Talking to non-violinists about why I don't like pop violinists. (vent)
I haven't seen this talking point, and I need help with it. I have a job in which I end up sharing a bit about my personal life.
"I am a violinist." I Say "I play classical music, but play a lot of bluegrass for money."
Then they make a wild leap and say.
"You must love Lindsey Sterling!" or "Did you see so and so from America's got talent?"
Or David Garret, Vanessa Mae... The 15 notes a second guy from BBC... I accept that these musicians could possibly act as a... gateway drug to the classical world. And if some producer paid me a bunch of money to grow out my sideburns and do cartwheels with an electric cello da spalla I would probably sell out...
I have fought with this question, and quietly bit my lip since childhood. I am an impossible snob when it comes to violin, and music in general. I like tradition, whether that is academic, classical, or folk such as Eastern European, bluegrass, or Irish.
I always squirmed and gagged at whatever PBS special was currently "IT" Celtic Women, Riverdance, Yanni... Overproduced, nontraditional, inane, irritating... "If I see one more shirtless dude pounding a drum, I am going to start strangling baby seals!" I would say. (No harm has come to any animals)
So maybe I am just getting that off my chest and venting... But if you were me and had to have some polite discourse, how would you tell people, politely, that you can't stand any of the people that I mentioned above?
I explain it by analogy: I consider these acts the Taco Bell, Sushi Boy, and Panda Express of the instrumental music world.
I am pleased when any musician makes good money. The mainstream classical world has a surplus of expert players who are not very interesting to watch.
Just tell them there are much better music than Lindsey Sterling, and introduce them to the thing you like, or invite them to your performance!
Placing David Garrett in the same box as the 15-second-fastest-player guy shows ignorance about violin playing in general.
Gabe, they're probably just trying to relate to you, engage in conversation, and show interest by sharing what little they know of violin playing... what they have seen on TV. A friendly gesture, in other words.
I agreed with the previous answers. You can put it nicely like: "I heard about them, but I'm not a big fan of their music"
"When I tell a non-violinist that I'm a violin maker, and they go off about this guy they've heard about named Stradiguarnerius, or start telling me about this valuable fiddle Grandpa used to own, I try to be patient."
Just think how much worse it would be if you played classical guitar or piano. Growing up, you would not believe the number of people who were impressed with my "talent" because I could play the "Linus and Lucy" theme from Charlie Brown TV specials on the piano. Then very quickly the tables were turned, and I had to grudgingly acknowledge the virtuosity of Billy Joel and so on. Now that I teach "alternative" piano (improv in pop and jazz genres, etc.), the shoe is on the other foot again, and it's up to me to explain what made Joel's music work for him and his fans. Besides the phenomenon of rock stardom which is largely intractable, how did he structure his piano solos? What kinds of chords did he use? How did he lay them down?
You could always respond by asking them what it is they like about those performers. It's just conversation fodder anyway. You're not selling your soul to respond graciously.
When you see and hear one of the violinists up on a stage there may be a hidden story. I have one.
Thanks for the replies! I did like the fast food analogy. And The points about not being dismissive. Great ideas for talking to the layperson.
Pop violinists are kind of like cheap Australian Shiraz -- sweet, fruity, designed to be enjoyable for people who are new to wine.
I think that the "art music" distinction versus "popular music" distinction has worsened over time and is one of the reasons that by some measures, classical music is struggling.
I started violin at 13 and was mainly exposed the the pop music of the day before this. A lot of music I would now regard as trite were actually meaningful to me at the time and I can still feel the nostalgia to this day! Nostalgia and association is how most people find meaning in music, even us. I think we have to accept that we are not in control of how people relate to music and that their criteria is not the same as ours.
Conversations with family: -
Yeah, I like MacDonalds, but I average about one a year.
For the record, I enjoy playing Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc pops concerts. It’s a nice change of pace and a different audience.
"I am an impossible snob when it comes to violin, and music in general."
David Garrett is a great violinist. I don’t care for the pop stuff he plays, but that doesn’t take away from how good he is.
Sure, but he is not very good at playing pop stuff (imho)!
Hi! First post and I hope it will make some sense...
Thomas Boyer , you have a lot to learn about Australian wine.
If I had to drink an Australian wine today, it would be a Riesling. On the whole, the tendency is for their red wine to have too much alcohol and too much oak for my taste. But I think I've only drunk one bottle of any wine in the last 10 years (just a generic Pinot Noir), so maybe they've improved their game since then. Otoh, wine is really best from colder climates, and if NZ are wise, they'll stay one step ahead of Oz.
@Andrew Victor - Our paths might have crossed long ago! I also knew Michael Zearott well, 1967-77, in L.A., and was involved in a number of his concerts. He also hired my band, Mariachi Uclatlan, to do a set at the Ojai festival. It raised a few eyebrows, but the mainstream violins and trumpets in the orchestra really liked it. J.Q.-Chico, CA
Ten years ago, I had a buddy who wanted to show me a video since I played violin, and he showed me a video of Vanessa Mae, who I had never seen before. I think I said something like, "man that was really interesting!" and kept it at that.
"I do not judge the violinists of different genres by the standards of classical. And the players of those different genres would have legitimate critiques of classical violinists by their standards, too."
I wonder how many venue managers have already seriously asked HH if she will condescend to perform one of her recital encores whilst hula-hooping.
Have you seen the video where Hahn is imitating Stirling? It's TwoSet's LingLing Challenge for HH. She can play immaculately still.
Or rather... LingLingsey Stirling?
I have a dilemma too.
The problem is, the more "refined" your tastes become (and you can't help that happening with time and increasing experience), the more you'll start to dislike music, players and wine that other people swallow happily. When it comes to music I'm as big a snob as anybody, but I try not to let on. I'm finding it harder and harder to enjoy occasional chamber ensembles that (in my not-so-humble opinion) don't give the attention to balance, blend, phrasing etc that I appreciate in the best permanent groups. But it's not my right to spoil the party so all I have to do stay home and open another bottle of plonk
I've seen Stirling prancercising on Youtube, but I've never seen or heard Mae. I don't feel much need, because in the UK we suffered Myleene Klass who pretended to have studied piano since age 4 and gone to the RCM. Clearly not. Now she's a radio presenter (which is ironic, since her main claim to fame was she had a face for telly - but I'm probably unaware of more than half her career at the moment) and her CV has been changed to went to stage school or something. Can't get worked up about nothing. It only surprises me how popular violin is with these wannabees.
It's hard not to be a snob sometimes, especially when someone takes a piece that really moves you and turns it into a piece of commercial schlock. Okay, so they might make a bundle doing it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I usually do try to be diplomatic in my put-downs, though.
Performers have their audiences, if they didn't they would be unemployed. Yeah, some of them can be annoying if you aren't into their music. Some of us roll our eyes at the thought of Andre Reiu without acknowledging that he has a huge following and pays a lot of musicians who might not have steady work otherwise. And what of our fellow string players who are "on the board" to play in pit orchestras across the USA?
I think it's possible to say you don't like something without being labelled a snob. Like a pop music fan is likely to get away with 'I can't stand classical music. I hate it'.
I think the idea that as a classical musician you get a more and more refined taste is false. The assumption is that you can judge other music by the same criteria you would classical music. If a musician from another tradition did this to classical musicians they would probably say things like, 'there is no groove, square rhythmic articulation, no visceral energy, unexciting performing, no visual effort, too technical', etc. etc... Every music has its value system and it's missing the point to judge one music from the standpoint of another. That's why I raised David Garrett - not wanting to point fingers, but if he is judged by the value system of the genre he is trying to play, then he is failing miserably, despite how technically competent as a violinist he may be.
To judge Stirling on classical standards is nearly like judging Madonna on operatic vocal standards, or Luciano Pavarotti under the dance-pop light.
Somebody sent me a link of a violinist busker who was looping and they were very excited to share it with me, asking what I thought! Put it this way, I would not have bought the guy's music! But, it's a put down to the person if you say 'this guy is pretty average'. Instead, I said 'good energy', which was true enough without putting the guy down because he wasn't the best violinist in the world...
There is a big difference between being selective, having a strong leaning in one direction and being a snob.
Another analogy here could be a wine drinker who has tried beer & doesn't like it. They have a choice between talking condescendingly about beer, or just accepting that it's a matter of taste and preference.
The OP came to the forum asking about
15 nOtEs A sEcOnD?
Xavier Seynave - Great post and great analogies. However, I can confirm talent is pretty much nonexistent. Talent is made through time and honing of skill. People like Mozart didn't have talent - they just had the means and the environment needed for them to become geniuses. And here's a video from a professional violinist (he also co-runs a comedic YT channel called TwoSetViolin) by the name of Eddy Chen:
I really don't like a beer, I am a vegetarian and dislike pop, hip hop and some electronic and strange things I cannot name. I love classical music and jazz, blues rock was my way in life too. I am a strange person for most of the people around. But (I hope) these differences and tries to share something like this stuff with me ended in friendly talk and explanations of points of view.
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