Elevator to Hell

January 13th, 2017

I don’t really know how to start this blog post. Suffice it to say that I feel terrible and I want to let it out. And I don’t really know how else to voice my concerns. I don’t know how to make sense of this all.

Usually I’ve tried to keep this blog rather literary, giving myself permission to ramble on as beautifully as I can about concepts and ideas with some kind of grand spiritual message to tie together my complaints and suggestions and observations at the end of it all. But this time I cannot find access to such artistic integrity. I am drained. I am dead. My spirit has been squashed. I feel dirty inside.

The crux of the matter was a concert I played about 5 days ago. A chamber music concert in an extravagantly chandeliered 5-Star Hotel in some lovely German Berg on some very ugly level of human society I will never have access to, nor would I ever desire to. We had played for a staggering 10 hours the day before, squeezing in an eight hour recording session and a full concert, with a 2 hour drive on each side. Simple human needs such as eating and resting were apparently worth sacrificing in the name of the supposedly holy music we cowardly dipped our fingers into on this tour. I played this particular concert on a sad auto-pilot, my aching muscles and tendons and nerves bending to the will of my musical automatism, the thousands of notes swimming on the pages from my accumulated exhaustion, my mind half keeping track of the performance, half very far away, in deep conversation with my teenaged self, the one who chose this life, asking her…. What on EARTH were you thinking?

I got home 5 days ago from this grueling 7 day nightmare tour and am still shellshocked. Particularily brutal was my colleague to the right, proud 2nd Konzertmeister of a hoity-toity South German orchestra, the kind of anal-retentive violinist who actually told me I was breathing too loudly in the recording session, the vile stand partner who visibly winced every time I used an open string, and the dark kind of musician who told me after the concert, with the patronising tone of voice that assholes use with children, that I “played very musically” when he really meant that I played out of tune, and he noticed.

I don’t know how I am expected to be okay with this. I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t even know how to diffuse it. I don’t know if I even want to know how to deal with it. I don’t know if it’s okay to feel okay with it. Dear people of the internet, my sanity has been shaken this week.

One day in the green room before a concert, I stared at a map, that being a genuinely more interesting option than chitchatting with my colleagues, who, as far as I’m concerned have no idea what a conversation actually is, as receptivity, openness, or even the most basic exchanges of opinion or information seem to be out of their emotional and intellectual repertoire. The Ringleader of this particular project came up and asked if I was looking for where I’d like to go on vacation. I told him no, that I just loved maps, and that this one was new — and pointed out Crimea which was marked “Under Russian Control”. He said nothing, clearly having only the vaguest idea of what I was talking about, and left me alone to stare at the wall.

Don’t get me wrong. I tried my best to have fun. And the concerts were mostly really good. I have gotten tougher over the years and can keep my shit together. But there is only so long I can last when every joke I crack is met with condescending smirks, and every semi-interesting thought I speak aloud is met with judgemental silence, or worse, a laugh at my expense; there is only so long I can last around people who laugh so casually about the rampant sexual abuse at music conservatories; there is only so long I can last around such ignorance, fear, and evil. After the first 12 hours attempting to open myself up to the situation, I quickly felt like a broken record of unwelcomeness and rejection, twirled back into the hopeless depression of my teenage years spent banging my head against the wall of the classical music establishment, and eventually just learned it was best to keep my mouth shut like my younger colleagues did, and I did so, often holding back tears, and very often thinking incredibly violent thoughts towards my colleagues and towards myself.

And I asked some of my more open-minded colleagues, is this all worth it for you?, and the truth was, they weren’t asking themselves such questions. They just do it. And that is a happy solution. My dilemna is indeed caused by independent thought.

And do you know why I’m crazy? Because there is even the faintest question in my mind that perhaps independent thought isn’t such a high price to pay to live the European artist dream, teenaged fantasies, etc. The brain argues, here I am, in the established home of classical music, Germany, with the kind of resume that should make any Canadian kid like me proud. And yet, the body and the heart protest. On this tour I was so miserable I could hardly even form a sentence (me, a writer!!). And in the emotional contingency plan my colleagues seem to operate by, the simple privilege of getting to play Souvenir de Florence, or whatever, is apparently supposed to compensate for otherwise suicidal levels of fear and depression during the making of it. Which is a bit like saying the joy of having sex should make up for the shittyness of being a prostitute. (And apparently it does for some.) But, man….that’s a dark fucking path. I don’t wanna find that out. I already know too much about it. And I can’t handle the agony.

As much as I am certain that the world is benevolent, she’s still a dark place too, and independent thought is sanity. It is the only thing we can fight for in this war against our minds. And my sanity is not for sale. Not anymore.

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