Raging amateur insecurity and Lang Lang

Pianists should stop moving around so much and emoting! Piano isn’t about looks! So why do they have to look like something I don’t like looking at? Piano isn’t about how you look, so can’t they look proper?

You can do a search and replace on “piano” with “any classical instrument that springs to mind.” Violinists are just as bad about Joshua Bell, who if you listen to their complaints, should be filmed from the waist up, like Elvis, to keep the viewer from becoming conscious of the fact that he has a lower body. Jesus, amateur classical musicians are farts. People say that professionals are people who get paid to play, and amateurs do it for love. Alternately, they also use the word “amateur” to mean “incompetent.”

But I’m starting to be convinced that “amateur” means “is insecure enough about their playing that they cling to every other more absolute means of establishing a pecking order that they can find.” Size of piano, brand of piano, cost of piano, how fast of a trill they can execute, how still they are, who their favorite composer is. (Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev are frontrunners. It’s got to be someone they can’t actually play, whose music will cause the pianist’s knuckles to separate if played at speed.) I say of people like that they they are like amateur wine-lovers who will wax eloquent over a bottle of Two Buck Chuck if you soak the label off and tell them it cost $250 and comes from France. You can also get them to puke on a real bottle of pricey French wine if you tell them it came from Walgreens.

It’s starting to look like “amateur” actually means “ragingly insecure.”

This is the main reason why I am prepared to defend Lang Lang, even though I don’t even like his style of play. Disliking him is practically an insecure B-list amateur shibboleth. They don’t even really know why they dislike him, aside from the fact that the cool kids seem to. There are a few canned reasons that are trotted out routinely, but the most important reason of all is that disdaining him will make you seem discerning to others.

I do agree that he tends to pound pianos into toothpicks and I’m not fond of that hyper-aggressive style that he has. I also think that the life of a piano soloist is an insane and demanding one, and that if he is prepared to work that hard, and people want to pay to see and hear him, then go him. I hope he makes a fortune. He’s working hard enough for it, and if people like to watch and listen, then I hope they have a great time. The piano, and music in general, welcomes everyone. No exceptions. There is no such thing as a person who shouldn’t play, provided they don’t actually damage the thing. I may detest modern crap on a piano (and especially detest it on a viola), but if someone will pay to see it, then the person willing to do it should make the money. Why not? As long as Lang Lang’s success doesn’t force Gabriela Montero to retool her playing, why should I mind? Why should anyone?

It’s a big planet. There are almost seven billion humans on it. Someone out there will pound on a piano in a way that someone else won’t like. Stop trying to suss out who the proper people are to disdain in order to establish your cred and find your place in the pecking order alongside the Cool Kids and just go practice. Your own abilities and not your opinions of anyone else’s will ultimately determine your place in the hierarchy. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Of course, that’s assuming that the word “hierarchy” even has a valid place in this conversation, which is a whole `nother topic. If you think it does, then I might gently suggest that you are probably the last person who should be tweaking anyone else’s playing for being overly aggressive or insufficiently inspired.

In my opinion, of course. 🙂