Well, boo hoo. Let me get the world's smallest cello and play a lament for you. Having sat on many, many auditions, I can imagine how this one went. A young self-taught cellist's impressions of one of the Cello Concertos by Shostakovich might well have provoked the question "who's your teacher?" The thought behind that being, "my god, who taught you to phrase like that?!?"Zoe Keating, with 1.2 million Twitter fans, wanted a classical career. Moving to California two decades ago, she set about practising the Shostakovich cello concerto for six months before presenting herself for audition at the San Francisco Conservatory. The panel immediately asked, ‘who’s your teacher?’‘I don’t have one,’ said the applicant, her hands shaking at the looks of disapproval.‘Maybe you should come back when you’re ready,’ they said.Afater that, says Keating, ‘I fugured that classical music could just kiss my ass. I was so angry, I couldn’t even bear to set foot in a concert hall.’
Now, don't get me wrong, nothing against Zoe Keating or her music. Here is a recent sample:
Since she has difficulty telling us what that "song" is about, let me take a stab. She uses a lot of brief, modal, and rhythmically agile motifs put through a laptop sequencing system to get the kind of overlapping effects that people discovered back in the 1960s using tape loops. She builds up resonating layers that work together because she stays roughly in the same harmonic space for all of them. Musically it is pretty simple stuff. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But I'm not sure I would want to go hear her play one of the Shostakovich concertos...
That's a whole other world, now isn't it?
(Just as an aside, the ideology behind Zoe Keating's reaction to the audition panel's fairly innocent comment is based on the idea of the absolute autonomy of the creative intelligence. This comes originally from 19th century German Romanticism and was enthusiastically adopted by 20th century modernists as it suited their purposes quite well. What you do as an artist is always absolutely right because it is based on your individuality. What an odd idea that is, once you dig into it! For one thing, so much of the music produced by these unique creative intelligences is drearily alike!)