The music world is sure to be talking about Blair Tindall's book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, which Grove / Atlantic will publish in July. A well-placed source at one of New York's leading broadsheet newspapers has sent me a summary of its contents, to which I've added editorial emphasis:
From her debut recital at Carnegie Hall to performing with the orchestras of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, oboist Blair Tindall has been playing classical music professionally for twenty-five years. She's also lived the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth, trading sex and drugs for low-paying gigs and the promise of winning a rare symphony position or a lucrative solo recording contract. In Mozart in the Jungle, Tindall describes her graduation from the North Carolina School of the Arts to the backbiting New York classical music scene, a world where Tindall and her fellow classical musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hung-over, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions. (In the cramped confines of a Broadway pit, the decibel level of one instrument is equal to the sound of a chain saw.) Mozart in the Jungle offers a stark contrast between the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars and those of the working-class musicians. For lovers of classical music, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.
Oh, don't I know it. I played the oboe until age eighteen, and every day I thank my lucky stars I was rescued in the nick of time from that lurid, shocking, degrading lifestyle. (I spent two years in Holliger House, a wonderful shelter for recovering teenaged oboists.) If, as Ms. Tindall claims, classical musicians are routinely drunk, high, and horny when they play, they do much too good a job of hiding it. Let's bring some of this crunkosity out in the open. I want to see a couple of OD's and maybe some onstage vomiting at the NY Phil. Let's put a hidden camera backstage and see what Yo-Yo Ma is really doing before he saunters onstage with that cherubic grin. And let's talk about Pierre Boulez — the original party monster is in town this weekend, and it's going to be off the hook.