A Quick Word

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism." -Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

09 May 2011

"We have to reflect our times because we live in ugly times."

An excerpt from violinist Joshua Bell's recent interview with Mother Jones, entitled "Joshua Bell's Virtuoso Reality." You can find full interview here.

MJ: My friend, who is a really good violinist, called it [the "Yankee Doodle Variations"] "showy." How many pros could pull it off?
JB: Delivery is everything. Any student could play all of the notes. We like to categorize things into showy things and deep things, you know, and things that are high music—important music—and shallow music. And I think that's dangerous, because there's often a mix of both. For instance, Bruch [Violin Concerto No. 1], the main piece I played, is for me a very profound work. Because it's so lush and so emotional, some people think of it as being corny. They say that about Tchaikovsky's symphonies. If it happens to be popular to the common people, and accessible, it's often thought of as being not great. It's sort of an elitist thing. In art and music, particularly in the 20th century, there was a big period there where for something to be called profound you had to not be able to understand it.
MJ: Is that still the case?
JB: I think it's swinging back a little bit. But composers say, "We have to reflect our times because we live in ugly times." This I think is the most hilarious thing in the world. We live in the least ugly time in history. If you look at back when Beethoven was writing, half the kids were dying, mothers were dying at childbirth, there were more wars going on then than there are now. People wrote the most beautiful things during the ugliest times. I get on a rant about this because I don't need to hear ugliness in music. That's where I go for beauty.

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