Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Faraway Look of "Getting Down"

It’s a crowd pleaser no doubt.  Acting, peppers a performance when it comes to that faraway look.  That’s a musician’s indication to fans just how much they’re digging themselves.  They send out a vibe for you to tap-in to with hopes you can mainline their coolness.  
For some, not looking stupid comes naturally but others have to work on it.

Some concert pianists need training in this area.  Some of the faces they make -quite honestly- just make me feel uncomfortable.

They start slow, close their eyes and then work themselves into an orgasmic trance as the crescendo rises.  It can be beautiful or indecent. Is it planned or an act?  Let’s really explore this science. 

The Look Of The Pompous Artiste

Concert pianists and rock stars can travel to Never Never Land in their mind while putting their fingers on autopilot.  It’s a mental state that appears to be somewhere between hypnosis and an LSD trip.

Sometimes they pull a “Ray Charles,” sway in their seat and exhale a shudder of ecstacy.  Onlookers can only hope to experience 1/100th of the emotion of a single note.

Sorry to be so blunt man, but that lemon-eating look isn't becoming.  At the very least, practice in front of a mirror. 

Are They Really Into It That Much?

That’s the question you want answered if you’re going to give them some slack.  I mean, how much can Whitney Houston really get into “I Will Always Love You” anymore?  Probably makes her want to puke, but she’s got that sparkle so you buy it.

But concert pianists are different.  Everything seems to send a shiver up and down their spines and their actions are exaggerated.  Imagine a Victor Hugo scene of a classical pianist in a day-labor line.

“What can you do?” The boss asks.

“Man, I can feel music . . . every note.”

“Got just the job . . .  see that bell tower?  Go ring some bells.  You’ll feel every note.”  

Now that's a look you'll be sure to believe.

The Rapper

If you’re rapping, all you have do is bring out the girls to convey your greatness for you.  It’s hard to resist watching five chicks show you how the music makes them hot.  Just hire the most beautiful girls you can to dig it and it’ll be a hit.

The Metal Guitarist

Is there anything more self-ingratiating and embarrassing than the exaggerated moves of rock stars? Lots of metalhead punks took lessons from grandpas Gene and Ozzie to refine and master the art of “selling it.”  Hendrix played guitar behind his back and picked it with his teeth.  That was raw.  Townsend was the first to smash his guitar.  Truth is, most acts today just copy the masters.

At a recent Metal revival tour, a lot of young-budding guitarists got a clinic from an old master shredder.  During one part, the guitarist did his signature move.  He dropped to his knees and fell backwards with eyes rolled-back in bliss . . .

     “No, wait man, false alarm, the dude needs a defibrillator."

     “Yeah, but before he checked out, he was really digging himself.”
     “Yes, a true artiste.  ROCK ON!!!”

Justin Bieber has that faraway look all the girls are reading loud and clear.  Sparkling-eyed teenage sex.

OMG, I think I better stop!


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and


  1. Hi Joseph. Loved this post! I think as musicians we can take ourselves a little too seriously sometimes. I loved Victor Borge's parodies of opera singers and concert pianists, and I love Weird Al Yankovich for the same reason. They are both HUGE talents, but they didn't/don't let their sense of self-importance keep them from poking fun at themselves and others.

    Wishing you a song in your heart,
    Miss Leslie @ Music with Miss

  2. Victor Borge was a master at lampooning classical and got a lot of latitude from the music community because he was such a good musician himself.

    Being self-absorbed sort of goes along with greatness for any skill. No offense to anyone. It's all in fun.

  3. I've got a different twist to this, what if the reality is that performers like Borge or Weird Al refuse to lower themselves to the level of seeking recognition for thier musical talent. After all they know how great they are and mocking others is just a way to prove that and also go against the establishment. The more who would be musical snobs to them complain the better they feel about themselves.

    On the other hand I think a lot of extreme so called artists like rappers or hard core rockers, seek the same results but for a different reason. Instead of comedy they use shock value. Most of them aren't that talented and more than likely they've been told that many times. They try to conceal the lack of true ability with the loud aggressive music, exagerated stage presence and or weird costumes.

    I'm sure a guy like Flavor-Flav or a group like Kiss had to be laughing at themselves just like Borge or Weird Al. The real difference is kids want to also "fight the powers that be" so these groups end up getting the last laugh and all the way to the bank too.

  4. You are spot on with your observations. Today's media-hyped controversies are carefully scripted by producers (who will will deny it) to get the most exposure possible.

    How many stars (or their agents) are in collusion with the National Enquirer to get on the front page? What's really was behind the tiff between Rosie and the Donald; or Letterman and Oprah? These powerful people are pros at creating controversial buzz.

    As for kids relating to the shock value of "loud aggressive music," it goes further to include rebelliousness expressed in the forms of massive tattoos and piercings; sporting mohawks and wild hair; wearing inside/out clothes and "making fashion statements" with pants falling halfway down their thighs.

    Rebelliousness today must really be outlandish to get attention because it's tough to get a rise out of their 60's parents (who wrote the book on the subject).

    Over-the-top, loud, lewd, violent, crappy music is what pushes their parents' buttons. The hippie generation expressed rebelliousness but pride themselves in that they at least listened to good music. The bad music that their kids may be listening to really hits them where it hurts.

  5. Exactly! You've done a nice job of expanding on the point I was making. But unfortunately the parents of the hippies wouldn't agree with you on what "good music" is and it's been the same for each generation. It's funny because pretty much everyone feels what they like is the only true "good" music. We attempt to be so objective in our opinions of how good or bad forms of art are when in reality it's all totally subjective based on the indivudual's own expectations. There's certainly cultural or other outside influences that might guide towards a certain type or style of music but ultimately it's a personal experience.

  6. Taste in music seems to work in both directions. I didn't like classical or big band music when I was young but learned to appreciate them. Clearly, in all those eras there was good and bad and the same is true for select music today and will stand the test of time. That's a given.

    However, when there is a great rebellion by the older generation against new-generation music, it usually goes hand-in-hand with some kind of sociological swing. Rock and Roll in the 50's had the boys and girls all aflutter. Though parents wanted to ban it from radio and TV, it was too strong of influence to disregard. I'm sure some kids wanted to stay back and adhere to "Mockingbird Hill" but overall, I believe the rock and roll wave was overwhelming in the young generation.

    Not so much today. Certain styles, I do not believe lead themselves to longitivity. My opinion, I don't think Rap is going to hummed 100 years from now. I can't think of one rap song that really has the same power as say Bridge Over Troubled Water in its strength, beauty and lyrical excellence.

    Without saying there is no rap that might be worthy, none immediately comes to mind. The long-term prospects for rap are dim because society as a whole likes to exercise taste in musical topics. Graphic lyrics that include things like F****** Bit****, killing cops and other anti-social violent messages may shock the senses today as "relevant" but i don't think it will last.

    As far as our parents not liking rock and roll, I think if you ask them today, most would admit that they were wrong.

  7. I think the generational gaps are and will continue to be there. That's obvious but again I stress that to me art in any form is totally subjective. My original point was just that some of the extreme artists and people like Weird Al know they're full of it and use whatever out of the box approach to get noticed. How good or bad the music is really has nothing to do with it.

    You mentioned rap as if it's a new fad but it's been a top seller and growing since the early 70s, which by the way is almost half of the century you've quoted. Will it last much longer? Who knows and I personally don't care but the point is that it has huge global sales so the people that have a say in the industry promote it to the fullest.

    Trust me, I'm no fan of rap but I don't let my personal likes and dislikes cloud the facts and like it or not someone is forking out millions on what you or I might consider crappy music, while a lot of the true talented "musicians" are in a struggle to get noticed. Sad but true.

    Either way this is an interesting topic and I've enjoyed the back and forth with you.

    Great job!