Sunday, August 23, 2015
The Cover Charge to Greatness
Bartok played Scarlatti because he could. That's the cover charge to greatness.
When people complain that X sucks now, but it used to be great, you're usually listening to nursing home conversation. All that people know is what was popular when they were young. They dream of their salad days and the soundtrack to what they were doing at the time, which is intensely trivial to everyone but them. Al Gore doesn't care about global warming. He just wants it to be 1976 again, forever. Lots of people are like him. They simply choose different topics to be fuddy-duddies about.
The problem with ignoring all old people who are yelling at clouds is the same problem you have with biker gangs. I have, perhaps, a greater experience with biker gangs than the average person who would be expected to have nothing to do with them. They pose a problem that I may be able to shed some light on. They are 99 percent harmless, if a bit silly, but they all try to look the same. The other 1 percent are the scariest mofos you'll ever meet, but they look exactly like the chromosexuals, and you can't tell who's who until it's too late.
The people with onions on their belts complaining that music sucks nowadays are more or less the same as the biker gangs. They're all drooling into the same tapioca and tuned in to Good Sunrise Morning Starter Eyeopener NewsFlash Update with Brian Kouric, but only 99 percent of them are entirely wrong about everything. The one-percenter could tell you why music really does suck now, but no one would ever listen to him because he looks like the rest of them, complaining to no one in particular that Justin Bieber is no Bobby Goldsboro.
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants is correct as far as it goes, but it gives dullards the wrong idea. Those giants don't hoist you up there for a piggy back. You have to climb up them like a kitten that hasn't been fed yet, and the giants swat at you while you make the ascent. Once you're standing on their shoulders, you realize that the giants are drunk half the time and palsied the rest. They were only giants because you were so short. You can't see as far as you had hoped. There's a lot of work left to do.
Nobody understands that you have to be able to do it first. You can't deconstruct a goddamned thing until you can do it, and if you could do it, you wouldn't get the urge to deconstruct it. Frank Gehry can't design a proper two-holer so he designs giant monstrosities to hide the fact.
Politics is the same. You will never elect anyone to take the government apart. Once you know how to work it well enough to get in charge of it, you don't want to wreck it. You want to lord over it and add to it. No one wants the bulldozed empty lot where a Post Office once stood to be named after them. Humans don't work that way.
Incompetent people who know in their hearts that they can't hack it when they try, feebly, to learn what came before them say everything sucks, let's break it. Musicians that can't play Scarlatti say Scarlatti sucks, let's call Megadeth geniuses. Painters that can't paint put the nose on the side of the woman's head and say I meant to do that. It's easier to be a self-promoter than to learn how to do everything that came before you, and then build on it even a little. That's why art, and other things, do occasionally run into dead ends. It's hard to play Scarlatti, so it's deuced difficult to play any better. That's the real reason few attempt it, and the one percenters notice no one's even trying anymore.
Bela Bartok is playing Scarlatti like he's late for lunch and wants to get out of there. He sounds furious, in the true sense of the word. He's furious he has to waste his time playing it. He wants to get further than Scarlatti. He paid the cover charge to greatness.