Comments on Occasional Factual Errors of the Washington Post’s two Reviews of the Amazon Series Mozart In the Jungle.
Washington Post: “So it is remarkable to me that no one bothered to run the script by anybody who could point out its significant divergences from fact or, at the very least, show Bernal how to hold a violin (there are close-ups of him “playing” one, bow high up on the fingerboard.)”
LARA: In violin speak, there is no such thing as “bow high up on the fingerboard”. What is meant can only be “bow low on the fingerboard” which creates a sotto voce (softer) sound. Not only is that the sound some violinists aim for, but according to the show, Rodrigo had not played for a year. It’s quite conceivable he would have lost his bow contact point a bit.
WaPo: “…..Peters, in her role as chairman of the symphony board (a job that the show’s creators evidently confused with actually running the orchestra)……”
LARA: Hmm. Minnesota comes to mind – or any orchestra that has been anywhere close to Chapter 11. “Running” in all but name…..
WaPo: “As I mentioned in a review last month, it seizes on the sex-and-drugs part of the equation and goes off into some cloud-cuckoo-land fantasy of what the field might look like that has almost nothing to do with reality.”
LARA: I hate to burst the chaste fantasy bubble this reviewer is ascribing to our field, but I’m afraid that “Cloud-Cuckoo-Land” is more like it (Nice one! Keeper.)
Certainly, it’s possible that a person might meet only tea-drinkers who knit, happily practice their instruments all day, play Mahler and go to bed directly after the concert in order to rise, shine, don a cardigan and carry a basket to the market. But I find that unrealistic (though I haven’t met every musician. Or spent a lot of time in Utah).
Classical musicians work hard and play hard. Drinks, drugs, debauchery and even despair are the hallmarks of any field that has the intensity and creativity of ours.
There was a misunderstood scene (by many) where Cynthia the cellist shoots something into her hand from a needle. There is a muscular problem that many musicians get, called tendonitis – it’s akin to carpal tunnel – a repetitive stress syndrome – and is often the kiss of death if it becomes known in the music world. Lately, botox injections into the hand are said to help a lot, and that is what she was doing, hiding in a bathroom stall so no one would know she was suffering from it.
WaPo: “When the series protagonist, a young oboist named Hailey auditions for the “New York Symphony,” the conductor Rodrigo decides to hire her on the spot. But we can’t hire her, he’s told; we already have four oboes. “Well, then,” he says (I paraphrase), “I’ll change the first performance of the season to the Mahler 8th, because it has a fifth oboe”…I imagine the writers’ glee at having tracked down a piece that calls for five oboes. But they utterly missed the bigger picture, which is that the Mahler 8th …..is a major undertaking for any orchestra. The thought of doing it because you need to accommodate an oboist is, for anyone in the field, extremely funny.”
LARA: It is a little bit funny, though the idea does speak to the passion and whims of the new ‘genius’ conductor. The writers decided to talk about and feature a piece that has been called a defining human statement for its century. I’d hazard a guess that tens of thousands of folks now know that Mahler’s 8th exists, and that people feel strongly about it. Call me a Pollyanna, but I think that’s cool.
WaPo “…….If you’re not in the field, though, it probably sounds like pedantic nitpicking.”
LARA: Why, yes it does! But if you want nitpicking: Mahler’s 8th has not five oboes, but four, and an English horn. Therefore, Hailey would have been on fourth oboe and of course two chairs away from the principal oboist. But then, the principal’s snark would have gone unheard by her, and that is called dramatic license.
WaPo: “When I sat down to write about the show, I had a whole catalogue of this kind of error. A member of the most prestigious orchestra in New York would never run out after a performance to play a Broadway show, even if the timing allowed it (concerts and Broadway shows start about the same time, last I looked), or play weddings and receptions for extra money; they pull in six-figure salaries and already work full time.”
LARA: Actually, I know quite a few full-time prestigious orchestra musicians who moonlight – a matinee on the concert stage and an evening show on Broadway, or an evening concert on stage and a late night off-off Broadway or alternative show. I can’t imagine that Oedipus Rocks (the name of the fictional “show” Cynthia had to get to) had a 7:30 PM start.
I have a good friend who, buckling under debilitating debts (student loans, instrument loans) had to work for the first many years of her prestigious orchestral job at anything that came her way – weddings, receptions, bar mitzvahs, even toddler birthdays. This happens to a lot of musicians. They are often treated badly in these situations; another thing the series got right.
WaPo: “A new music director would never be announced as a surprise in the middle of a concert.”
LARA: That’s true. But it’s an interesting idea!
WaPo: “A conductor would not bus the whole orchestra to rehearse in a vacant lot to help them loosen up.”
LARA: Probably not. But far more unbelievable is the fact that he was willing to pay for it.
WaPo: “But when it comes to classical music, there’s an added factor: The popular image of classical music has a stronger hold on its depiction than any mere fact can challenge. Classical music is better, truer, more noble: That’s its meme, as it were. So people who are trying to depict it almost can’t help themselves.”
LARA: Is this obfuscatory and nonsensical just in order to sound highbrow?
WaPo: “So perhaps one shouldn’t fault “Mozart in the Jungle” for falling back on cliches; plenty of people within the field are doing exactly the same thing.”
LARA: Please see immediately above.
~ Saurian Saint