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UP IN THE AIR: THE "UNFINISHED BLOG" (think Schubert) - Giving Someone The Benefit of the Doubt

Updated: Jun 7

(Listen to the Unfinished Symphony No. 8 here, conducted by Abbado)


Ji-Yong Kim is a remarkable Korean pianist who gives me much hope for the younger generations in the music world and in general!


In fact, as I feel on a sunny spring day pictured here, I was beginning to feel such hope that I started this blog -- but I will not finish writing it yet - or perhaps, at all.


I am too shocked and disappointed by an indirect linguistic slur he used against women evidenced by the slang term of "douche bag" to refer to and equate women with the worst kind of despicable and unkind human behavior. It is found in this YouTube video made about five years ago (around his age of about 27; he was born in 1992) when Ji was apparently addressing young music students.


Nonetheless, I hope you spend a few minutes to watch another video and listen to Ji's sterling concert performance of "Widmung" (arranged by Lizst), "Widmung" ("Dedication") is my favorite Schumann composition written as part of Schumann's wedding present to Clara. (Ji also plays this piece in the referenced YouTube video at 36 minutes in.)


I prefer Ji's interpretation compared to about 20 others I have reviewed by now, because of Ji's slower-side tempo, tenderness and sensitivity of expression, wide dynamic range, and nuance. I'm sure you will have your own favorite interpretation and artist, but I cannot be dissuaded from mine, as my preference only grows stronger as I listen to more YouTube presentations of this piece.


From time to time I talk with my composer friend Bruce about music, but also about the importance of the three values of kindness, humanism, and inclusion. I often discuss inclusion, especially of women who are mostly missing from the musical world until this century. Sometimes to make my point I offer Bruce the context of my lived experience of sexism and misogyny in a yet-patriarchal and angry country and world. We agree that those three values among others are to be lived and passed on in the best way that we possibly can do so.


Kindness, humanism, and inclusion rock!


With the single glaring exception, I found kindness, humanism, and inclusion to underlie Ji's comments about music and life. Setting aside his exuberant use of out-front swear words that are not that uncommon among the young and some others, I was only shocked by the slur he made against women. I wonder if he would stand behind it today and not understand the hypocrisy of it in the face of his clarion call to listen to others and be kind?


Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt?


And so, I have reached out to him to explain my perspective and see what he might respond. I seriously doubt that he would disagree with me that enlightened consciousness must extend kindness to and inclusivity of all genders.


And yet, it's tough to think of problems in his life that would have caused, explained, or justified this slipup? Consider that we are talking about a comment made not that long ago in 2019, not 20 or 40 or even 100 years ago when a prejudicial view of and toward women would be common. Fortunately I have not heard this reference used elsewhere in at least 20 years, and I hope not to hear it used ever again by anyone.


Aside from this critical matter, one might still take to heart Ji's inspiring comments among many that are particularly cogent and exhilarating:


"We like to think we understand...but we fall short regarding the length we will go to understand others and ask 'why?' ...Perhaps we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt."


"We are all responsible for one another."


" I'm talking right now because I want to remind myself to be a better person."


"As...musicians we are the messenger."


" It's not just music, it's someone's soul."


Perhaps what most resonated with where I am in my pianistic journey and what I choose to learn and play for my own enjoyment, not for recital or professional concertizing, is this:


Ji chooses the movement of a particular sonata or a solo piece, if and when it has a message that he wants to convey to others who listen..."so that maybe this can better help you understand the music...and make you feel something, because that's what music is at the end of the day."

###


I hope to restore my confidence in this earnest young pianist if I hear back from him with recognition of my perspective and an anticipated change in his verbal behavior as to this matter.


(Unfinished blog).


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