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Mozart in the Jungle #1959757
09/16/12 04:30 PM
09/16/12 04:30 PM
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Has anyone read this book about the lives of professional classical musicians by professional oboist Blair Tindall? I'm almost finished with it and have very mixed feelings about it.

There are many fascinating stories, and I happen to live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where much of the story takes place. On the other hand, Tindall seems to endlessly comlplain about her life a a classical musician and goes into far more detail about her personal life than I really want to hear. She doesn't use "changed names" for the numerous musicians she hooked up with both short and long term.

http://www.mozartinthejungle.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Jungle-Drugs-Classical-Music/dp/0802142532
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blair_Tindall

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/16/12 04:33 PM.
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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1959780
09/16/12 05:26 PM
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I flipped through a number of the reviews on Amazon (which I think often gives a good fix on a book), and judging from what I see there, I'm both interested and not interested: sort of interested in some of the details (like "who") grin but not enough to delve into it and find out. From what I gather, this isn't a story about music as much as a story about a New York subculture (at least in a certain era and probably beyond) and a certain kind of person, and I'm sure it's been present in many other places too. I think there have been a lot of such lives in many different career fields, and among people with no particular career. I also think that it's not true in any general way that a classical music career is the kind of sordid desperate hellhole that some of the reviews state as a given and which I guess the book suggests.

Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Mark_C] #1959789
09/16/12 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I flipped through a number of the reviews on Amazon (which I think often gives a good fix on a book), and judging from what I see there, I'm both interested and not interested: sort of interested in some of the details (like "who") grin but not enough to delve into it and find out. From what I gather, this isn't a story about music as much as a story about a New York subculture (at least in a certain era and probably beyond) and a certain kind of person, and I'm sure it's been present in many other places too. I think there have been a lot of such lives in many different career fields, and among people with no particular career. I also think that it's not true in any general way that a classical music career is the kind of sordid desperate hellhole that some of the reviews state as a given and which I guess the book suggests.


I looked through this book at a bookstore a couple years ago, and this was my sense too. I put it down.

-J


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1959796
09/16/12 05:53 PM
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I've only read bits and pieces, but my take is that it's basically a decent book, but the picture it paints is a bit extreme and often taken out of context.

I think there's an idealized view among a lot of people that orchestras and colleges always hire the best people for the job, but it's not that simple. There are personalities and politics involved. Life isn't fair, and neither is life in the arts.

I think people also forget that the book is talking about life in New York City in the 1970s. Things were a little different back then!

The book could've painted a more balanced picture, though. Sure, there's still sexual and political drama in the music world these days, but there are also a lot of extremely honest musicians with a lot of integrity.

If there's one way in which the arts are a bit different than other fields, it's that it's often difficult for artists to draw a line between their personal and professional lives. Especially for those of us who freelance, you can't leave work behind at the office at 5pm, and job security is a constant worry. (Which is why there are 50-100 applicants for every little college job that comes open.) When you freelance, you're always working with new people and being thrown into unfamiliar situations that require you to adapt, and some people handle that better than others.

As for my own experience, I've sat on plenty of audition and job search committees, and the vast majority of them were conducted very professionally. Also, none of the various gigs with orchestras and theater groups I've landed ever involved drunken drug orgies. (Or maybe I just wasn't invited!) laugh


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1959883
09/16/12 08:37 PM
09/16/12 08:37 PM
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I've read it a few years back. I remember the writing being very good for a memoir. Remember, it is just one person's (Blair Tindal) take on her personal experience in the professional classical music scene.


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1959888
09/16/12 08:45 PM
09/16/12 08:45 PM
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I preferred "Team of Rivals."


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1959982
09/17/12 03:25 AM
09/17/12 03:25 AM
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I thought "Mozart in the Jungle" was a fine read, and I commend oboist Ms. Tindall for having had the courage to name names and tell true stories from the ultra-competitive US classical music performance front, even at her own expense. Her tender yet tortured relationship with the distinguished collaborative pianist Sam Sanders (whose demise is recounted in moving detail) is one of the bright spots in a sordid coming-of-age memoir.

Kreisler's dates, I might observe, are rather off: Blair Tindall was writing about her years as a Manhattan School student and then busy NY freelance woodwind player during the 1980s and 1990s. She made her NY recital debut in 1991, and left NYC in 1999 to attend journalism grad school at Stanford, in a bid to switch careers from music to writing. I believe she straddles both fields nowadays.

She's a fluent journalist, good with facts, and can tell a story. The sex and drugs vignettes abound and are sometimes fun, but the abuses of power and sexual harassment related on the part of music profs and conductors are as deeply disturbing as they are familiar.

I would make this book required reading for any conservatory career-advice course.





Last edited by Peter K. Mose; 09/17/12 03:49 AM.
Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Peter K. Mose] #1960002
09/17/12 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
I thought "Mozart in the Jungle" was a fine read, and I commend oboist Ms. Tindall for having had the courage to name names and tell true stories from the ultra-competitive US classical music performance front, even at her own expense. Her tender yet tortured relationship with the distinguished collaborative pianist Sam Sanders (whose demise is recounted in moving detail) is one of the bright spots in a sordid coming-of-age memoir.
I guess the book might be less appealing to readers if she didn't name names, and the book would have sold fewer copies for that reason. But I don't think of naming names as courageous. I'd guess that most of those mentioned in the book are not happy having about having their personal lives revealed in mostly very unattractive ways.

I find all the details about Samuel Sanders especially unpleasant. If Blair was truly a good friend of Sam, why would she feel it's OK to reveal some very personal and less than flattering stuff about him?

I have the same reaction to the book as to those TV shows where people choose to tell very personal and unpleasant parts of their life to the world. Why would someone choose to do that?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/17/12 05:36 AM.
Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Peter K. Mose] #1960036
09/17/12 08:26 AM
09/17/12 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose

She's a fluent journalist, good with facts, and can tell a story. The sex and drugs vignettes abound and are sometimes fun, but the abuses of power and sexual harassment related on the part of music profs and conductors are as deeply disturbing as they are familiar.

I read the book last year and had much the same impression. A great read to pass the time on the bus to and back from work, but nothing IMO compared to the Fleisher.


Jason
Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Peter K. Mose] #1960045
09/17/12 08:55 AM
09/17/12 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
I thought "Mozart in the Jungle" was a fine read, and I commend oboist Ms. Tindall for having had the courage to name names and tell true stories from the ultra-competitive US classical music performance front, even at her own expense. Her tender yet tortured relationship with the distinguished collaborative pianist Sam Sanders (whose demise is recounted in moving detail) is one of the bright spots in a sordid coming-of-age memoir.

Kreisler's dates, I might observe, are rather off: Blair Tindall was writing about her years as a Manhattan School student and then busy NY freelance woodwind player during the 1980s and 1990s. She made her NY recital debut in 1991, and left NYC in 1999 to attend journalism grad school at Stanford, in a bid to switch careers from music to writing. I believe she straddles both fields nowadays.

She's a fluent journalist, good with facts, and can tell a story. The sex and drugs vignettes abound and are sometimes fun, but the abuses of power and sexual harassment related on the part of music profs and conductors are as deeply disturbing as they are familiar.

I would make this book required reading for any conservatory career-advice course.






I agree with this. The book has some problems, but her main point, which you still don't see or hear anyone making so succinctly, is that the way classical music is funded is not supportable and that the way students are trained in conservatories is often very poor. As for the social stuff, I am about her age, and most of what she described sounded very, very familiar to me, even though I didn't get invited to those parties either! But I saw students with inappropriate relationships with teachers, lots of drinking/drugs, lots of politics influencing who got the good recommendations and gigs.

My husband, who is not a musician, also read the book, and he said he finally understood what I had been telling him about the classical music scene.

You can blame the messenger (as many have done), and she indeed seems to have some serious problems of her own that continue today (yes, she was seriously molested by older male teachers beginning when she was a teenager, but what was the cause and what was the effect?), but the message has some real value.

As for her relationship with Sam Sanders, she mentions that she worked with his family on the parts of the book relating to him and had their permission to publish that material. As for the other people she named -- I am guessing that the stories were all true because if they weren't, those people could have gone after her in some legal manner, and they did not. Some of them grumbled about it in Amazon.com reviews and probably elsewhere, but the book was published and is still selling, apparently.


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1960052
09/17/12 09:18 AM
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There is, without a doubt, a lively market for the sort of product offered by Ms. Tindall and by Jerry Springer.

Since I bought the book and read it to the end, I claim no position of virtue, but I can't praise this sort of kiss-and-tell writing.


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Piano Again] #1960077
09/17/12 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano Again

As for her relationship with Sam Sanders, she mentions that she worked with his family on the parts of the book relating to him and had their permission to publish that material.
This is certainly better than not getting any permission at all, but is not the same as getting Sander's permission(of course, he had died by the time the book was written). From what you say I guess Tindall didn't get permission from at least some of the other people who are mentioned in a negative way in the book.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/17/12 10:28 AM.
Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: ClsscLib] #1960136
09/17/12 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
There is, without a doubt, a lively market for the sort of product offered by Ms. Tindall and by Jerry Springer.

Since I bought the book and read it to the end, I claim no position of virtue, but I can't praise this sort of kiss-and-tell writing.


There have been a lot of disparaging remarks and a little arguing about this book here on PW in the past, and I don't want to get into that, but I don't really consider this a typical "kiss-and-tell" book. In the first place, that stuff was only a small part of her story, and in the second place, it was more a tale of what amounted to child sexual abuse and harrassment and then the effects of that on her life -- the author herself apparently not entirely aware that this is what was going on. Plus, some of those sanctimonious and hypocritical men had it coming to them, IMO. These were serious ethical lapses on their part, to say the least.


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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Piano Again] #1960145
09/17/12 01:12 PM
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Last edited by ClsscLib; 09/18/12 06:51 AM.

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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1962250
09/21/12 07:13 PM
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The "good news" is that I mentioned this book to members of a pro trio(one of whom knows Blair Tindall)today, and they said that her description of the classical music scene is more like a description of the most extreme 10%.

But I was shocked and saddened by these figures about classical music employment near the end of the book:
"In 2001, some 11,000 music majors would graduate with a bachelor's degree, 4,000 with a master's, and 800 with a doctorate. Some 5,600 of these graduates majored in music performance, A handful would rocket to the top solo careers. Around 250 a year would find a full time orchestra job."

One interesting idea discussed in some detail in the book is that the employment opportunities for musicians have varied quite a bit during the last 100 years. The invention of the synthesizer, for example, caused a great drop in performance opportuniites. When sound was introduced into movies 22,000 pianists lost their job.

Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1962275
09/21/12 08:15 PM
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Blair Tindall's thesis, I felt, was that the music schools, funded and encouraged in various ways by government as well as private sources, had flooded the music employment market with talent, for whom there were no jobs. The sordid life she and others were leading, was to some extent because of that overproduction of talent and the resultant under employment. Such a situation would then necessarily lead to the exploitation of freelancers, which she writes about in some detail. She backed her thesis with many facts and figures--see Pianoloverus's post above, for example. Her's is an implicit, sometimes explicit criticism of music education and the culture around music, and lays some fault at the feet of government and private foundations.

I take some issue with her thesis, because there is an upside to the overproduction of talent. I feel that the more people highly educated in music, the better it is for everyone in the society. I'm educated in music, but have never been so employed--but I'm involved and contribute in many different ways. Secondly, speaking as a statistic of one, I knew from the beginning that there was very little chance I would ever be employed in music. Everyone told me so. How could I not know? How could anyone ever have gone into music thinking it's going to be sure employment? I decided to become educated in music because I loved music and I loved culture. When it was time to find a job or establish a career--photography--I found that music, in a hundred different and indirect ways, was a fine background to have.

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Last edited by tomasino; 09/21/12 09:03 PM.

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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1962278
09/21/12 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

"In 2001, some 11,000 music majors would graduate with a bachelor's degree, 4,000 with a master's, and 800 with a doctorate. Some 5,600 of these graduates majored in music performance, A handful would rocket to the top solo careers. Around 250 a year would find a full time orchestra job."


Did she provide the source of these stats??? (I'm not doubting them, I simply wonder how they compare to prior years.)


Last edited by carey; 09/21/12 08:30 PM.

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Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: Carey] #1962298
09/21/12 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by carey
Originally Posted by pianoloverus

"In 2001, some 11,000 music majors would graduate with a bachelor's degree, 4,000 with a master's, and 800 with a doctorate. Some 5,600 of these graduates majored in music performance, A handful would rocket to the top solo careers. Around 250 a year would find a full time orchestra job."


Did she provide the source of these stats??? (I'm not doubting them, I simply wonder how they compare to prior years.)

Yes, the National Bureau of Education Statistics.

Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: tomasino] #1962302
09/21/12 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by tomasino
Blair Tindall's thesis, I felt, was that the music schools, funded and encouraged in various ways by government as well as private sources, had flooded the music employment market with talent, for whom there were no jobs. The sordid life she and others were leading, was to some extent because of that overproduction of talent and the resultant under employment. Such a situation would then necessarily lead to the exploitation of freelancers, which she writes about in some detail. She backed her thesis with many facts and figures--see Pianoloverus's post above, for example. Her's is an implicit, sometimes explicit criticism of music education and the culture around music, and lays some fault at the feet of government and private foundations.
I think that's one of the interesting ideas in the book.

The part that I grew tired of was the endless details of her private life and an incredible amount of complaining about her life as a musician. Although I have about 20 pages left so I don't know how the book ends, the musicians I spoke with today indicated she probably became unemployable as a musician after writing the book. Who would want to hire someone who was so willing to tell so much about the private life of others?

Re: Mozart in the Jungle [Re: pianoloverus] #1962303
09/21/12 09:36 PM
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Does anyone read David Beem's blog? He has a similar view point to Ms Tindall (minus the sordid details).

http://davidbeem.wordpress.com/2012...ns-guide-to-a-career-in-classical-music/

Last edited by LadyChen; 09/21/12 09:36 PM.
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