Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Composer's Background

Went to the symphony last night and one of the composers was Brahms. The author of the program notes included a heavy bias in his writing and it immediately struck me as wrong.

Basically, the notes say that he was a from a poor family and that as a young boy, he was also expected to work to help the family survive. He got a job playing piano in brothels. It goes on "he was a favorite of the prostitutes and their patrons. To what extent these early experiences shaped and scarred him can scarcely be imagined."

Well, for one thing, if he was permanently scarred by this experience, fascinating how he went on to compose hundreds of pieces of beautiful music. Hardly evidence that his childhood was damaged, is it?

Maybe he enjoyed the work. My father dropped out of high school to help support the family and he was doing construction work. Maybe playing the piano for tips and wages was not a bad gig.

The other thing is that if the prostitutes and their patrons liked him, maybe they treated him very well. Maybe some extra food, extra tips, gifts? Maybe he liked being in that place where all those women were. Maybe his experience prepared him for life.

Do we not have many examples of people who were born into a poor family but then through hard work managed to become excellent at something and gain recognition and prosperity?

No comments: