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Analogies & Allegories
14 Jan 2011
Inside the Classics

Those of you who’ve come to a lot of our Inside the Classics concerts have probably noticed that we have a fondness for explaining a composer’s personality or career arc by referencing someone else entirely. During last season’s Debussy concerts, for instance, Sarah made a strong case that his supposedly “impressionist” music was actually way more like the pointillistic art created by George Seurat than anything impressionist painters like Monet ever created, and I went even further afield, arguing that Richard Strauss could be plausibly depicted as the quadratic formula, whereas a portrait of Debussy should look like a blackboard full of highly complex quantum physics equations.

This totally looks like Debussy.

(I also have a fondness for explaining highly technical aspects of the music business through sports metaphors, but I keep it out of our shows, since I’m told that sports metaphors are a) cliched and hackish, and b) based on flawed reasoning, since there is almost never another orchestra on stage with us trying to prevent us from playing a symphony.)

I bring it up because we are now a mere two weeks away from our first new set of ItC concerts of the season, and we’re in our usual mild frenzy of writing, editing, tweaking, and timing out every aspect of the script. And wouldn’t you know it, our exploration of Antonin Dvorak is going to include an even more extended and tortured metaphor than those listed above! This actually came about several months ago, as Sarah and I were sitting slumped at her dining room table, nearly four hours into an early planning session and decidedly out of ideas. A truly silly reference point for Dvorak’s 7th symphony popped into my head, and in the interest of making us both laugh for a moment, I tossed it out. Sarah giggled, and we moved on.

But I couldn’t let it go. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that this particular pop culture figure was a near-perfect analogue not just for Dvorak as a composer, but for the very specific moment in his career that we’ll be focusing on come the end of this month. So, I’m running with it, and we’ll just all see together how convincing I can be.

But since we’ve still got two weeks, I thought it might be fun to see whether anyone else comes up with the same analogy I did. Here are your clues, all themes we’ll be hitting on the first half of the concerts:

1) Dvorak’s 7th symphony marked a dramatic turning point in his career as a composer.

2) Though the two aren’t always mutually exclusive, there’s a big difference between being liked and being respected as an artist.

3) Not many artists/composers/performers are equally at home in both highbrow and lowbrow milieus. Dvorak was.

4) Whoever said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was an idiot.

So, who does that sound like to you? The answer I’m looking for is a famous American (really famous, not classical music famous,) currently alive and still in the thick of his/her career. If anyone actually guesses right, I’ll offer a prize of some sort, but you’ll have to wait until after the concerts on the 28th and 29th before I give it away. In the meantime, I’ll be fascinated to see who you guys come up with…

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