Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music

Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music

Blair Tindall

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0802142532

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the tradition of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael García Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as a classical musician—from the recitals and Broadway orchestra performances to the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth in the backbiting New York classical music scene, where musicians trade sexual favors for plum jobs and assignments in orchestras across the city. Tindall and her fellow journeymen musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hungover, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions— working-class musicians who schlep across the city between low-paying gigs, without health-care benefits or retirement plans, a stark contrast to the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars. An incisive, no-holds-barred account, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.

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We waited. There was no sign of the trunks. Without cello and bass, the Schubert Octet couldn’t go on. Concert clothes and another work’s bassoon part were inside the trunks too. Looking worried, general manager Nick Webster shooed us into a large van for a tour of the area, staying behind to sort it out. Our guide, Walter, ordered gourds of yerba maté tea for us at a Brazilian café perched over the Iguassú River. A dark-skinned Argentine expatriate living in Australia, Walter had returned to

flute just like he did a Coke bottle. Then he tried the oboe. Blat! Squawk! The vibrating reed tickled his lips. She pointed out that good oboists were a hot commodity and dispatched us for store-bought reeds and various accessories. Mom even braved a black-lit head shop for cigarette papers to mop up spit under the keys. Fully equipped, I marched off to band practice. I was already bookish, so no one would confuse me with the angelic cheerleaders who all played the flute. My nerd factor spun

the options with them openly. At fourteen, I couldn’t see myself as a professional anything, especially since I knew very few southern working women in the 1970s, except for schoolteachers. I was a teenager and could only see a few months into the future. My music friends were confused by similar decisions too, since few parents and teachers were equipped to offer them guidance. Perhaps the adults felt discomfort about their unfamiliarity with classical music, fearing they would be labeled as

opened. Betty emerged, gripping her lover’s elbow as he shuffled out of the lift. I squirmed away from Joel, although he kept edging closer as the four of us stood aside to let Betty and her boyfriend pass. Joel offered to come and hang out with us, but I said no. Once Sydney and I were alone, I began replacing her lock, since her keys and address had also been in the bag. Fortunately, I had an old lock in my apartment. In the morning, Sydney called 1-800-VIVALDI to file her claim with Clarion

looked out over a garden. An elevator connected all the floors, including the basement lap pool. Itzhak’s wife, Toby, must have an eye for design, I thought, since the fabrics and colors worked together seamlessly. After the tour, I chatted in the living room with Judy LeClair, the Philharmonic’s principal bassoonist. Her husband, Jonathan Feldman, taught in Juilliard’s accompanying department with Sam. John Corigliano noodled on the piano, while composers, musicians, journalists, and a few

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