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the "freak show" aspect of performance
#3051212 11/30/20 11:48 AM
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Hi again--I posted this as a discussion point awhile ago, as one pf several points. Nobody got around to this one hehe.

So here it is again. I'm curious as to whether other people have thought about this.

"This" being the observation that a skilled live performance IS somewhat of a freak show, in the broadest sense. At least I think so. (Unskilled performances are another kind of freak show, and I'm not interested in that subject.)

So who agrees or disagrees, and why?

Or to put it another way, has anyone else ever thought about this?

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051284 11/30/20 01:56 PM
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I don't know what you mean by "freak show". According to your approach it seems like any performance by musicians, actors, or dancers would be called a freak show.

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
pianoloverus #3051309 11/30/20 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't know what you mean by "freak show".

rogerzell, you may not be aware of this but the term "freak show" is an objectionable and derogatory reference to pastimes in which deformities were to be treated as objects of interest and entertainment. I think it would be best if you found another way to express what you mean so we can address your question.


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Deborah
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051319 11/30/20 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rogerzell
Hi again--I posted this as a discussion point awhile ago, as one pf several points. Nobody got around to this one hehe.

So here it is again. I'm curious as to whether other people have thought about this.

"This" being the observation that a skilled live performance IS somewhat of a freak show, in the broadest sense. At least I think so. (Unskilled performances are another kind of freak show, and I'm not interested in that subject.)

So who agrees or disagrees, and why?

Or to put it another way, has anyone else ever thought about this?
Even though English is my fourth language, the term 'freak show' means something like people with obvious deformities (like the "Elephant Man") being paraded in front of a circus audience, as they use to do about 200 years ago, for laughs or for money.

Is that what you regard musical performances (classical, pop, rock, jazz, folk etc) as being?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
bennevis #3051326 11/30/20 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Even though English is my fourth language....
I'm impressed and jealous. May I ask, which languages?


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051327 11/30/20 03:17 PM
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gooddog--good point, and I apologize. However, I can't think of another short and pithy phrase for it. Plus, the word "freak" may be applied to any number of things having nothing to do with physical deformity--such as extraordinary performance skills. So, another phrasing might not convey this specific meaning. If you can suggest another easy way to name this phenomenon, let's use that.

pianoloverus--you are correct in essence. I would suggest that, the "better" the performers are, the freakier they are.

I will admit that I am using the word freak in a somewhat more modern and loose way, though it has many adjectival synonyms such as uncommon, extraordinary, anomalous, and more. All of which describe any performer, the more so as the skill level increases.

Meanwhile, the question stands. Mainly, if we did not discern anything extraordinary in anything, we would never pay any attention--nothing would attract us, barring pure instinct.

So, any other thoughts?

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051335 11/30/20 03:57 PM
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I'm not sure if I am interpreting the question in the intended way, but here are my thoughts:

I would not say that most musical performances are really 'freak shows'. It is my opinion that the skill and talent of most performers are not so uncommon and extraordinary as for their performances to be called freak shows. I would compare the abilities of most performers to those of other activities, such as sports or academics. Most hockey players have an attainable amount of skill usually mixed with some physical and intellectual talent, just as most french teachers have a skill that the ordinary individual would be able to attain (in most cases). Of course, their abilities grow broader as their talent increases (ex. a hockey player with extremely good natural hand-eye coordination has an advantage, or the french teacher with a superb memory and knack for expressing themselves is able to learn and teach better). I relate this to the performance of piano. At least with my experience, the skill of mastering technique is available to most people (of course with varying levels of effort and time needed for mastery). Musical taste and interpretation is something that is harder to acquire without natural talent, however, I think with much practice and effort, this is achievable to most. Also, in my opinion, someone can give a convincing musical performance even if they are not feeling it, with much preparation and if they are taught exceedingly well.

With this in mind, I think there are possibly some extreme cases where the musician is extraordinarily good, meaning that they are higher above what most individuals are capable of reaching. Just like watching a hockey player who seems to be in another league, and who is dancing around all the other players, I think there can be persons who have an extraordinary talent for music and its performance. Hearing about some of the great composers being able to compose and perform at such a young age that it is impossible to presume that it is reachable for the average individual, I think there is some talent that could be compared to a 'freak' of that instrument (though I'm not crazy about using that term).

I don't know. I'm pretty young and inexperienced, but there are my thoughts. Please don't take offense from anything I said, I realize I may be wrong entirely! Just wanted to get going on this forum (very new member).

-Oliver

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051342 11/30/20 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rogerzell
gooddog--good point, and I apologize. However, I can't think of another short and pithy phrase for it. Plus, the word "freak" may be applied to any number of things having nothing to do with physical deformity--such as extraordinary performance skills. So, another phrasing might not convey this specific meaning. If you can suggest another easy way to name this phenomenon, let's use that.
I'm sorry, I still have no idea what you mean.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051356 11/30/20 04:55 PM
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This is freaking me out!

Cheers!


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
BruceD #3051411 11/30/20 06:56 PM
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You don't have to go back 200 years - for a glimpse into a real-life freak show, go find the 1932 film "Freaks". Fascinating, and very ahead of its time in the way that it treated the performers as real people.

Sam

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051412 11/30/20 07:05 PM
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I see no relationship between "freak" (even without "show") and a being an outstanding performer of any kind. "Freak" has a negative connotation. Are great athletes freaks?

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051419 11/30/20 07:35 PM
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Hey, pianoloverus ! Just noticed: Happy Birthday!


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051535 12/01/20 07:22 AM
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Yes . From the definition

>any abnormal phenomenon or product or unusual object; anomaly; aberration.


* being a top level pianist is quite abnormal/special.
* Having that amount of dedication and concentration for playing and studying to get to that level is special
* Being able to perform at top level before public is special
* To love to be in the public center of attention for such long time in 1 sitting is quite special



But this is all quite obvious it seems. Did I miss something in your question?


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Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051538 12/01/20 07:30 AM
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Is an gold medal Olympian a freak show, or a top tier NFL quarterback, or a world class neurosurgeon? These have worked with discipline and talent (not freak shows). It is not an innate character of an artist—it is work. I wonder why you want to put a negative connotation for those successful (whatever that means) pianists?

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Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051591 12/01/20 10:08 AM
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Music schools all over the world are replete with people studying piano who can play extremely difficult works very well from memory. In the world of the musician, good pianists are so common that it's extremely difficult and competitive to even open up a teaching studio charging $30 an hour and make a living at it, never mind play Rach 3 with even a local sub-par orchestra. So no, it's not a freak show. When you look into it, it's a fairly common thing.

OK granted, there are very few pianists making a career out of solo performing, and the quality standard is so high that there's probably only a handful of pianists that one would pay to hear live or buy their latest album, because the market is simply flooded, YouTube is flooded, Spotify is flooded, even if at the moment very few concerts are happening.

I could call round 100 people I know personally who can all play the Chopin etudes from memory pretty well, even if they're not all Pollini/Argerich/Kissin (insert your favourite pianists here) standard. It's not a freak show, it's merely that hard work reaps results, but there simply isn't room in the market which is ever-decreasing and continually being attacked as elitist or worse, for all of us to have even a tiny performing career. Which is sad.

Where I come from, and I'm sure this is the story in many other parts of the world, there is a sizeable town hall with a stage in every town or city, or a theatre. These venues will seat between 100 and 3000 people. All of these venues have some kind of grand piano bought for them at some point, and in one of the towns there is still the 1890 Bechstein concert grand played on by the likes of Paderewski and Schnabel. One of the halls in that area still receives artists and has several excellent Steinway pianos in it, and they host concerts of the highest quality. The rest of these halls no longer host concerts and are used for church meetings, committee meetings, zumba classes, body combat classes, kindergarten, for the most part the pianos are used as storage units for stacks of chairs, or are being dismantled and thrown in skips (no, I have literally no interest in rescuing these old instruments because there are just too many and I have other things in my life to worry about - cynical I know), and yet despite this shrinkage of opportunity, there are more pianists than ever before - more good ones too.

So no, no freak show here.

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
Joseph Fleetwood #3051599 12/01/20 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Joseph Fleetwood
Music schools all over the world are replete with people studying piano who can play extremely difficult works very well from memory. In the world of the musician, good pianists are so common that it's extremely difficult and competitive to even open up a teaching studio charging $30 an hour and make a living at it, never mind play Rach 3 with even a local sub-par orchestra. So no, it's not a freak show. When you look into it, it's a fairly common thing.

OK granted, there are very few pianists making a career out of solo performing, and the quality standard is so high that there's probably only a handful of pianists that one would pay to hear live or buy their latest album, because the market is simply flooded, YouTube is flooded, Spotify is flooded, even if at the moment very few concerts are happening.

I could call round 100 people I know personally who can all play the Chopin etudes from memory pretty well, even if they're not all Pollini/Argerich/Kissin (insert your favourite pianists here) standard. It's not a freak show, it's merely that hard work reaps results, but there simply isn't room in the market which is ever-decreasing and continually being attacked as elitist or worse, for all of us to have even a tiny performing career. Which is sad.

Where I come from, and I'm sure this is the story in many other parts of the world, there is a sizeable town hall with a stage in every town or city, or a theatre. These venues will seat between 100 and 3000 people. All of these venues have some kind of grand piano bought for them at some point, and in one of the towns there is still the 1890 Bechstein concert grand played on by the likes of Paderewski and Schnabel. One of the halls in that area still receives artists and has several excellent Steinway pianos in it, and they host concerts of the highest quality. The rest of these halls no longer host concerts and are used for church meetings, committee meetings, zumba classes, body combat classes, kindergarten, for the most part the pianos are used as storage units for stacks of chairs, or are being dismantled and thrown in skips (no, I have literally no interest in rescuing these old instruments because there are just too many and I have other things in my life to worry about - cynical I know), and yet despite this shrinkage of opportunity, there are more pianists than ever before - more good ones too.

So no, no freak show here.
In terms of playing all the Chopin Etudes to a good standard, I doubt if 1 out of 1000 people who play piano can do that. So, in that sense, I think it's extremely rare. OTOH I don't think having such a high level of skill should be called a freak show with its negative connotation. That kind of thinking never even crossed my mind(and I'm guessing the mind of most people)until this thread.

Re: the "freak show" aspect of performance
rogerzell #3051667 12/01/20 01:44 PM
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well, I guess I got what I wanted--a discussion.

first, though--the word "freak" is not used only in reference to visible human deformity, and I never intended that use. In my part of the US, tornadoes are freak occurrences. At sea. the one-in-a-million (note-NOT meant literally--I have no idea of the actual frequency) gigantically huge wave is a freak.

Mr. Fleetwood--all due respect, but I am not talking about only pianists, or any other specialist. I am talking about the entire population of the world, or at least, for the following, the USA.

Let's say that among the 300+ million people in the USA, there are 250 mil who are physically capable of doing something extraordinary, whether piano, sports, dance etc. (I would omit infants and physically handicapped, where that handicap would preclude participation) (Note again--I have no idea of the actual numbers, but these seem mildly reasonable.) The 100 pianists you refer to represent .0000004% of this population. Pianoloverus, 1000 people is .000004%. My own wild and uninformed guess would be that maybe 15 or 20000 people could play all Chopin etudes well. That 20,000 people is still only .00008% of the pool. Very unusual ability.

Just for kicks, let's say that there are 100,000 people who can play that well (I seriously doubt this though). That becomes .0004%, which for me is maybe nudging the bottom end of "usual" or "normal" ability.

And hard work is only part of it. The implication here is that if you work hard enough, you can do anything at an exalted level. Since I never worked too hard at anything, I can't address that personally. But I think we all know of people who work very hard at getting to be great at something, but don't achieve it. J.S. Bach said that too, but who was as great as him?

Wouter79--yes, it does seem obvious. But I posted to see what others think, and I got that.


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