May 4th, 2016
“You’re a violinist? How do you like David Garrett?” asked the man in the driver’s seat to the left of me, driving down the A2 at blistering German speed a few early mornings ago.
I had to tell him I didn’t know, though of course I had heard of him, and seen his enormous posters all around town last winter — David Garrett, world’s hunkiest violinist, standing outdoors at reddish sunset in ethereal rain, flowing blonde hair loose and wet on head turned melancholically to the side, tatooed 6-pack under a steamy white T-shirt under a leather jacket, devil-may-care limp arm holding a violin inches from the floor — like some sort of a cross between Fabio Lanzoni and a one-man 90s boy band, advertised as playing the “greatest hits of Violin”, whatever that meant.
I decided that it wasn’t really worth getting into a conversation about the philosophical ramifications of David Garrett, not that early in the morning, not with some complete stranger Mitfahrgelegenheit driver, and not, simply because I didn’t care about David Garrett. Even if he was as terrible as everyone supposed, I thought, somewhat cynically, that he was at least rather intelligent for having put together such a well-selling act. It seemed to me he had found a way to work way less hard than the average classical soloist and earn way more. We all gotta do what we gotta do, right? Who was I to judge the stadiums he filled? Who was I to judge his love of money? It was his life, he could do whatever he wanted. Nobody was forcing anybody to listen.
Sitting there, seatbelt on, with heavy eyelids and a stiff neck, hours of German Autobahn ahead of me, the driver started the album off, a mix of shyness and curiosity winning over any good reason for me to say no.
Little did I know what I was in for.
Though I was determined to listen with an open mind, and had indeed served as devil’s advocate of David Garrett in several conversations in the past, within a few moments I understood clearly why he had been the object of so much ire. The songs ranged in genres from Chinese restaurant pop, to 70′s rock covers that would make Freddie Mercury turn in his grave, to a few songs with singers I can only describe as Opera Eats its own Vomit, to classical “favorites” with the lovely addition of electric guitar, drum machine, and orchestra, complete with David Garrett favorite, (sampled) glockenspiel. The 40 or so tracks, spanning at least 2 and a half hours, were accompanied by what David Garrett tried to make me believe was a small rock band and orchestra, but what I heard was actually expensive samples layered with cuts of David Garrett’s own playing, multiplied and octavised and technology-whipped to the stiff peaks of the decidedly David-Garrett-y sounding string section of a David Garrett click-track karaoke orchestra. I realised there was only David Garrett on this David Garrett album; David Garrett’s trademark touching lyricism plus David Garrett’s ruggedly-handsome-yet-sensitive image played on David Garrett’s expensive Stradivarius mixed with David Garrett’s expensive gear made by David Garrett’s expensive collegues, all to feed David Garrett’s expensive life. It would not have even surprised me if David Garrett had forgone David Garrett’s expensive collegues and done the mastering, editing, and mixing of his David Garrett album all by his David Garrett self.
And the result lies, no, so much worse, it primordially oozes, in some disgusting subterranean crater somewhere in that godawful musical grey area between classical, pop, and soft-rock, and manages to be equally belittling to all three genres — if of course you can condescend to rock any more than putting the word soft in front of it (which David Garrett can. Easily). David Garrett says that classical musicians are prejudiced against the music he creates; but the real fact is, the music he makes is as equally terrible pop and rock and classical as it is way below even the standards of a German grocery store’s taste in music.
But it wasn’t the sheer tackiness of the album that disturbed me. Or even its total unoriginality! From “Hooked on Classics with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 80s, to Hans die Geige, the original German rock violinist from the 70s onwards, to even Nigel Kennedy and countless others, this kind of thing has been done again and again.
What really disturbed me, and continues to, was the manner with which he played it. I couldn’t understand for the life of me what he meant. Was he playing from his heart? Was he serious? Was he being ironic? Was he “breaking free of the classical shackles” etc.? I don’t hesitate to say he’s an excellent violinist, and even a pretty good musician. He has a beautiful sound from a magnificent Stradivarius, and fantastically sensitive ears. It would make no sense to complain about David Garrett’s performance, because David Garrett knows EXACTLY what David Garrett is doing.
No, what really perturbed my intellect, what squeezed my feelings through so many hate-filled corridors of the mind, what nauseated my soul — what really got me, was nothing less than the unspeakable shameless evil that vibrated out of every knowing, cunning, insidious moment of this deeply diseased musical by-product. It was an evil so thick it made no sound at all; it was empty, sinister, abysmal; the same quiet hole that overcomes any decent person thinking about world politics, or genital mutilation, or animals in slaughterhouses. It was too sick to think about, too evil to process, too gross to fathom. It was pure anesthety.
David Garrett’s album is, simply, the most mind-numbing, emotionally-paralysing, soul-murdering bullshit I have ever heard in my whole life. And frankly, the question we ought to be asking ourselves is not whether or not we like or approve of David Garrett — but rather, we should strive for deeper examination, and we should ask ourselves whether David Garrett might be the ruler of hell, the musical incarnation of the devil.