Mozart and Baseball
Many people don’t know that before Mozart in the Jungle was a TV series, it was a book. The series, apparently to get ratings, focused on sex and drugs in classical music. The book did too, but it was about much more than that.
Blair Tindall, the author, was a professional oboist in New York who went to the famous Juilliard School and graduated to play in a wide variety of ensembles, notably the New York Philharmonic. In her memoir, she chose to include drugs and sexual encounters, and she named names, a practice that was widely condemned by musicians.
In addition, though, Tindall gave a down-to earth, behind-the-scenes account of this little-known career, which most people vaguely associate with black dresses and bowties. She discussed the triumphs and frustrations of life as a musician, described the business side of her profession, and questioned the practice of training thousands of young people for just a handful of jobs.
In a weird way, her book reminded me of Jim Bouton’s classic baseball memoir, Ball Four. Like Tindall, Bouton pulled back the curtain on a career that previously had been obscure or hidden. He included sex and alcohol, he named names (notably Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford), and he was roundly condemned for it in the world of baseball.
One big difference, of course, is humor. Bouton’s book is full of it (as baseball players might say). In fact, it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and as a result I came away with a great affection for Bouton.
In contrast, Tindall’s memoir is largely humorless and has a “poor me” quality, which does not endear her to the reader. However, if you can look past the warts and flaws in her account, I recommend it, especially to music fans.