Monday, May 12, 2008

Changing the Taste of Love

For the past few weeks, I’ve been delving into how music’s inspiration comes out in fans. I had a number of ideas swirling around and then TPTB launched My Manilow Network (MMN) and added another factor to the mix – TPTB actually provided a venue for some forms of that inspiration to come out!

Usually when music inspires it brings out some new or untapped emotion – usually positive. Hence the title – it’s based on a line of Barry’s “The Best of Me”. Being inspired by music changes your appreciation for it and can even awaken other kinds of creativity you didn’t even know were there.

When music strikes someone the right way, the first impulse is to either respond in kind or to preserve the moment., a number of Barry Blogs, and the new MMN and all of the photo and video entries are testament to that. Occasionally music will bring out different kinds of creativity. Again, on MMN there are videos of choreographed dances, home-made videos, and some sketches and cartoons. Lots of us are writing – thank God for blogs! – not just on Barry but on other subjects that come to mind. Come to think of it, I did a lot of writing back in my older fan days.

My favorite example of musical inspiration that lifts spirits in need of new life is the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. This school specializes in instructing children (and adults) with severe dyslexia. There is no other program like this in Kentucky or in any of the surrounding states. When kids get frustrated because of dyslexia or other learning difficulties, they drop out of school and society altogether. But Hindman doesn’t stop at just the classroom. They sponsor the annual Appalachian Family Folk Week where artists (including musicians) celebrate, teach, and pass on the arts of the mountains. If you’re not from Appalachia, your first impression of these people is stereotypical “hillbillies”. Hillbilly is a term used with pride for the folks whose families settled the mountains 200 years ago. But if you’re a Yankee like me, or from any other “big city”, you best not use it – because “city folks” use it as a derogative. (If Dr Berry is reading this, I promise on a stack of Bibles that I’m just trying to describe this community – no disrespect, I swear!) These kids know that the rest of the world outside of their community thinks they’re a bunch of hicks. Music and other arts give them pride in their heritage that “outsiders” would love to pretend doesn’t exist. You’re surrounded by fiddles and hammered dulcimers for a week. And if you listen not just to the music but the people playing, it sounds like heaven.

I think the form of inspired creativity that requires the most intelligence and the greatest love of the subject is parody. Too bad it’s also the most misunderstood. Too many times, parody is seen as cruel mocking. If we’re talking about a critic’s column, that may be the case. But a dedicated fan isn’t going to have cruelty on their mind. When a fan can poke fun at their favorite subject (the key word is fan, not critic – that’s an important difference) it says that they love all aspects of what is inspiring them. ALL of it – not just the pretty parts used in PR. Casual fans only enjoy the music and the musician when they appear perfect. Serious and dedicated fans will find beauty even when things aren’t going “perfectly”. Serious fans will find beauty or even inspiration in aspects that are hidden away like a crazy relative the family is ashamed of. Bottom line, parody shows that that fan can accept the music and musician just as they are without turning up their nose when something doesn’t go as planned or isn’t as pretty offstage as it is onstage.

For some examples in Barry fan land, check out “Beth’s Barry Blog”. My personal favorite entry is “Marc’s Journal”, but the whole blog will keep you giggling for hours. Even Barry gets this idea. Kazoos and toy ducks, anyone?

The greatest parody I’ve ever seen is in classical dance. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a troupe of men who recreate and pay homage to a century of great ballets. Most of them are in drag. What’s the big deal? Men en pointe. The dedication to training in technique for men to accomplish this is far greater than what a woman has to commit because of the basic differences in skeletal and muscle structure. Their center of gravity is different; they are generally heavier than women, so they are more likely to be injured, and more seriously. To raise the bar of complexity even further, they exaggerate all of the conceits and foibles that go into a classical production. One homage to Anna Pavlova’s “Dying Swan” involves a molting costume – that guy’s toe shoe hits even one of those feathers and he’s going down hard! They love to make fun of falls and accidents. No one in the dance community will talk about it but every ballerina – even the primas like Margot Fonteyn, Cynthia Gregory, and Lauren Anderson have all eaten the floor thanks to their partners’ butterfingers. The Trocks make sure everyone remembers that. There’s always a clash of egos, which they play to the hilt in “Pas de Quatre”. Let’s also not forget that most major ballet companies are union shops – affiliated with the AFL-CIO. You know, the Teamsters? Yes, they have strikes and they are anything but delicate and pretty.

But it’s obvious if you see the performances that the fun they’re having at the art’s expense is not out of bitterness or disgust. No one is going to commit to understanding all of these details if not for love of the art. What’s more, they understand the ego clashes and physical foibles in rehearsals and not only embrace them, but put them on display. This is what I mean about parody being a form of love and admiration.

Now that TPTB have created the new network, I’m wondering where the creative juices are going to flow in the fan world. And what are the boundaries? Or are there any? Does TPTB’s IT department have a sense of humor? Obviously the rude remarks on the homepage’s comment wall, plus the obscene (not to mention butt-ugly) videos inserted into the comments have nothing to do with being a fan. There’s a new place for Barry fans to be creative and to share the fruits of the inspiration of Barry’s music. I hope they moderate with a light hand so that creativity can continue to grow.

1 comment:

  1. I hope they allow creativity as well. There are some talented fans out there...and it can only serve to foster more creativity if they allow it to flourish.