Monday, March 16, 2015

How to do Interviews

Remember that scene in Bull Durham where Kevin Costner's seasoned character tells the young pitcher how to talk to reporters?
Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews. 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do? 
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time." 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring. 
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.
You have to tell them exactly what they want to hear. Well, guess what, same thing applies to classical musicians. You have to tell the reporters exactly what they want to hear. I just ran across a great example in the Guardian. Here is violinist Leila Josefowicz showing us exactly how a classical musician shows how cool they are:
What was the last piece of music you bought? The latest by the Kings of Leon - there’s something beautiful and grungy about the sound of that band, and I love that they’re three brothers and a cousin.
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
No guilt at all: Justin Timberlake! And Eminem. And Nirvana... Rhythm rules the world, and always will.
Could you stand some more?
Is applauding between movements acceptable?I wish it happened all the time, and was the correct audience “behaviour”. Sometimes the sound of silence in between the movements feels so awkward and wrong. But if audiences save all of their feelings until the end and finally really SHOW them then it’s at least a very much needed outlet.

What single thing would improve the format of the classical concert?
Hard to say without it being cliché. Bring a guest along to the concert and they get in free - and as an extra bonus they get to meet the artist to show them we’re human? We need to continue to introduce people to classical music that have never had the experience of it.
Just one more?
Which non-classical musician would you love to work with?Björk. She’s so imaginative and intelligent.
You just knew that one was coming, right?

OK, I didn't make any of this up. This is really what Leila Josefowicz, a formidable performer of contemporary music, actually said.

But I think she could work on it a bit. Here are some suggestions:

What are the last ten recordings you listened to?
Björk, Lady Gaga, Björk, Mahler, Beyoncé, Björk, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Björk and Ajerbaijani polka music.

What musicians do you most admire?
Oh gosh, I really love Justin Bieber, mostly for his harmonic sense. And Madonna--I think she has so much to say.

AAAGGGGHHHH!!! I give up, I honestly can't do it better than she did. Oh, I know, "You gotta play it one day at a time."

Here is Leila Josefowicz when she isn't shining on some junior reporter at the Guardian:


Marc Puckett said...

LJ playing the E-PS Violin Concerto is on Spotify, by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; am going to try listening to/watching the Châtelet performance this evening, though.

She is free to imagine that her instrument is a kazoo! if she likes. :-)

This is why recorded music, however imperfectly achieved, is such a godsend: I don't know the performance history of the Salonen but it certainly hasn't been done in Eugene, Oregon, not in the last fifteen years, anyway. The only way I can ever listen to it is via a recording, unless I win the lottery and become one of those people who e.g. uses Opera Today to plan their travel schedules. But, as you have pointed out, no recording etc etc. The term 'Faustian bargain' occurs to me in this context, whether fittingly or not, I don't know. Worth the thinking about, perhaps.

Rickard Dahl said...

It could indeed be the case that she's lying in order to appeal to the audience. However, it would not surprise me if that's her honest opinion. The thing is that some people don't really believe in what they're doing. Sure, she might be playing the best classical music but that doesn't mean she enjoys it as a form of music. It's sad if that's the case but it is what it is. I know that for instance my brother's wife plays/played the violin from her childhood but she listens to the average pop music you hear on the radio. The same goes for her two sisters who also played violin from childhood but they still listen to the worst possible music. I suspect that none of them really are motivated to play and that the motivation really stems from the parents (who made them play violin from early on).

Anonymous said...

waiting for your post on 10 best 19th century symphonies;not because lists are fun,but sheer amount of choices in the symphony form for 1800's would be difficult to narrow down.hence very curious to know your choices.

Bryan Townsend said...

It's comment day here at the Music Salon! I've got so many comments to read and answer that I may not have time for my Concerto Guide post!! No, just kidding.

Marc, thanks so much for reminding us of the real benefit of recordings: they enable us to hear repertoire and artists that otherwise we would have no idea of. Yes, by applying yourself to the study of the keyboard for a few years you will gain the ability to read scores at the piano, giving you a fair idea of the music without attending a concert. But as far as hearing great performers such as Leila Josefowicz or Grigory Sokolov or the Vienna Philharmonic, unless you are wealthy enough and leisured enough to do a LOT of traveling, you will get to hear them only rarely--or never--except via recordings. This is why I say, pace Ethan Hein, that the goal of a recording of a classical music performance is to give a realistic reproduction of what you would hear in a good concert hall. And this is a huge benefit!! I have sitting on the shelves of my CD collection a significant part of the musical patrimony (are we still allowed to use that word?) of Western Civilization. And I am deeply grateful for it: the complete symphonies of Haydn, complete piano concertos of Mozart, complete string quartets of Beethoven and on and on.

Faustian bargain perhaps, because it is certainly not an unmixed blessing. But still...

Rickard, you give me an idea for a post: what we do vs what we like. Yes, I am still somewhat surprised to find people who have had a real exposure to classical music, but who still prefer pop. But I am not so surprised that professional musicians can get jaded. And not just classical musicians, but pop, folk, jazz, all the genres. Music is a stressful and demanding profession and it can just wear you down. In the case of Leila Josefowicz, I don't know her personally so I have no idea what her sincere thoughts are. But her interview just seemed so perfectly tailored to what a Guardian interviewer would want to hear from a classical musician, that I immediately thought of the scene in Bull Durham. Excellent movie, by the way.

Anonymous, hi! Thanks for reminding me. I will definitely do the 10 best 19th century symphonies post this week. Struggling a bit because, for example, in order to pick the best Bruckner symphony I may have to listen to them all again: and that's a couple of days right there!