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Getting Things “Right”.

September 28, 2014

I don’t watch a lot of t.v.; in fact our actual television set is hardly ever plugged in, let alone watched. I admit to watching some shows streamed on the internet though, and it’s in doing this I’ve noticed something over the years. When it comes to showing musicians, especially composers and conductors, the folks who make movies and television shows never get it quite right.

Case in point: Watching an old episode of “The Mentalist” with a murder of the concertmistress of an orchestra, I noticed the following without even trying:

  1. Nowhere near enough performers to cover the parts in the score. There are maybe 40 people shown “playing” (another sticking point), when there should be more winds and brass.
  2. What the heck is the “conductor” doing? He looks intense (I keep waiting for off-screen screams of “It’s Leopold!”) and makes some very dramatic hand motions, but they have no relation to the music we hear or even to any music at all.
  3. The way the conductor sees fit to move performers from a secondary position to first chair is plainly ridiculous in this day and age of unionized orchestras. Unless it’s a community orchestra, in which case a whole ‘nother set of issues come up. This is supposed to be a professional group, so I wonder where the union rep was.
  4. Last but not least is the major plot point — spoiler alert — that the nebbishy oboist (hmm, a little stereotyping?) is the killer. What?

And this one episode of this one show is only an example. Time and again we see “composers” creating “masterworks” that sound like somebody’s idea of what a modern work should sound like, but for only a minute or so, and then full of clichés — and they do so after working feverishly under the curse of “inspiration.” Or watching a string quartet “play” without a clue as to how what they do relates to “making” the music (ST:TNG, you know who you are).

Surprisingly, one t.v. show gets it right, and for the right reasons. The Big Bang Theory is a comedy about nerdy scientists (no stereotypes there, eh?), but every so often we see a musical side of the characters/actors. Two play piano (and sing), one plays cello pretty well. That the characters do this comes from the actors being able to do so, so it always seems natural.

Directors, please: If you want to have your actors play musicians, have them learn enough to do it right.

Rant over.

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