I understand from the media that the coronavirus lockdown has been a heyday for porn sites, so much so that they’re opening access to all and sundry. Well, hooray for them and hooray for their users. I might as well admit to my perversion and see if there’s a site that caters to it.
I like watching sweaty girls go up against 100 or so men and women armed with devices of wood, string and brass. I like it when they gasp. I like it when they strain. Their expressions of satisfaction when something goes right transport me. They don’t have to be wearing particularly revealing clothing, but they usually are dressed in something a bit showy, not that you see much of that when they’re in action. As for the action, well, they are attacking a toothy, long-tailed, black monster with their slender arms and fingers. I cheer for them and expect them to triumph.
And they do! Those girls, dear reader, or women to be more accurate, are female ninja scholars trained in the toughest dojos of Asia, Europe, and America. They go up against the Grieg Concerto, the many Beethovens, the Schumanns, the Brahmses and other Rachmaninoffs, they grind their teeth, sweat, nearly collapse, and at the end someone brings them flowers.
I used to see this spectacle two or three times a year from the fourteenth or twentieth row, having paid handsomely for the privilege. Now Youtube gives my scopophilia nearly endless license, if I’m willing to be interrupted every ten minutes by an ad for some grammar correction app that I, having learned Latin by the sweat of my brow, don’t need. Comely maidens in the spring time of their lives bang out piano concertos, encores, and encores of encores. The camera follows their every move. Mais O, ces doigts d’enfants, tapant au Gewandhaus!
However, there are figures and examples (yes, we fallen subjects need figures and examples) to show us what engagement with music, yes, music, not soft porn, by an uncompromising and straight-faced yet admirable executant would be. The red dresses, high heels and sequins of the others fall away. Let Hélène Grimaud receive my imaginary bouquets, not that she requires them in any sense. She’s photographed, not by chance I assume, in a non-voyeuristic way that shuffles all that heaving-bodice stuff out of sight. When I wake up at four in the morning with music ringing in my ears, it is with a thought of her nimble action, end-to-end memorization of the score, and oh-so-rare smile.
All well and good, but the sound on YouTube is abominable — lossily compressed and parsimoniously streamed. I know that some people use YouTube as their personal free music library; all the “creators” do is impose one static image while their CD-rip plays. I had 78 RPM shellac discs on an ancient Sears record player that, even with their “frying bacon” ambience, sounded better than YouTube. Even with the costs, hearing the stuff live is more immediate than even the fanciest Blu-Ray audio in a stereo that cost more than my college education. Once the plague madness ends, ad fontes! Back to the live performances!