The unbearable ambivalence of a violin player

The unbearable ambivalence of a violin player


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2017

More truth here than you’d expect.



  • Lisa says:

    Except we’d never smash our violins like petulant children. There was truth in it up to a point, then it was asinine.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It reminds me of comparable attitudes:

  • Alvaro says:

    Punch back to reality:

    While some small minds celebrate the 2 seconds (literally, watch the tape with a stopwatch) Dudamel appeared in the Superbowl, or the completely overlooked performances of Lang Lang in the Grammy’s (the presenters didnt even know who he was), the above is the real image that classical music has, and will forever have, in popular music.

    Try as anyone might, the reality is that what classical musicians do is not, nor will it ever be, perceived as cool. Its simply not the case. Administrators desperate for outreach are really people desperate for their own jobs rather than some altruistic souls committed to “save the arts”.

    One would literally would have to sit down with every producer, actor, and manager in TV, movie, and popular media outlets and somehow convince them that this artform is not what it is, and even then they would not change these portrayals because whether we like it or not, the public shares this view of classical music.

    And dont get me started with the disgrace of “mozart in the jungle”…..its just sad. Bigly

  • DAVID says:

    Very interesting. The overall message in this clip to me suggests that the author either has had personal experience, or knows quite well, someone who has learned, or has had to learn, a musical instrument — and allegedly not in the healthiest of circumstances. The fact is, the discipline required to reach a high level of playing can easily be destructive on anyone’s psyche, especially given the fact that one must begin practicing at a relatively young age and thus exercise a high level discipline at an age when one might be more tempted to go play with one’s friends or simply be a child. I find this “unbearable ambivalence” to be more prevalent in instruments who seem predestined for solo careers — mainly piano and violin — and see it much less in woodwinds or brass players, and for some reason less in cellists as well. Music history is rife with people who either were “forced” to practice by their parents, elders, teachers, and/or who internalized an inner censor, thus forcing themselves to do something which perhaps they did not want to be doing. When the defense finally breaks down, they do indeed break their instrument — perhaps not as literally as the character in this clip, but more likely psychologically: by breaking up with it, either through neglect or through some sort of long-term unresolved bitterness which they are likely to keep hidden from themselves, as if remaining in an unhappy marriage. Others never reach that point and keep on dutifully obeying their inner censor. The great psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto touched on many of these issues in her important work on child psychology. Also, of great interest is Izabela Wagner’s book “Producing Excellence,” which is perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on this topic.

    • David Osborne says:

      As it happens Seth MacFarlane, creator of family guy is also a singer, very musically literate, and the music on that show has always been excellent.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Seth McFarlane is a brilliant musician and frequently features classical on his shows. The Star Wars spoofs he made with Family Guy really honor John Williams quite well. There’s a hilarious clip from the first season of Family Guy with some poor girl being forced to study bassoon while being dangled over a pool with a shark in it. Find it.