The Best of Chopin

When I’m working on something difficult, I put on Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg variations in the background. I tune everything out but his piano and somehow my mind feels more serene and focused and I’m able to produce a crisp if unexciting document. Once Glenn is done, other YouTube suggestions pop up. The best of Chopin. Or the best of Satie or Bach. Soon it will be the best of Bowie or Prince – it probably already exists. None of their “lesser” songs included, although some of these may be interesting.

I’ve been reading a lot about Prince. He sounds like the boss from hell, or in HR lingo a leader with high self-orientation. Didn’t believe in casual dressing, no Birkenstocks allowed. The armour had to be on all the time. He liked Al Di Meola (P would approve), didn’t like being compared to Jimi Hendrix (because he thought the comparison was simply based on race) and was incredibly competitive.

It’s often hard to separate the art and the artist from the person, but you can admire one without admiring the other. Prince’s talent and sheer musicality will survive everything else. It’s sad that he died without getting old, because I think that he could be a great musician even without the jumping of speakers in four-inch heels and doing the splits. It would be a different kind of performance, in smaller venues and maybe more scary because he’d have to reveal more of himself. To give him credit, he was starting to do this in more recent months; even in the last decade his performances looked very different from the Prince we saw during the 1980s and 1990s.

I saw “A Bigger Splash” last weekend. Beautiful to look at but unmoving. Ralph Fienness chews up the scenery. Matthias Schoenaerts and Tilda Swinton don’t really work as a couple, but look sculpted.

Walking in the Financial District I overhear two suits talking. One of them said: “it’s 50 cents on every dollar”. Sigh. Then on the subway, three young hipster dudes discussing philosophy and social media restored my equilibrium.

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