Last week when doing the preview for the Free Press, I ran into a particular listing that just raised my ire. Here’s what I wrote:
“Ethan Bortnick @ Stude Concert Hall – You know the really crappy middling Saturday night pandering-to-old-people-with-deep-pockets programming that local PBS affiliate KUHT drags out every week. Well now you can experience that brain cell killing experience at Rice University’s Shepherd School of music and add in the weirdo carny element a child prodigy ( the bourgeois parenting equivalent of child beauty pageants ). Yeah it’s creepy and wrong and you know it. If you go to this I will never speak to you again. “
I wasn’t aware of this abomination until I bothered to Google it last week but it’s just the kind of stuff that is so wrong you can’t help but feel the blood rush to your head and cause steam to spout from your ears. Here, check this crap out:
I mean for fuck’s sake! Who thinks this is great art? It’s a fucking carny show! “Look at the smart monkey play the piano. Aww isn’t he cute. Aww how adorable.”
Here is the problem with this – this PBS special sucks balls. The music selection and arrangements…everything about it is a musical abomination. It’s like watching a school recital except that the parents aren’t just sharing their memories with their family but whoring out their child to the public as this great artist. There is only one problem. He’s fucking nine! Really when he sings “Let It Be”, is anyone really feeling moved in a real way? No, it’s this patronizing “Awww.” You think any audience watching this kid views him on the same level as Thelonious Monk or Sergei Rachmaninoff? No, to them it’s a cute kid.
What is clearly missing here to a bunch of assholes at PBS, the public who eats this crap, and his delusional parents is how art works. You are expressing yourself in some manner that tells people who you are – it’s not mere mimickry and a mechanical skill – and part of that is being able to call the shots to some degree. At nine, I don’t think that’s possible so what you have here is a kid with some natural ability being tossed out onto a carny show. The result is that any natural maturation as an artist is being sidelined by a marketing machine selling a false story – that a nine year old has a depth and maturity beyond their years. But look at him, he’s just a kid. Even in one interview with his music teacher, the teacher says how he can’t relate to sad compositions. Now if that doesn’t tell you that he doesn’t have the depth necessary to be taken seriously at this stage, I don’t know what does.
I’m not saying the kid doesn’t have a natural ability but simply put, the dog and pony show should be put on hold – PBS, his parents, and the marketing team behind this crap need to just stop, let him develop his talent naturally, and let this kid just be a kid for now. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen, there is too much money at stake…so, just feed him to the machine and pray for the best.