OK, so things got pretty dark in that last entry. Let's end on an optimistic note, with a stirring rendition of that powerful, classic work Also Sprach Zarathustra.
You just listened to a performance by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and no, they're not an orchestra made up entirely of deaf people with wooden hands. It's comprised mostly of rank amateurs, who are backed by a few professionals playing instruments they're completely unfamiliar with. The end result makes dogs howl, babies cry, and grown adults laugh their heads off.
But don't think I'm just making fun of a bunch of struggling artists who are trying their best. I mean, I would, that's absolutely the exact sort of thing I would do, but that's not the case here. No, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is making a statement. So if you're looking for cruel mockery of innocent people, stay tuned for my next column, "7 Dumb Jerkheads Who Suck and Are Jerks."
Classical music has a bit of a stuffy reputation. It's what rich old white people listen to while sipping on brandy and puffing a cigar rolled in a poor person's skin. A budding musician can't just sit down with a few friends and jam out Beethoven's Ninth -- it takes many people training a lot of hours to put something like that together. It's beautiful music that's inaccessible to most musicians.
At least it was, until a dozen British art students said, "Fuck it, we're not going to let any of that stop us from starting a symphony." And then they did.
They took their absurd work seriously -- practices were mandatory, and while they knew they were terrible, they saw their performances as new interpretations of classic works. That goofy yet genuine attitude may be why they swelled to 82 members in just a few years. They counted film score writer Michael Nyman and ambient music pioneer Brian Eno among their ranks. They made a record on a major label -- all in one take, of course. They played at a sold out Royal Albert Hall. For one piece at that concert, the piano was played by an actual pianist, and that just made it funnier.
Sadly, the group disbanded in 1979, although there's been talk of a reunion. Whether that comes about or not, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is a testament to what people can accomplish if they believe in their work and don't give the slightest of fucks about how bad they are and what other people think of them. It's a philosophy that has inspired both my career and my sex life. Now, please enjoy this timeless masterpiece:
You can read more from Mark, and listen to his three-hour spoons album, on his website.