musicians don't have lives? :-D

Let's all pop a beer and discuss this humanely. Hehe.

August 22, 2008 at 10:16 PM · Welcome back to the US, Mara ;>)

August 22, 2008 at 11:08 PM · I think it was the book factory, there was this woman, seems like more than one, but I remember one in particular, several times I overheard her talking about Disney World. The plan was to save up enough to take the kids to Disney World. Not every year or every other year but just one time. Some of them make Rosie the Riveter seem like one of the Olsens. Unless they've known you for a long time, you get on their bad side for just one second and you don't exist anymore.

August 23, 2008 at 12:42 AM · I think you should get a job throwing red hot slag. I don't even know what that is, or why you would throw it, but it sure sounds fun.

August 23, 2008 at 12:51 AM · ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Sounds like a rube comment -


I mean Jim's comment........

Jim WOULD make a GREAT slag thrower !

August 23, 2008 at 12:50 AM · Jim, what at the end of all this is your POINT?

August 23, 2008 at 12:59 AM · The Point is Clear:

Jim is a mal-content and ne'er-do-well !

August 23, 2008 at 01:02 AM · I dunno about slag throwing....Usually if you have to ask-the answer is no.

I DO know that I have a very tasty microbrewed ale, in front of me though (<:

August 23, 2008 at 01:30 AM · got any nice Czech beer, Marc?

August 23, 2008 at 01:32 AM · Well Mara,

I have to say, the only Czech beers I liked were the dark ones--all the others tasted a tad watery. I actually, unintentionally, had a full liter dark beer before a show in Prague once--and didn't b0rk the show at all (Tchaik Serenade)--although I did have a good time I must say ;>)

...I might be able to hook you up with a Scottish ale or a nice wheaty Spaten Optimator though--that'll put yer lights out.

August 23, 2008 at 03:31 AM · "The Point is Clear:

Jim is a mal-content and ne'er-do-well ! "

If I was, nobody could blame me for it.

I don't know what it is either, Emily. Sounds like hard work though.

"I've been working at Pittsburgh steel, I thought you knowed

I've been a dumpin' that red-hot slag, way down the road"

I guess technically you dump it, not throw it.

August 23, 2008 at 03:31 AM · Jim,

Do you need a good beer--or have you been enjoying one already? :D

August 23, 2008 at 06:27 AM · Some people are Pittsburgh steelers, some people are Emily Steele. Gonna have me a glass of wine, if you don't mind.

August 23, 2008 at 08:26 AM · Ever more ignorance. To those who seek to accuse me, please note I am not the instigator, but simply a responder.

To Annette and others who have made comments and insinuations about forced labours and freedoms. For the record, the "labourers" in the Olympic games were Volunteers. All were informed prior to joining they would face arduous and long days ahead. The fact they endured and excelled, when others likely would have quit, is testament to their inner strength.

For me, the opening ceremonies may never be surpassed. The show was simply spectacular, and made all the more awesome when the human component and comittment are considered. I doubt seriously any other goup of people on the planet could accomplish this now or in future.

To criticise the Chinese for their hard work, and to imply such is forced, is to display openly one's ignorance and predjudices.

August 23, 2008 at 04:44 PM · "Al,

Pavarotti was quite ill with pancreatic cancer (also, I don't think they could have put his face with someone else's voice and tried not to disclose it -- somebody would have figured it out -- but correct me if I am wrong). The little girl just wasn't good-looking enough. I'm not going to draw a conclusion from that; come to your own. "

as a kid, i used to get stopped by state troopers often during long drives (ok, some short ones, too. ok, about half and half). thinking about it, i kinda regret never once had i thought of asking: i know i drove too fast, officer, sorry about it. just curious,,,what excuse should i use next time so that i may get some courtesy?

it is strange that knowing what has happened with the chinese little girls, it is not difficult for me to understand how people in power in china would pull something like that.

what i don't understand still is the pavoratti incident. no matter how i slice it, i simply do not understand it. someone of his statue, at the end of his glorious career, already sick with cancer, would be willing or willing to be pushed into public misdirection of such magnitude. things that make i go, hmmm.

August 23, 2008 at 08:44 PM · You won't understand the Pavarotti incident the way you're thinking. Would you honestly think it does him or anything else any harm? Might he not have just been giving past the point where he could actually do it? Or maybe driven to perform, like performers are, and that's what it took?

Anyway, here's quite a thoughtful and able version I discoved of the red-hot slag song :)


August 23, 2008 at 11:09 PM · "You won't understand the Pavarotti incident the way you're thinking."


Can you understand it Jim ?

Can you ?

August 23, 2008 at 11:30 PM · Yep. I reckon I can.

August 23, 2008 at 11:39 PM · Ron-

Are you telling me that all those thousands of people practiced and performed by choice? Judging from what I know of China (which could be precious little), I wasn't aware that the people of China enjoyed such freedoms. I see that you live in China so you would be more likely to know. If so, my sincerest appologies.

August 24, 2008 at 12:11 AM · This right here is elite slag-throwing, people. Not to disenfranchise or offend those who throw different kinds of slag. Because they are elite in their own way. We're ALL elite in our own way, right? And above average.

Is anyone's head spinning?

August 24, 2008 at 12:18 AM · My head is spinning...clockwise---if anyone's head is spinning anticlockwise, I think then together we might be sober.

That being said, I think I need a drink....

August 24, 2008 at 12:34 AM · And good-lookin' too.


"We're ALL elite in our own way, right? And above average. "

You got it! Oops, the competition is starting up again already....

August 24, 2008 at 12:37 AM · Oh dear, what have we done to Marc? Methinks I shouldn't have mentioned Czech beer...

(Also, is anyone else amused by the phrase "We're all elite in our own way"? Not to split hairs, but if everyone is elite, doesn't that kind of take the meaning straight out of the term?)

August 24, 2008 at 01:17 AM · "is anyone else amused by the phrase "We're all elite in our own way"?"

How many particles make up your body? How many stars in the universe were those particles expelled from? Same as everybody elses' bodies. If you can figure out how it happened, they'll call you elite. In the world of scientists competing to be elite that means a lot, but that's just their thing, their invention. It's not the real, significant thing :)

Plus - if you don't know anything about how that happened, then to the scientists you're a zero. But we know you're in fact elite, maybe because you never do set the building on fire when you throw slag, or maybe you're a red-hot violin player :)

August 24, 2008 at 01:02 AM · mmm...slag-throwing...doesn't sound very lady-like. Perhaps it is time for me to bow out as I believe my head IS spinning and I am feeling rather dizzy.

August 24, 2008 at 01:15 AM · Pssssssssss-Mara, if you ever want a way to make Paganini caprices (or standard concerti) more "fun", try them after having a strong Deutchesbier (and a very light diner). :D HTH HTH HTH.

August 24, 2008 at 01:23 AM · uh, OK, NOW my head is spinning as well. Jim, maybe I'm just not elite enough, but I have no idea what your point is.

Plzensko Pivo for everyone!!!

August 24, 2008 at 03:20 AM · To Anne and others....

Keeping this in the context of violins and music, you may be surprised to know that the students at the conservatories are there by choice and talents. The studies are far more rigorous than elsewhere, but at no time have I heard stores about beatings or forced studies. With visiting foreign masters augmenting the studies, the emerging results are remarkable. Entry is by adjudication: some 1 million applicants per year for violin studies at the Shanghai Conservatory, with only 10 or fewer admitted. Thus, parents and students consider themselves honoured to be chosen.

August 29, 2008 at 12:02 AM · so, how does the entire orchestra do it (or not do it)? i mean, how can violinists pretend playing without making a sound?


August 29, 2008 at 12:09 AM · Violins playing without making sound is a highly refined skill sometimes. Mainly the fast or high parts....

August 29, 2008 at 01:24 AM · One way is to soap your bow instead of rosin it!

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