Really Terrible

I was thinking that these guys might be Lichtenbergian, but two things give me pause: 1) we, for all our frivolity, never set out to be inadequate; we do care about the quality of our work.  And 2) these guys have actually put together a world-renowned (of sorts) orchestra.  I don’t think we’ve done anything like that.

11 Thoughts on “Really Terrible

  1. Turff on March 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm said:

    This provokes a number of reactions…

    First, I don’t think I’ve ever disclosed this to my fellow society members, but I used to play the bassoon. I was passable at the trumpet (limited range prevented being a first, but my fundamentals and ear were solid) for most of my high school “career”. However, my senior year, when concert season rolled around, we had no bassoonist. The band owned two bassoons, so I decided to pick the instrument up. The progression from brass to a double reed seemed obvious, so the transition was relatively easy. With a bit of cheek, I also decided to take a piece to the Solo and Ensemble festival. It was Hail Brittainia if I’m not mistaken. I still have the little blue ribbon I earned.

    As to Dale’s point about this group’s similarity to us, I tend to agree with him. The audacity of the group reminds me of us. The belief that art should not be the exclusive province of some self-adorned class of elites is something in which I believe strongly. I’m fully convinced that lack of talent may inhibit to some degree, but even those of modest talents can sometimes produce something great through perseverance and productivity. I also believe that there are undiscovered talents out there that, given a non-threatening outlet (elite musicians are fantastically good at threatening environments) can develop into their potential.

    Having said that, participation in group >dedicated< to mediocrity has no appeal whatsoever. If I had a chance to break out the bassoon, trumpet, or voice with a group of similarly talented folk dedicated to making the most of their skills, that would work, but it would have to be about excellence as best we could achieve it. Anything less would be a betrayal to whatever limited talents I might possess.

  2. Joyful noise.

    I don’t think this is what we are aspiring to. We celebrate what is, we dance along the rocky pathway — true — but we always have one eye fixed on the mountain’s peak. And we will get there … someday. Meanwhile, we’ll have a bit of fun winding our way ’round the mountain.

  3. I’ve always thought this group reminded me of Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra:
    and I tend to view them favorably.

  4. It sounds like the primary difference is that with the Scratch the outcome was intentionally experimental, and with the Terrible Orchestra, it was either accidental or out the incompetence.

  5. Experimental, true, but I also want to believe there was the intent of thumbing noses at the “music establishment.” And the music establishment always needs a bit of that. Being something of an amateur aspirer in matters musical, I’m positioned at just the right angle to see the ugliness and the overbearing self-regard among “the trained.” Of course you are going to have a few folks who are genuine gifts from God. The rest of us should celebrate and appreciate those rare creatures as we plod along in a humble way with our own ambitious and striving squeakings and hummings. There are musicians who act as if they are gifts from God when they are not; they want to be part of the exclusive club of those who are best qualified to rub elbows with genius. Music matters can make people so fussy. I’m glad a little deliberate badness can ruffle the feathers.

  6. These guys, however, are not Lichtenbergians. Or are they? [Youtube link, btw]

  7. Turff on March 12, 2008 at 6:56 am said:

    These are either brilliant or… not. Is this “…brilliance as best (they) can acheive it…”?

  8. This quote:

    There are fanatics without ability, and then they are really dangerous people.–GCL, F.80

    Is it supposed to say instead:

    “…and then there are really dangerous people.”


  9. Actually, no, it says “they.” I know because I looked at it three or four times before I typed it in because it seemed odd to me, too.

  10. Having known both kinds of fanatics in my time, I can attest to the general accuracy of the aphorism as it stands. Seems like there should be a better way to translate, though.

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