Whine, then get to work.

February 17, 2011

I was listening to The Composers Notebook on WNED this afternoon and heard an interesting anecdote about the great opera composer Puccini.  It seems that Puccini produced one hit after another and was riding high on a wave of success when he presented the world with Madame Butterfly.  The boos, whistles, and derision almost brought the production to a halt.  The critics hated it.  So did the Puccini fans in the building.

Puccini hated the critics.  He scoffed, he whined, he complained about the riff raff that attended the event, he discussed their heritage and complained about everything he could think of.

Then, he went back and took another look at Madame Butterfly. Then he fixed it.  When he reintroduced it to the world, the world once again fell in love with Puccini, and he with them.

So, when the critics and the public don’t like what we do, or what we say, or what we think, whine.  A little.  Then get back to work.  We need to listen to “our customers” whether they are a church, a publisher or, real customers.

We, of course need to hang on to our “artistic integrity” whatever the heck that is.  I guess it means if we are doing art for art’s sake and really don’t care what anybody thinks, fine.   Forget about then all.  But if sales matter, if influence matters, if we want to make something for people not just for ourselves, then we need to listen to critics.  Sometimes, maybe most of the time, we will learn something.

And maybe even profit from the experience.  And so will the world.

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