Moving on to other projects, I decided not to keep this domain going; and so it is goodbye, dear readers – this blog and all its content will soon disappear.
By now you will be aware that David Garrett is having a tough time in this Year of the Monkey. As he was born in the sign of the monkey himself, one might suppose that things would go his way, all the way, this year. But far from it! Chinese tradition notes that your worst troubles will usually befall you in those very years that correspond to your birth sign.
Therefore, Monkeys, beware! This year is likely to spring unpleasant surprises on you. In the recurring animal year of their birth, people are said to “suffer a lot of misfortunes, such as sickness, economic loss, physical injuries and obstacles in their career.” Or, as in David’s case, defamation and blackmail. His current troubles could be seen as corresponding to a universal cosmic pattern that underlies our lives – as ancient tradition has it – based on a cycle of twelve years. As David turns 36, this circle completes itself for the third time and brings with it a set of personal tests.
Now his carefully guarded private life has come under public scrutiny at last. How vastly unpleasant this must be. For once, it just isn’t about the MUSIC, and speculation is rife. “Why hasn’t David Garrett ever had a normal, happy, long-term relationship?” journalists and commenters have asked the world at large, and then were quick to opine that it must be because of his presumably narcissistic nature and supposedly deprived childhood: “He never learnt to love,” some stated with conviction.
How so? What is so striking upon seeing footage of David Garrett for the first time (and the second, and the third time …) is the sheer love, the kindness and affection expressed in his words, in looks, gestures and attitude. It isn’t easy to define or describe, but it is overwhelmingly visible. It is the reason why so many sit up and take note, because this quality certainly isn’t a common one. To quote a Chinese proverb: “Kindness is the best quality of the soul.”
And isn’t there plenty of evidence out there that he was loved as a child, and still is? That he grew up at the heart of a caring family? Look at the published pictures of their albums. His parents were not prone to marshmallow-parenting (sweet, soft and fluffy); they were ambitious for their gifted boy and, we are told, often harsh in their expectations and their discipline. But they clearly did care a lot.
It is too facile to trace David Garrett’s relationship problems back to his early years and to portray him as somehow damaged. Seen from a wider perspective, there are many with similar problems, and we find that eastern tradition summarily states: “The Monkey-Year man’s relationships with women will not be good.”
Wham! There you have it. Centuries of careful observation in one of the world’s most populous nations led the ancient sages to this conclusion. It is a broad generalization, to be sure; a lowest common denominator that allows for a wide range of individual troubles. Yet it isn’t all their own fault, for the same careful and age-old observation describes the manners of Monkey-Year men as follows:
“Male Monkey in Love: gentle, considerate, responsible, romantic. They usually win high popularity among the opposite sex because of their charming characteristics.”
“They can fully understand and respect others. If there is any conflict or quarrel, they will behave calmly and try their best to make up the relationship, so they always bring light-hearted love experiences.”
“How to get along with Monkeys? An everlasting relationship with them needs much patience and understanding. In daily life, they are sometimes impetuous and irritable. They need more space and freedom; restricted love will make them feel pressured. Enough trust is needed when getting along with them.”
“In relationships, Monkeys are not very quick in settling down, as they tend to be promiscuous and are easily bored. However, once Monkeys get a perfect partner, they commit to him/her in every possible way. Since Monkeys love to talk and are sociable, they can be communicated with easily.”
“Before confirming a stable love relationship, they are accustomed to considering all aspects, including future marriage life, children and family conditions. Excess consideration often leaves an irresolute and half-hearted impression.”
The Japanese Fortune Calendar features this description:
“People born in the Year of the Monkey are the erratic geniuses of the cycle. Clever and skilful in grand-scale operations, they are adroit when making financial deals. They are surprisingly inventive and original and are able to solve the most difficult problems with astonishing ease.”
“Monkey people have a poor opinion of other people and tend to hold them in contempt. Yet monkey people are prized for their skills, talents and flexibility. They are good at making decisions and have common-sense practicality. They are fired with a deep desire for knowledge, and they read, see, and know a great deal. They have good memories and can recall fine points and details with ease. They are also passionate and strong-natured, but they tend to cool off quickly. They become famous if they are allowed to pursue their own course.”
Now, I’m no expert on the subject, but I have found the Chinese Zodiac a useful and remarkably accurate tool whenever a general picture of someone’s character was needed. And doesn’t it seem a fitting description of David Garrett’s nature? Highly talented, hard-working, pragmatic, of magnetic personality, skilled, smart, nimble-fingered, lively, playful, entertaining, creative, restless and inquisitive; at times aloof, impetuous and irritable, at others charming, witty and mischievous … What other animal but the monkey could symbolise a union of these traits?
To differentiate this classification of human nature further, ancient Chinese wisdom associated each year in turn with the characteristics of one of their five elements: earth, water, metal, wood and fire. By their reckoning, 1980 was a Metal Monkey year, which adds a more pragmatic touch to its children. They are seen as more intense in their focus, more disciplined, more confident and ambitious, as well as inventive, demonstrative, strong, sophisticated and independent.
“The Metal Monkey becomes the most focused and determined of the Monkey signs. Those born under the Metal Monkey sign are known to display independence and a willpower in all of their pursuits, which is appropriate because the Metal Monkey has high aspirations. While the Metal Monkey shares in the clever mind of its sign, they have the added benefit of wisdom and practicality. In all matters of life, the Metal Monkey is passionate and uncompromising. In this sense, they may be the most concerned with their material standing.”
None of this was written about David Garrett, yet all of it seems to fit, including this warning:
“Monkeys should not show off their wealth, or they will be persecuted by others. (…) They should guard against untrustworthy people and discipline themselves in order to avoid trouble.”
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair. – Chinese proverb
Moving on to other projects, I decided not to keep this domain going; and so it is goodbye, dear readers – this blog and all its content will soon disappear.
19th November 2015 – Chat Show Hosts: Eva Assmann and Stefan Pinnow
(Intro, played by David)
Eva: (Applauding) “Fantastic – our opening theme never sounded so good! Could you do this every day?” (Laughs)
Stefan: “David Garrett just gave his interpretation of our theme tune, from today the CD will be widely available …”
David: “I hope it is recognizable.”
Stefan: “It is.”
David: “Thank you.”
Stefan: “Especially that tüdüdüdüm …”
David: “Absolutely – I tried hard to get it right.”
Eva: “Great! We are so pleased to have you with us today …”
David: “So am I.”
Eva: “… a real superstar, a son of Aachen, and he has been with us before, many, many years ago. We shall have to talk more about that in a moment, about all that happened in the meantime.”
David: “Quite a bit!” (Laughs)
Stefan: “And here we have our wonderful Questions-Bingo, with the best questions one could be asked … Go on and take one!”
(David picks a card and reads it out)
“What was it you never told your parents about?”
Eva: “The moment of truth!”
David: “For my 18th birthday – my parents were away – I cleared out all the furniture. My grandmother was there, my dad’s mother, and she helped me, and then I invited my whole class. We celebrated with an extended party. Fortunately, I had two days to put the house back in order. But then there were pictures, because a lot of people took photos, and so my parents did find out about it eventually. But for a long time I didn’t tell them about it.”
Eva: “Did you get into trouble?”
David: “My grandmother got into more trouble than I did, because she had allowed it.”
Eva: “We’ll pose the other 35,000 questions in a moment …”
Eva: “Right, the air is about to catch fire! You wouldn’t necessarily expect so, because this is about violin music …”
Stefan: “… but the way David Garrett plays, it is going to be really hot!”
(David plays Explosive from his new album while the music video is shown)
Eva: “… And we are right in the middle of it, Stefan immediately wanted to get the phone number of the girl who performed in the video …”
David: “Then I’ll have to explain to him that there are in fact three girls.”
Eva: “Why three girls?”
David: “Initially, we were looking for someone who was really proficient in both kinds of dance – and pole dancing has meanwhile also become an art form, if it is done well – so we were looking for someone who was good at ballet, good at pole dancing, and had some acting talent as well – and in the end that was only possible with three girls. But we did carry it off somehow …”
Stefan: “… that it looks like a single one.”
David: “Rather explosive!”
Eva: “Explosive – that is the title of the piece, and also of the new album you just released. We are delighted to have you here, because – well, you have been here before, but admittedly that is a while back.”
David: “I heard of that, and I remembered – you, first and foremost.”
Stefan: (pleased) “He pointed to me!”
David: “At the time, I mentioned in our talk that I watched Disney Club as a child, with Antje, Stefan and Ralf.”
Stefan: “Without Eva – that’s important! … (Unintelligible) … I still remember asking you about your violin – was it anything special? Ah, a Stradivari – and was it valuable? Yes, it was insured for …”
Eva: “Fourteen millions, I believe.”
David: “Well, it isn’t fourteen millions, but …”
Eva: “… but almost.”
David: “Not quite … Meanwhile I have another Stradivari, because I have been very, very fortunate in my life. Initially, they were partly on loan, but this one is now mine.”
Eva: “(Unintelligible) … dropped.”
David: “Well, I do try … (unintelligible) … ssshhhh!”
Eva: “Seriously, did you ever happen to break a violin?”
David: “It happened once – unintentionally, of course – but unfortunately I did have an accident. I generally like to carry my violin on my back during transport, and I slipped and fell backwards onto the violin case. That caused a lot of cracks, naturally – but it wasn’t this instrument.”
Eva: “We’ll show you the violin you played for us at the time … (unintelligible)”
(At this point, there appears to be a bit missing from the interview recording)
(David plays Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee)
Eva: “Weren’t you actually entered in the Guinness Book of Records with the Flight of the Bumblebee?”
Eva: “As the fastest bumblebee-performer …”
David: “That’s right.”
Eva: “… far and wide, and for a really long time: from 2008 to 2010! And then someone caught up with you.”
David: “No, no – that is utter nonsense.”
(Eva and Stefan laugh)
David: “I have to clarify this: The guy didn’t play on an acoustic violin. You (to Stefan) play a bit of guitar, I believe. So you know the difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar.”
Stefan: “Yes, of course.”
David: “With the electric instrument you can move a lot faster, because you have no resonating body. And the guy who supposedly took the record off me did it on an electric violin. Which means he did not have to exert any pressure at all to make the body resonate.”
Stefan: “Something else entirely!”
David: “Something else entirely … I don’t know what they were thinking at the Guinness Book of Records, but they certainly weren’t musicians.”
Stefan: “Ok, but back then it was really one of your very first appearances on TV. In Japan you were already a superstar, but here with us it was your first time, I believe, or your second or third time on German television, and since then things have changed a bit.”
David: (laughs) “Yes, you could say that! Absolutely crazy, what happened over the last eight years. Of course it’s been a fantastic development. When I look back – which I do very, very rarely, looking back and pondering all those things that happened – but if one takes the time to consider it briefly, then it does seem like … a dream, genuinely.”
Eva: “And the great thing is, we did ask you a question at the time which you can only really answer today. Let’s have a look!”
(They show a recording of the earlier interview question:)
Eva: “Yes! It worked out!”
Stefan: “It did work out.”
David: (nods and laughs) “It did work out … (jokingly) … dreams can come true!”
Stefan: “Awesome! By the way, I have a cool story: I told my children, sometime at the start of the week, that David Guetta would be visiting. And they were like, oh really? That’s cool … So I say – nonsense, David Guetta (slaps his forehead) – it’s David Garrett who is coming! And do you know: My daughter, she’s fourteen, goes Waaaaaaah! – She was so much more enthusiastic …”
David: “Funnily enough, there’s a piece by David Guetta on my new album.”
(He plays Dangerous)
Stefan: “Now we have come full circle.”
Eva: “So it is! – Now you do pop music on the violin, so to speak – crossover …”
David: “I also do a lot of classical music. Just last night I played Brahms’s concerto here in Düsseldorf, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Christoph Eschenbach – the cream of the crop – and I did like … I’m naturally having a great time, covering both realms.”
Eva: “Which do you prefer?“
David: “Ahem, well – both of them are demanding, of course, if you want to do it well. Playing Brahms is no mean feat, and to continually develop one’s career, to play with really good musicians, good orchestras, good conductors – of course it is a great responsibility to be sound in this respect. Crossover is the area where I can realize my creativity. For my current album I was able to write original compositions myself, more than 80% of the material. I learned composition from scratch over a number of years in New York, then left my mark on arrangements but never did much composing myself. With this album, that is happening for the first time.”
Eva: “But how does it work? Do you call David Guetta to say, listen, I’d like to …”
David: “Well, this is one of the few covers, but it has to – of course this is done by the management – one does need consent to do this.”
Stefan: “It’s not that easy.”
Eva: “But he did know you, didn’t he?”
David: “He did, yes, most people know me by now. But it was complicated with Eminem. Of the four covers on the album, his Lose Yourself is one, because to me that is an epic number … and it really took until two days before the CD was released to get his permission, because he never allows any covers. So I’m one of only two people who ever did a cover of his material.”
Stefan: “What would have happened if you had released the CD without his permission?”
David: “Well, one would have had to take it out at short notice.”
David: “Absolutely. One has no wish to get involved in such court cases. I believe he has more money in his pocket than I do.” (Laughs)
Stefan: “Now a little bit of Questions-Bingo in between. We already had one question earlier.”
(David picks another card and reads it out:)
“What was your nickname as a child?”
David: “As a child, I used to be … (laughs) … This is really embarrassing! … I was a little bit overweight, and they called me ‘pot belly’.”
Eva & Stefan: “Nooooo!”
David: “Sure! Kids can be cruel.”
David: (nodding) “In Kindergarten …”
Eva: “Truly horrible!”
David: “Oh, I’m over it.”
Eva: “Just about – but this is an issue which you then, if you were overweight as a child …”
David: “Not actually overweight, like a hundredweight – but I did have a bit of puppy fat.”
Eva: “But in Kindergarten all the kids are a little bit chubby, and surely that’s ok.”
David: “Well, not those who called me pot belly … (They laugh) … Impudence!”
(Stefan presents more question cards)
Eva: “One more!”
(David picks another card)
David: “So, what have we got? … Ah, this is a crucial question: ‘Is a kiss, of which no one will ever know, cheating?”
Eva: “You chose! There were other cards as well.”
David: (laughing) “Can one hear the falling tree in the forest if no one is there? – I would say, yes!”
Eva: “Yes? Actually, this brings us directly to the Yellow Press, which I always read very attentively.”
Stefan: “She reads everything.”
David: “I don’t, not at all.”
Eva: “But once in a while, there is something about you in these papers, in the press …”
David: “I can’t comment. I don’t read these things, on principle.”
David: “And even if I did read it, I would hold off, for I always think that private matters should really be private.”
Eva: “But these things do get spread out. One reads of people in your vicinity who disclose …”
David: “I can’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do. Anyhow, everybody should do what …”
Eva: “But doesn’t it hurt you in hindsight? Your ex-girlfriend did tell a bit to the press …”
David: “Nah, I’m a gentleman in this respect, I keep out of it.”
Stefan: “Right, then we have to pose the next question. Holger writes, ‘Mr Garrett, you don’t limit yourself to classical music only, but rather interpret pop and rock pieces by other artists. What kind of feedback do you get from these colleagues?”
David: “Positive throughout. I did wonder at first, because I assumed that I’d get a nasty letter at some point, such as, ‘I really didn’t like it’. But I get truly positive feedback. Even Metallica got in touch once, I thought that was really great. Coldplay once sent me – because I had covered Viva la Vida and was on tour last year, and for Paradise I absolutely needed a bass line which I couldn’t find – and then they sent it to me and said, please use it, and so on … So, always very positive feedback.”
Stefan: “It must of course be added that you have perfect hearing?”
Stefan: “But you are really … your hearing is crazily good, now you are on so many big stages, and with such a thingy in your ear you hear an insane amount, and loud too …”
David: “But not when I’m playing Brahms.”
Stefan: “… doesn’t it all suffer in the course of time – people ask themselves, my God, the poor guy?“
David: “Ahem, well, let’s say that if I had to play every day for eight hours with such an in-ear … of course you get … I have to say, once in a while, when you’re playing in a really large hall and there is a lot of sound coming from the band behind you, and you have to turn up the volume to hear yourself, or rather the instrument – then you’ll walk away from the stage with a slight ringing in your ear. But thank God it passes eventually … (impishly) … That’s why I play so much classical music, of course – so that the ringing goes away again.”
Stefan: “But you’ll be in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne next year, you’ll have a big tour with a huge apparatus, you’ll have to play loudly – but it’s ok, you can hear … (with raised voice) … Can you still hear me?”
David: (pretending to be deaf) “What?”
(At this point, there appears to be another bit missing from the interview recording)
David: “… It turned out to be a lovely piece. For this album, I had wanted to write a beautiful, emotional number, a little bit in the style of Disney – we come full circle again! – soundtracks like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or Frozen … and it was a kind of inspiration to write such a melody that really moves you.”
Both at once: “How …”
Stefan: (to Eva) “Did you want to ask the same question?”
Eva: “Yes, but I believe for different reasons than you! In fact, I wanted to know how you know Nicole [Scherzinger]. – He wanted to know that too!”
David: “At the time, when I wrote the soundtrack for the film I did about Paganini, I had also written something for her for this film, and so – that’s why we have known each other for a few years.”
Eva: (to Stefan) “I believe you wanted to ask David for her number.”
Stefan: (rapidly) “Nah, I wanted to ask where you got the violin from – but very well, this topic is now dealt with. Here we have a question from Andrea: ‘What do you do when you don’t happen to be playing the violin?’ – Look here, she has …”
David: “A photo of me.”
Stefan: (amazed) “Is that you?”
David: “Yes, it does look a lot like it.” (Chuckles)
Stefan: “On the right is David, on the left Andrea, Andrea Loehr …”
David: “So, what do you do when you don’t happen to be playing the violin?’ – Ahem, well, all the things every other person does. I see to it that I keep physically fit, of course, that I read the newspaper, that I continue to educate myself – it’s always good to read a book now and then – and of course I travel a lot. Meanwhile, much time is actually spent getting from A to B.”
Eva: “Speaking of reading the news: The terrorist attacks in Paris … the assassins stormed a concert hall too. As an artist, when you find yourself on stage, is it with a different feeling these days, do you approach it somehow differently?”
David: (pensively) “No … Yesterday, I was on stage in Düsseldorf … and you don’t actually think about it. Music is something I really love, it is my great passion. To waste any thought on what might happen, I think that would be … I really can’t live in fear as an artist, as a person. That would be awful, and those people must not be allowed to achieve this. Therefore, chin up and see to it that you live your life the way you want. That is, I believe, the main objective.”
Stefan: “We’re trying to do that too, and the circle completes itself inasmuch as we are once again planning something amazing at ‘Daheim & unterwegs’. Would you support us by signing this T-shirt?”
David: “Yes, if I may put down the violin for a moment … Ok, let’s do this properly, with a violin, so it fetches a little bit… (he is drawing on the T-shirt) … I assume it’s for a good cause.”
David: (drawing) “In that case I’ll allow myself ten seconds.”
Stefan: “Sure! Take all the time you want.”
Eva: “You can even draw …!”
David: “There, wham!”
Stefan: (holds up the T-shirt to show David’s drawing and signature) “Look here, isn’t that brilliant? Thanks so much!”
David: “I don’t know about brilliant, but …”
Eva: “The purpose is this: Once again we shall be doing a ‘Secret Santa’ in December, as we always do. People can call us, can receive a Secret Santa present – not for themselves, but for someone who is dear to them, who may have done something good for them, or whatever – simply people who are thinking of others. This T-shirt will be put into a Secret Santa parcel, and hopefully it will make someone very happy.”
(Stefan gives details of this campaign)
Stefan: “Finally, the most important question, (…) from André Fröhlich: ‘Where does David Garrett see himself in ten years?’”
David: “Here with you once again, I hope. It is really nice to find oneself invited back after eight years … invited to such lovely programmes, and I hope that this may still be the case in ten years; that I will be enjoying my profession as much as I do now, and still be healthy. This is of course very, very important – and yes, that is what I wish for.”
Eva: “Tell us: You know TV shows all over the world: Isn’t it nice, here, with us? Isn’t it the nicest?”
David: (with a charming smile) “Absolutely.”
Stefan: “Next year: David Garrett on tour, in the great halls everywhere in Germany – this afternoon here with us. Thank you very much indeed!”
David: “I am very happy to have met you again.”
Eva: “Thanks a lot, so are we.”
Stefan: “And don’t forget your violin!”
Moving on to other projects, I decided not to keep this domain going; and so it is goodbye, dear readers – this blog and all its content will soon disappear.
An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 15
Early on in your life you recognized beauty in all its forms as an expression of the divine, like truth and goodness. You admired beauty in the natural world, where it is easily found. You searched for beauty in man-made artefacts and the many guises of culture. But what touched you most of all was human beauty in appearance and character; and you became aware that, in people, true beauty is a rare and precious thing.
Though you have long searched for human beauty and encountered it before, even in the faces of men, not one ever showed such a high degree of perfection. This, a quiet voice sings in the depths of your mind – this is the face you have been waiting to see, without knowing. Now it has appeared within the radius of your awareness, its existence cannot be ignored. Like a temple that housed the ancient gods of Greece it must be built upon the pleasing proportions of the golden ratio, where every point, line and plane adds to the harmonious beauty of the whole and there is no angle that lessens its appeal.
“Este hombre es una de las cosas más hermosas que he visto.” – “The most beautiful and talented man in the universe. ” – “You are the most beautiful thing in the world when you are playing.” – “Tant de beauté … simplement extatique!” – “What beauty – without words.” – “Esse homem ilumina minha vida!” – “Quelle merveille de la nature, ce garçon!” – “In my eyes he’s perfection!” – “Aquí está el hombre más hermoso del mundo!” – “He is absolutely beautiful.”
Helen of Sparta (and later of Troy) must have had such an effect on men as the most beautiful woman of her time. Is it any wonder that similar archetypal beauty in a man should put females of all nations and ages into a spin? Well, at least they will not be starting a ten-year war on the pretext of his abduction …
Although David Garrett comes in the guise of a very contemporary, very likeable boyish man, you sometimes perceive in him a quality reminiscent of the heroes of history and legend. Yes, thankfully he is a musician and not a warrior – but, seeing him, you understand what moved Homer to sing in praise of Achilles. And is there not a touch of that same strong, personal appeal that must have compelled homesick and footsore soldiers to follow the great Alexander beyond the boundaries of the known world? Is it not what J. R. R. Tolkien describes so exquisitely when he tells us of Aragorn’s death: an impression that we are seeing something that goes a long way beyond the ordinary? And Tolkien tells us this in a sequence of words as beautiful as a perfect piece of music:
“Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him with wonder; for they saw the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were all blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men, in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.”
A great longing for noble beauty in men (removed from mere sexual allure) runs like a golden thread through Tolkien’s writing. He may have been driven to invent the striking beauty of his heroes because he could not find it in real life. And because the longing for such beauty is echoed in all human souls, his work had such tremendous impact and still means so much to so many.
So does David Garrett, it seems. Yet his beauty is not invented. He lives his life encased in an appearance that, we may assume, can be both helpful and a hindrance at times. Helpful, because such beauty opens doors and hearts and makes him a welcome guest, friend, lover and companion. A hindrance, because it may get in the way of what lies beneath, of what he wants to express, maybe even of being taken seriously at times. And of course it gives rise to jealousy and hate as well as admiration and love.
Few faces are as well documented as David Garrett’s, and with good reason. Do you know which German personage has been most often portrayed in history? No, it is not the evil leader. It is Martin Luther, who, although not beautiful, was a great inspiration to his times and to those that followed. Yet in this age of photography and film it seems likely that David will soon take over Luther’s leading position – if he has not already done so. But who is counting?
Whatever situation David finds himself in, his beauty is there with him like a presence in itself. It sets him apart. And though he might like to disregard it and just be, be like other people, few will be able to pretend that he is. Because, whichever way you look at David, ordinary just isn’t part of his makeup.
It must be quite a task to come to terms with such an extraordinary condition; not unlike the very rich, who cannot know whether they are liked for their own sake or for their wealth. Experiencing himself from the inside only, David Garrett will probably never fully understand how his appearance affects the viewer, will never quite realize the devastation he may be causing unwittingly. Because to others, being a witness of such beauty can at times be painful. Why this pain, you ask yourself. Where does it stem from? Here’s a question not easily answered, yet Homer’s famous statement in the Iliad, “Beauty! Terrible Beauty! A deathless goddess – so she strikes our eyes …” proves that, however rare, it is not an unprecedented experience.
David Garrett’s face has been captured in many different looks as it matures through the years, and its changeable quality shows a surprising variety of aspects. After that first impact which took your breath away has faded, you notice with relief that one can, in time, grow more accustomed to his looks. Yet unexpectedly there will come a moment, an angle, a turn of his head, a portrayed smile that will stop you cold – and once again you will be catching your breath, wide-eyed and wondering. And no, this isn’t a matter of choice. Because it hurts. As that terrible goddess strikes your eyes, you find your awareness pierced with pain. But it is the pain that digs the well which joy fills, as a Middle Eastern saying tells us.
“Then a woman said, ‘Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.’
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow, that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at a standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
This beautiful paragraph may yet be the best answer to the question why the beauty that delights us also causes pain and sorrow. But David will not be aware of it, and it is surely best this way. Such an awareness would be too uncomfortable a burden to bear, and we want him to remain lighthearted and untroubled, doing what he does best: his MUSIC. Because, first and foremost, he is a source of shared delight; the joy that fills the well of those very souls touched by and aching with his beauty.
David Garrett has been gifted with an unusual degree of personal appeal, with a happy disposition and prodigious talent. But to turn that natural disposition into a good person, and to develop this talent to skill of the highest level – that is his own achievement. And, by way of fair exchange, the gift he returns to the world is his music: beauty for beauty.
We, looking on in admiration, feel gratitude for the fact that we may witness this beauty, feel this sorrow and this joy, and be moved by this music; for it reminds us of the grace of being alive, and of having good things to live for.
An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 14
Does the title conjure visions of screaming girls in your mind? Crowds of female fans in a frenzy of passionate adoration, such as the world witnessed repeatedly since the heyday of Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and others? Yet, as far as I can see, there is not a single video of David Garrett’s events on YouTube that shows such scenes. Some might argue that he obviously can’t compare with Elvis, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Others might reply that they have nothing on him.
Be that as it may, David appears to have more than enough of whatever it is that might make girls scream. But the people who come to his shows, including love-struck girls, are remarkably restrained in their behaviour, especially in Europe. Adoring, yes – but also respectful; shy even. Overawed, it seems. By contrast, the Latin American countries provide his noisiest, most exuberant audiences, according to David’s own words. Videos of concerts in South America and Mexico record a lot of background noise as people chat, sing along, laugh, or call out in their enthusiasm, and the occasional “I love you!” is clearly heard above the din.
David Garrett’s critics like to suggest that his audiences must be mindless, uneducated, unmusical masses who have fallen easy prey to clever marketing strategies because they “could not tell a C major chord from a car horn”. But David, who has personal and direct impressions of the individuals who make up those crowds, speaks highly of his fans. The affection, respect and gratitude he shows them does not pass unnoticed. Letters, cards and gifts are heaped on him wherever he goes. And, as YouTube comments show, David’s fans are at least as intelligent, literate and musically sensitive as his critics:
“David is my hero, and the hero of other open-minded violinists. He has drawn so many people of all ages to classical music and to the violin. At his concerts, children sit completely mesmerized by the passion he brings to his music and the manner in which he reveals the full range of what is possible in playing the violin. His lovely, pleasant, open manner is so endearing and creates a wonderful concert experience.” – “Whether playing the classics or pop-rock tunes, he rocks! No other musician brings together people of all ages to appreciate such a wide spectrum of musical styles.”
These days, David Garrett’s audiences are a mix of all ages and come in several sizes: moderate, large, extra-large, huge and enormous. The moderate-sized are usually classical concerts in beautiful architectural settings, such as traditional concert halls or even the occasional church. But his crossover shows use vastly more technical equipment and draw much larger crowds, filling supersized arenas to the brim. In neither case, however, are screaming girls in evidence.
The front rows tend to be occupied by loyal fans who have the time and the means to follow David from concert to concert and have sometimes been doing so for years. They have become experts on his shows, his life and his music through long-time study and observation, and the reward for their passionate interest is the beam of his luminous smile as it sweeps them during their standing ovation at the end.
“Absolut genial! Die pure Freude, die David Garrett empfindet, springt sofort über und bleibt im Herzen. Ich juble Dir zu, mit einem ganz großen DANKESCHÖN!” – (“Absolute genius! The pure joy David Garrett feels sparks across and stays in the heart. I hail you with a great big THANK YOU!”) – “Dear David, all my respect to you with love for the beautiful music and energy that you give to people.”
Pensioners, young couples, parents with children, music students, music teachers, teenagers and middle-aged women seem to mix equably as they fill row upon row of huge auditoriums and arenas. And as the cameras pan across their faces and pick out a few close-ups, they capture that same look of quiet reverence we already encountered on the faces of David’s interviewers on talk shows as he plays for them:
It is a calm, a wondering look, captivated by the sight this beautiful musician offers to the eye; and an enchantment, a marvelling at the soothing or sparkling sounds he coaxes from his violin at will.
Touched by such grace, the delighted stillness on each face becomes a mirror of that beauty, rather as the calm surface of a pool would reflect the brilliance of a star. Screaming would shatter that mirroring, this reflection and wonderment, like a rock.
“Dear David, stay right with your feet on the ground, then you will be someone who never will be forgotten. For my wife and me you are the BEST violinist.” – “Wonderfully played, just beautiful! And that contagious joyousness of his playing, one would like to join in directly.” – “A great performance by an outstanding musician. I love his passion when playing the violin.”
Over the years, David has learnt to overcome his initial shyness and has discovered and developed a talent for engaging with his audience. Although he claimed repeatedly in interviews that he really dislikes going on stage, one would never guess. He seems so perfectly at home up there, owning the space, the show, the love of the multitude – and he knows how to give them a fantastic time too. Whether a piece is calm or lively, classical or contemporary, contemplative or explosive, well-known or new: with consummate skill, David Garrett entices his listeners to celebrate MUSIC in different forms. He radiates pure joy as he plays, and that joy is reflected in each individual member of his audience, many thousand souls strong, at each event in turn.
What a great gift and skill it is to be able to do this! It calls to my mind Morgan Freeman’s lines in the moving film The Bucket List. “You know, the Ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance of heaven, the guards asked two questions, and their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not: ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ and ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”
Well, David will be able to answer with a resounding yes both times. He clearly loves what he does, is aware of his privilege and willing, for the sake of it, to take the strain of a life on the road, thereby sacrificing almost everything that makes up a normal adult life. But then, what is really so great about a normal adult life? Who wouldn’t willingly trade with him if it were at all possible? … Surely even those guards at the entrance of heaven will want his autograph.
Driven by his purpose, his ideas and intentions, David Garrett has hit the fast lane and shows no signs of slowing down. His loyal fans see it with mixed feelings. On the one hand they can’t get enough of him, but on the other they worry about his health. Does he get enough rest? Does he look after himself? More importantly still, does his management? Every pound lost or kilogram gained is immediately noted and widely discussed, his life examined and possible reasons scrutinized: Such is the price of fame and success.
An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 13
Having begun to explore the topic of David Garrett as a musician (via YouTube only) and having heard him speak about The Devil’s Violinist in interviews and onstage, it became of course important to take a look at this film, even though it is long past newsworthy and everybody has had their say about it. The reviews I scanned beforehand were scathing, but I kept an open mind and formed my own opinion.
Jumping right in, it seems to me that this film struggles with a fundamental problem: namely with the fact that the moment David Garrett appears on screen – and he is never absent for very long – he is much more fascinating than Paganini. My interest in the actor blots out my interest in the character he portrays, and unfortunately the story never comes to Paganini’s rescue. Garrett vs. Paganini is the title of the CD that goes with The Devil’s Violinist, and Garrett versus Paganini could well be the programmatic title of what goes on in this film.
It seems that many critics have put the blame for the fact that it cannot be regarded as a successful movie squarely on David Garrett’s lack of acting skills. My impression is that another director could and would have made more of his potential. Given the fact that he is not an actor, why does he get so little help from the staging and the camera? Why is it that in more than one scene he has to act in a gruesome emotional vacuum, surrounded by extras that might as well be statues? Where he has to provide all the life, the action, the emotion – and all by himself?
I am thinking of that ghastly scene where he – no, Paganini – gambles his violin away. Or the soirée at his own casino in Paris, a setting that has all the lively ambiance of a morgue; reminiscent of badly-staged school plays, but entirely without their charm. Surely even professional actors might struggle in such unhelpful surroundings? But despite it all, the reason why large numbers of people love this film and have watched it repeatedly and with pleasure must be the fact that David Garrett is involved, whatever the views of his acting.
YouTube fan comments: “The Devil’s Violinist is a great movie. Must see.” – “Magnifica pelicula, me enamore.” – ” It’s really an amazing movie, though truly sad! ” – “David Garrett is a very talented violinist but an actor he is not. Although I liked this movie.” – “It’s not that bad, actually, and David plays all the pieces. He is quite amazing.” – “If you like classical music, play an instrument and like to see hot guys, this is the movie for you!” – “As a fan of violin music I enjoyed it.” – “Paganini saying that everything he is and feels and wants to be he puts into the music … well, that sounds like David Garrett!” – “The story was garbage, the only scenes that were captivating were when he actually played.” – “Simplesmente divino, simplesmente David Garrett!” – “The movie really gets to your emotions!” – “Totally love this, watching with a big smile plastered on my face. How can you not fall in love with this German human … my oh my!” – “Love it, gave the movie 5 stars. David is awesome.” – “La escena que me hizo llorar ¡Felicidades! excelente película.” – “Such a masterful violinist and so inspiring to watch and listen to.” – “I love this movie!” – “I just discovered David from watching The Devil’s Violinist. Wow. Great movie, and even greater performances by David Garrett.”
Take him away, and the film crumbles to insignificance. Yet David’s involvement does cause a problem, simply through the personality clash of Paganini and Garrett. Despite all the things they have in common, David gets in the way of his character big time and through no fault of his own, for the Devilish Violinist was by all accounts a sombre, torn and driven individual of questionable morals and seriously bad health. David Garrett, however, appears to be none of these things. He radiates soundness of character and wholesome healthiness even on his – no, Paganini’s – supposed deathbed, and I strongly suspect that Niccolò did not possess the light of kindness that is so particular to David’s eyes. Garrett is too nice a person to portray a demonic Paganini credibly, and of course we would not have it any other way. He cannot but give the impression that Paganini was a decent, kindly man who wanted to do the right thing and cared deeply about those he loved (the mother of his child, then his son, and later Charlotte) but was beset by misfortune and bedevilled by the unfortunate company he kept.
Could this problem have been foreseen? Certainly, though likely not by David. If only someone had talked him out of playing the lead part himself! Have him write the film music by all means, let him play it of course, double the performance scenes and have close-ups of his fingers whizzing along the strings. But let the face and figure of Paganini be that of an unknown actor with suitably haggard mien and dark looks, of scraggy build and “with the movements of a monkey” … Only then might Paganini have stood a chance.
David stated in interviews that he thought it a problem if the actor who played a musician was not a proficient musician himself. Yet there is evidence to the contrary. It worked very well for Ladies in Lavender, where Joshua Bell provided his musical skill while Daniel Brühl, who had never touched a violin before, portrayed a violinist very credibly. It worked for Amadeus and Tom Hulce who, although no pianist, looked so believable at the instrument. It was a masterstroke of inspired casting. Hulce was unknown to us, so we easily accepted that he could be Mozart, and the marvellous medium of make-believe did the rest. Both script and production of Amadeus never allowed for one moment of doubt, even where we knew the story to depart from the actual facts of Mozart’s life. The Devil’s Violinist could have done for Paganini what Amadeus did for Mozart, but sadly it falls a long way short of that achievement.
Why did Seven Years in Tibet work so well, even though the casting of Brad Pitt as Heinrich Harrer presented much the same problem that Garrett and Paganini face? Pitt is so much more real and appealing to us than Harrer. We never quite manage to see the one as the other and may come away with the impression that it was indeed Brad Pitt who taught the Dalai Lama the ways of the Western World. But the story is told in such a captivating way, it never makes us question its veracity for a moment.
Not so The Devil’s Violinist. That script suffers from a whole palette of ills. An underlying hurriedness does not allow Paganini’s story to develop visually. The narrative relies too often on snatches of conversation that seem contrived. Many scenes are shorthand for some important part of Paganini’s life, but we hardly ever get to see what we are told. On top of that, pretty much every scene is showing us an uncomfortable or unhappy situation. There is no balance, no pause of an enjoyable nature, and so the viewer is soon enveloped in a shroud of dejection as a sinking feeling of dread invades him like that dense London smog.
Excepting those far-too-few moments when David Garrett plays the violin and the scene suddenly comes alive. What Garrett can do with the tune of God save the King has to be heard to be believed. To me, it is easily the highlight of the film. Here, a true musician speaks music, straight from the heart and with heartrending skill. This tune we know so well – one might say too well – is taken apart and, simultaneously, put together new in those chords, while our ear is bound expectantly to each moment as we anticipate each successive bar’s new revelation with delight.
It is spectacular, dazzling, sensational – and it almost makes me forget to wonder if a theatre full of British subjects would really have remained silent in the presence of their King. Wouldn’t they all have been singing the anthem? Wasn’t it mandatory at the time, a matter of etiquette? … If a story is well told, such questions do not arise in the viewer’s mind, but in the course of this film they pop up with disturbing regularity.
David Garrett: “You can’t make everybody happy. Here’s the thing: So far, I haven’t read anything negative about the music, and for me that was the real reason why I did this project. And if nobody’s attacking the music, I’m totally fine … (impish grin) … I never said I’m Al Pacino. But, you know … if people enjoy the music, then I did a good job.”
We surely do enjoy it. How could we not? But there is not nearly enough of Garrett’s playing. That supposedly central topic of the film, the musical dimension of Paganini’s genius, is hardly explored at all. We learn more about Paganini’s innovations to the playing of the violin from David Garrett’s interviews than from this film, and so The Devil’s Violinist remains a study of Garrett as Paganini, not of Paganini as a musician. It gives the impression that Paganini managed to have just one successful concert in London, was jailed afterwards for failing to seduce a minor, was miserable and unsuccessful in Paris, and then retired to Italy a broken man, to write down his music with rapidly failing health and strength. Wikipedia, amongst other sources, tells a different and more plausible story.
A pervading lack of plausibility blights the script of The Devil’s Violinist. Take an early scene, for example, where Paganini is seen asleep in a hotel room he has not yet paid for, with a woman next to him. The hotel manager bursts in rudely and makes trouble, followed by the mysterious Urbani who will, a few moments later, be asking Paganini to sign away his soul for international success.
But instead of being captivated by the unfolding story, my mind gets sidetracked by questions. Would an experienced hotel manager really walk in on a sleeping guest and expect to be paid on the spot? It hardly seems likely. And: David Garrett in bed – and not alone? … Even though I am trying hard to pretend that it is indeed Paganini I’m seeing here, this pretence dissolves under the pleading look on his face as he urges his lady not to leave. Whatever I expect of Paganini, it is not such tender commitment to his lover. And in this match of Garrett vs. Paganini, it is Garrett who wins the first round hands down.
Urbani then makes a credible push to lay before us the difficulties of Paganini’s position as an indigent musician whom nobody appreciates and who cannot do without managerial assistance. At this point, the story could really begin to roll. I am ready to suspend my disbelief once more and to get involved in Paganini’s life – were it not for the fact that the camera is now showing us the inviting expanse of David’s bare back. For an instant this is of course delightful, but the next moment I ask myself why this particular angle was chosen. Because it doesn’t help David, and it certainly doesn’t help Paganini, who has just lost the second round to Garrett … Regarding the quality of a movie, it is never a good sign should the viewer begin to think about camera angles.
Later, when Paganini embraces his little son, we see what David Garrett might be like, one day, as a father, and our hearts melt collectively. Who still thinks of Paganini at this point? And so it goes, scene after scene – game, set and match to Garrett. Poor Paganini never stands a chance.
And there is always some detail that raises questions and prevents me from becoming fully immersed in the story. Example? Though I am just about willing, for the story’s sake, to accept that Watson’s graceful and pretty young daughter must double as a servant – though it goes without saying that no husband’s wife would ever have hired her – it troubles me to see all these men standing by and looking idly on as she heaves supposedly heavy luggage up the stairs by herself. Yes, it was an age of exploitation, but also one of chivalry … And while these doubts assail my mind, I cannot help but notice that a trunk of this size must necessarily be empty if such a slight girl is to carry it at all.
Or this: Urbani is trying to persuade, nay bribe the girl with the offer of a necklace so hideous it would not tempt a shortsighted magpie. Why he whispers “perfection” when she dumps it into the pasta remains a mystery. And no one seems to care that Garrett’s – no, Paganini’s – dinner is getting cold.
Oh, this Urbani! He is strikingly played by Jared Harris and appears to be a resourceful man. But this wily Mephisto to Paganini’s Faust soon reveals two fundamental flaws. Firstly, though his entrance is designed to make us believe that he has a connection with the supernatural – “It must be said three times!” – this is strangely also the last time any occult powers are alluded to. Secondly, although he has pledged to support Paganini’s career to the end (for the price of an immortal soul, no less) and has himself insisted on a written contract to this purpose, he is then seen to sabotage that career at almost every turn. Consequently, his actions not only obstruct Paganini’s success, but also my acceptance of the basic assumption this story builds upon.
Can there be any logic in taking Paganini away from his home in Vienna to develop his career abroad, only to turn the strident ladies of the Moral Strength League against him? What can possibly be the point of Urbani’s mission to make his protégé a raging success in London if he then sets off the Langham torpedo? Surely this constitutes a major breach of contract on his part? What is going on here? – Certainly nothing that sheds any light on the historical Paganini.
Then there is the puzzling matter of Charlotte’s and Garrett’s – no, Paganini’s – involvement. At first, Urbani attempts (in Charlotte’s own, disgusted words) to make her Paganini’s whore. But when she is at last ready to fall into his arms and his bed, Urbani intervenes with his habitual inconsistency and actually saves her from social ruin, disgrace and syphilis. Why, why, why? Does this make any sense at all?
While I am pondering this question, Paganini flees the country. His seemingly brief success is never resumed, at least not in this film, and neither is my interest in the story.
If a film does not work, it is the director who must accept responsibility. And this film does not work, no matter how much I would like it to. Now, Bernard Rose is a director who does not believe in rehearsals. He tells us so in the DVD’s bonus features interview, where he opines that it is practically always the first take that is the best. Though this may be a valid concept for film-making in theory, it does nothing for The Devil’s Violinist. Maybe it could work if the script were excellent, but who wrote the script? Ah, Bernard Rose. And who was responsible for the unhelpful camera work? The very same.
How David Garrett came to terms with an approach that is so opposed to his own working style (preparation, practice, and yet more practice) is anyone’s guess. He took care of the music and the instruments with careful attention to historic detail, therefore that side of it all is convincing. The film music is moving, his incredibly virtuosic playing truly astounding – but what good does all the attention to violins with gut strings and without tuners do if one of the characters then refers to the music industry? Would that term really have been used in the days of Charles Dickens, with the Industrial Revolution only just gathering steam? – With a mind full of doubt and dismay I find myself jolted off the story’s track once again.
And it is not the last time something or someone makes me think, hang on, could it really have happened in this way, at that time? Would a young girl of the age really have sat down unchaperoned with a stranger – and on his bed? … Goodness gracious! It was not to be thought of! Being alone with any man who was not a close relation meant social ruin and was certainly not allowed by parents hoping to see their daughter respectably married one day. Nor would any decent girl, such as this Charlotte, have considered it.
Regrettably, David mispronounces Charlotte’s name repeatedly. It is a peculiarity of the English language that even native speakers need to be taught the correct pronunciation of certain words and names, for English spelling so likes to leave the narrow path of logic for a frolic in the undergrowth of the fanciful. A real challenge to us foreigners! Who knew how to pronounce Sean before Connery, or Hermione before Harry Potter? So, in case you are wondering: the Ch in Charlotte is not that of Charles, charm and chocolate. It sounds like sharp or shallow. This is a minor issue of course, and surely the director could have eliminated it with ease – though it may have required a second take.
Then there is the character of Ethel Langham, a woman who struts onto the scene as if she had just stepped out of a time machine with a Black Belt in Feminism. Unfortunately for her, the style of this pre-Victorian age, following on from Jane Austen’s novels, has been adapted for television and film so often and with such a high degree of attention to historic accuracy that we now sense when something isn’t true to the manners and morals of the time. Something in this case being a brash, modern woman in a top hat, supposedly employed by that bastion of traditionalism, The Times. – Oh, really? I don’t believe it for a moment.
A bit of quick research later reveals that “The first female full-time employed journalist in Fleet Street was Eliza Lynn Linton, who was employed by The Morning Chronicle from 1848.” To wit, nearly twenty years later. She would certainly not have been influential in any meaningful sense of the word. Also: “Top hats were never intended to be worn by women.” Would such a male-dominated society have allowed it outside the cabaret? Extremely doubtful!
It seems that Bernard Rose is trying to rewrite history and present us with a version of Dickensian England that suits his taste better, but this hidden agenda interferes with the main concern of the film. Another example: Lord Burghersh, patron of the opera, is shown at his club and at the concert in the company of a young, pretty man who is clearly not his son. The impression conveyed is certainly not that homosexuality was regarded as a sin and a crime at the time, was illegal and punishable by death, and was therefore kept hidden in all circles of society. Quote: “80 men were hung for this offence in Great Britain between 1800 and 1834, when this punishment was replaced with life imprisonment.”
Then there are the largely deserted, squeaky-clean city streets which (although Watson mimes stepping into something unpleasant) never manage to convince that we are getting a glimpse of a real, living environment, despite the sad and lonely prostitute positioned specifically to tell us about the seedier side of London. Twice, in case we missed the point the first time.
And so on … The Devil’s Violinist, a film that should be all about music and the story of a great musician, is sabotaged by too many deficits apparent in the telling of it. Its characters, even the lovely John Watson and his daughter, are made into clichéd caricatures of themselves. Those sex scenes seem trite and superfluous. The CGI sunset over the docks makes one scan the scene for the easel of Mr William Turner, who must surely be about to sketch The Fighting Temeraire at that very moment … Oh, it is all so distracting, so aimless – and sadly also pointless.
The only visually redeeming feature of this film is that we get to watch David Garrett for two entire hours and see him perform some incredible violin pieces in costume. But don’t we feel sorry for him throughout? He is suffering so much – from ill health, from illicit love, from abandonment, heartbreak and general misfortune – and he never gets a chance to be the driving force I expected Paganini to be in this tale of his life.
So, all in all, my impression is this: Viewed from a perspective of passionate DG-fandom, the film probably can’t fail to delight. But when considered in the light of the laws of storytelling and movie-making, it fails to convince.
And yet I am certain that an angle could be found to make the elements of Paganini, his music, the violin and Garrett a successful combination, though I suspect it would take a more unconventional approach than a historically questionable costume drama to achieve it. Since it is so interesting to hear David Garrett talk about the history of violin playing, about music in general and Paganini in particular – why not have him tell the story of the devilish violinist to the camera, adding some of the better myths for good measure, between giving commented demonstrations of Paganini’s ground-breaking inventions on the instrument?
David is a natural entertainer and therefore an inspirational teacher. No acting required. No love story either. Who would not want to watch as he explains and demonstrates each Caprice and Concerto in turn? In this way, our interest in Garrett would serve Paganini well, and the focus would be on his MUSIC. It would no longer be a matter of Garrett versus Paganini, but of Garrett for Paganini … and I imagine it would be a triumph for them both.
An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 12
You too may have seen YouTube footage of Your Song from David Garrett’s Classic Revolution tour, where at each event in turn he serenades a girl, selected by his manager from the audience, with Elton John’s famous love song. Did you like it? Or did you think it a cheesy stunt, thought up by an event manager eager to capitalize on David’s great appeal to women, the PR intention behind it blatantly obvious? I confess that I did. Nevertheless, David’s playful charm and joyful playing transform even this chaff to gold, and the audience loves it.
“Ich würde sterben vor Glück!” – “Yo lo hubiera abrazado y nunca lo hubiera soltado!” – “I’m not a teenager anymore, but I’m afraid I might have pissed my pants if he did this to me.” – “A mí me hace eso y mínimo lo abrazo, mínimo me muero, mínimo grito, mínimo lloro.” – “Oh my GOD! How lucky this girl and I’m so sorry that I was not in her place!” – “Qué envidia y de la buena. Ella seguramente se siente en el paraíso.” – “He is amazing. I would like to be in this girl’s place.” – “Ich würde ja vom Stuhl kippen.” – “Oh, you LUCKY LUCKY girl!!!!” – “Ich glaube ich wäre in Ohnmacht gefallen.” – “Me han roto el corazón.” – “I would give so much money to be her!” – “Waren bestimmt die schönsten 4 Minuten ihres Lebens. Ich würde dafür 10 Tode sterben!” – “She’s so lucky to be so near to him!” – “Qué bonito … que trauma a la vez, yo quieroooo.” – “Er fährt aber Charmegeschütze auf! Zauberhaft! Danke!” – “A mí me hace eso y te juro por mi madre santa que me puedo morir en paz.” – “He is awesome … And so sweet!!!!”
Numerous fans seem to regard this serenade as a celebration of romance, not as a concise portrayal of the contrived nature of all that is commonly regarded as romantic. Ah, Romance! Isn’t it so like women to set their hearts on settings in which there can be no truth?
Why do I find this routine disturbing when it delights so many? It must be because of the stark inequality written into this setup. On the one hand we have a masterly serenade by that adored star violinist, and on the other a random girl who wishes with all her heart that she were really his love and this act were genuine. But they both know it isn’t. To him, this knowledge is liberating and allows him to do his radiant best. To her, it is painful and restricting. While he is playing this beautiful love song to her, she is riveted to a chair in the glare of the spotlight. Thousands of eyes are glued to her face, enlarged on a huge screen behind her. No emotion remains hidden as she makes up her mind just how much of her inner life she is willing to share with the world. And all the while, David is playing his violin so joyfully, so flirty, so adorably – just as if Cupid himself were using her defenceless heart for target practice.
He is secure in his role, but she has no security, and no such role to cling to. In her life, this special moment is like a shooting star, here and gone in the blink of an eye. But for David and his team it is all part of the show, a routine repeated almost identically in Hamburg and Düsseldorf, in Lübeck and Nuremberg, in Magdeburg and Munich, in Rome and Vienna, in Verona, Milano, Moscow, Monterrey and Sao Paolo … And this is not a comprehensive list, you understand. This is just to give you some idea of the scope.
But what about the girl, picked from obscurity for her photogenic looks and now doing her best to keep her composure? How does she cope with the sudden, searing nearness of her idol? Or with the fact that he is, for a few unforgettable moments, actually looking at her as if she were the girl of his dreams? That she suddenly feels his arm about her, leans her head on his shoulder, receives a light kiss on the side of her face … In the words of a fan: “If he did that to me, I’d die.”
The attention of the audience is focused on the girl. Her attention is focused on him. His attention is necessarily focused on his performance, as ever with complete commitment to the music. David doesn’t miss a beat and he hits no wrong notes, for his heart is unaffected. Despite the fact that he makes it look so damn easy, he is actually working, and the girl is just a pretty prop. She knows from the start that none of her natural, heartfelt responses can have a place here, and so she spends the entire time fighting them. She may hide her feelings in Germany, look for ways to express them in Russia, or fight tears of emotion in Italy. She knows she is privileged. But isn’t it a teeny-tiny bit like the privilege of an early Christian tossed to the lions for the amusement of the crowd? The whole scenario seems cruel to me, though of course it has considerable entertainment value.
I imagine that the painful joy of this experience will live in her memory for years to come, after she has received that final, gallant peck on the cheek and been waved back into the audience. How many nights will she be sobbing into her pillow, trying to recapture the magic of those moments? How often will she dream of him and long for what she knows to be impossible? What other man can hope to make her heart beat quite like it did then? How does she resume her former life?
Maybe I am wrong to be concerned. Maybe these girls really are able to take it all as the bit of lighthearted fun it is meant to be. Maybe they really don’t mind having their feelings played with in this way. Maybe they smile to themselves as they fall asleep, thinking what a lucky, lucky girl they are. After all, everyone tells them so. Maybe they feel they have been given a precious gift, to be treasured to the end of their days. And maybe it won’t interfere with their life, with their future love life, at all. I hope they don’t mind …
“I would have thrown my arms around him and never let him go,” comments one fan in ardent Spanish. But what would happen then? Think about it! Perceived as a threat to the precious violin, if not to him, such an impulsive girl would be dragged off instantly by the security team, in disgrace. And spoiling his show is not the way to David’s heart. This much we may safely assume. Another fan points out that this part of David’s performance must be hurtful to his girlfriend and that she could not be happy about it. It is surely a moot point. After all, this is just a show, staged for wide appeal and entertainment, and any girlfriend of David’s would have to know and accept it.
Other comments have suggested that these girls are not randomly picked at all but are part of the Garrett Team, or personal friends of his manager. But, observing the girls’ faces, it does seem they were unprepared for what was about to hit them. As David asks their name, where they come from and if they attend his show for the first time, there is a slight awkwardness in the exchange that would be hard to pretend. And surely even David Garrett’s team could not be made up of that many beautiful young women, for – excepting Carla from Spain, who was picked twice and set off all that speculation about how random these volunteers really are – it is indeed a different girl every time. So watch the footage and make up your own mind.
By the way, David’s favourite seems to have been that classy young lady in Sao Paolo. She appears to be the only one about whom he made an indirect, appreciative comment after she had left the stage. But the one that touched me most is that sweet girl in Moscow who remained lively and natural in difficult circumstances. I hope she is recovering well … I hope they all are.