Cattle Calls, Tuning Wrenchers and the American Dream

Cattle Calls, Tuning Wrenchers and the American Dream
Mr. P.C. By

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Cattle Calls

Dear Mr. P.C.:

When a bandleader calls me for a gig and says, "I know you're probably already booked, because I tried 20 other pianists and everybody's working," what am I supposed to say?


Dear #21:

Look at his words closely. If he knows you're probably booked, why is he calling you? Obviously not because he wants you for the gig; it's so he can tell the next pianist that he's already called 21 others.

How high can he go? That's the cruel game he's playing. Needless to say there isn't even really a gig, and if the next pianist says yes he'll wind up with nothing but the knowledge that he's less wanted and more gullible than 21 of his peers.

Tuning Wrenchers

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Have you ever heard from a piano technician? Well you have now!

Starting a few years ago, I was hired to work on an absolutely hopeless piano. The owner is filthy rich and lives in a mansion. He doesn't play it, but hires a pianist for his parties. He bought the piano from someone's basement for $350, and now he takes pride in it as a rescue project. He wants to be able to brag that he discovered this neglected treasure, restored it to full health, and got a bargain in the process. And although it's agony to work on, I appreciate all the money I'm getting.

Should I tell him the truth, that no amount of work will make it sound good? Seems like we're both happier living in his fantasy world.

—Tim the Tuner

Dear Tim:

Words, words, words; why all these words? Shouldn't you be hunched over a beat-up, mildewy spinet in a dank basement, threading felts, jamming mutes, banging keys tirelessly, note by note, counting beats, wrenching pins; then, finally, playing a little celebratory Chopin at the end?

That's what your life is meant to be, Tim; no more, no less. Asking questions only makes it harder. I'm so sorry.

The American Dream

Dear Mr. P.C.:

When a multi-instrumentalist—say trumpet and sax—finishes one solo and immediately switches to the other instrument, should I clap between the solos or wait until the second one is over?

—Can't Lavish Applause Properly

Dear CLAP:

Why in the world would he take two solos if it would only get him one round of applause? He expects and deserves twice as much applause for twice as much work, the same applause you would give someone who took a a single solo twice as long as anyone else's.

In other words, applause should be proportional to the effort involved. That's the American Dream, CLAP—hard work generating its own reward. There are those who think the quality of the solo should also be factored in, but that's blatant discrimination against disadvantaged players who—through no fault of their own—happen to have no talent or taste.

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