The Chef Has Ruined My Soup!

I’ve been at home with the flu this week so I hope no one will object to me continuing my post from last week in bulleted form—this makes my need to reach for some more Kleenex every 45 seconds somewhat less disruptive. Here are a few of the more negative comments I’ve been accosted with following performances of my music, some just plain out of line and some richly deserved:

  • “The piece wasn’t any good, but it’s okay because you’re young.”
  • “Are you associated with Visconti fountain pens?”—re. Kyle Gann’s comment last week, sometimes the lengths people go to in order to avoid engaging the music speak louder than mere words.
  • (Overheard while in a bathroom stall at intermission): “I didn’t think much of it either—but let’s be careful, I think the composer might be in here!”
  • (from a concert in Berlin): “Das ist Vaterboarding!”—the German people, broadly speaking, seem to have perfected the art of turning aesthetic distaste into perceived ad hominem attacks.
  • “The piece was too long.”—This comment has always been correct when I’ve been hit with it.
  • “Why couldn’t you have done x, y, or z instead?”
  • “I wish you would have had all the instruments playing the whole time.”
  • (One of my favorites): “I didn’t care for your piece but don’t worry, it’s not your fault. I wouldn’t have liked anything after having to sit through that first half!”
  • “You didn’t finish your DMA? Maybe you should have.”

…and the most frequently heard negative comment of all?

  • (From another composer): “WOW! That was great, just great…a real accomplishment…you deserve it, no you really deserve it….” There’s an unspoken rule of sorts that acquaintance-level composer colleagues will almost never tell you if they think your new piece is garbage.

7 thoughts on “The Chef Has Ruined My Soup!

  1. bunnyman

    Reviews…
    The best I ever got was: “That was wonderful! I didn’t understand it at all, but it was wonderful!” That was from Mom @ my senior composition recital…

    Reply
  2. pgblu

    On behalf of “the German people” I thank you for “speaking broadly” about them.

    When I was an undergrad, my mother came to a composers’ concert, and my piece was first on the program. After the concert was over my mother asked, in the most casual manner she could muster, whether the order of the program was meant to reflect a progression from ‘beginner’ to ‘advanced’ students. One must have a thick skin, it seems.

    Reply
  3. lawrence

    fave
    “Young man, you’ve got a lot of nerve going up there and taking a bow when everyone was applauding!”

    Reply
  4. jeidson

    Great topic and here are a few of mine. Some good, some bad, and all informative. From my DMA recital:

    “I really understood [piece] the most, I think I really ‘get’ that one” – old friend, (and confirming my intentions for the piece, yessss!)

    “I am really proud of you. Guess which piece I hated?” – Mom (thanks mom…)

    Two from a recent premiere:

    “I could have listened to another minute of that, it was too short” – composer friend

    “Nothing about the piece bothered me, but I can’t remember any of it” – fiancee

    The last one was an eye-opener, and something I have worked on since that concert.

    -Joseph Eidson

    Reply
  5. Mischa Salkind-Pearl

    from a well-known elder composition professor at a major comp program, during a masterclass at my less-than-major comp program:
    “Your piece was very, very effective. That is to say, it is all effect, and almost no music.”

    ouch!

    Reply

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