Thursday, April 7, 2011

Terri Hendrix's Comment, and Response

Some months ago, I went to, and reviewed, a concert by Terri Hendrix at the Carver Center in San Antonio. As I said in the review, I wasn't there as an avid fan of her music, I'm just married to one. But I enjoyed the show for the most part, and the thrust of my review was that, while Ms Hendrix is no Paul Simon, she has succeeded at two art forms, songwriting and performing. About the worst thing I said was that I wished she wouldn't give away the ending of the upcoming song while she and her band tuned their instruments. 

Some weeks later, I received a comment from Ms Hendrix. (It came, for no-doubt-technological reasons I don't understand, on a review of a taco house on my other blog.) This is what she wrote:
Dear "Other Curmudgeon," I discovered what you wrote about my show at the Carver by accident. I've done music for over twenty years. I've performed and recorded long enough to know how I sound, and to know that when I talk my speaking voice sounds shaky from time to time. The is due to both a neurological condition and the medication I take to control my seizures. I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1989. I took intensive vocal training to be able to continue to sing. This is why the "wobble" is there when I speak — but not when I sing. Flaws aside, what saddens me, is that people like you, the ... ahem, "Curmudgeon" are out there taking the seat of someone who should have been there in your place. The show was sold out. You took the seat of someone that does not thrive on seeking someone or something to put down. Had you done your research, you would know that I only play listening rooms. I'm most known for how at ease I am on stage. And I am at ease. I'm myself — naked in song. For the record, I have not played Gruene Hall as a "real" gig since 2003. It's a bar. I make my living playing university arts centers and performance arts centers all over the world. Most are all slightly bigger than the Little Carver. Your blog was not meant to be cruel. Nor did I find it as such. It was honest. But you are uneducated in my music and what I do and who I am, nor did you bother to research me or even sign YOUR REAL NAME to it before you posted. And that's just plain rotten. Please attempt to find less to pick at and a little more to pick up. With Respect, Terri Hendrix
My first thought, on reading this, was that Ms Hendrix had mis-read my review, and had responded in anger, without reflection. Having no way to contact her (her comment had no reply-to address, nor did I find one on her web site), I posted a notice on this blog asking her if she would read it again and confirm her understanding of it. 

Enough time has now passed in silence for me to think that she has either not stumbled across my second post, or has chosen not to respond. A part of me thinks that maybe I should remain silent as well, and not publish her comment. But three things prompt me to publish it, and respond to it. First is the simple view that to hide uncomplimentary commentary is a form of deceit; my self-respect demands that I acknowledge it. Second was her suggestion that only proper students of her work are entitled to attend one of her concerts. And third was the suggestion that there is something unscrupulous, or deceitful, or, in her words, "just plain rotten" about my guarding my anonymity in this blog.

Regarding the first part of her comment, she refers, probably ironically, to her tremulous speaking voice as a "flaw"; I thought it was a charming, even endearing attribute, because I thought it showed that she was extremely nervous about performing but had overcome that. Turns out it's just a neurological condition, and a side-effect of treatment medications. Overcoming serious illness is certainly a good thing, something to be pleased with; just ask anyone who's had any kind of serious illness and lived. But to my mind, overcoming the paralyzing fear that I imagined she must have suffered would have been a much greater personal achievement, with all the romance and glory of a protagonist who faces, and overmasters, fear. Well, it turns out I gave Ms Hendrix too much credit.

As for the comments about her chosen venues, I stand by what I said: the setting for the concert I attended seemed stifled and overly formal for a show such as hers; why she would implicitly denigrate a venue like Gruene Hall, I don't know.

In the next part of her comment, she criticizes me for daring to buy a ticket to her show, when it could have gone to some more deserving acolyte. How dare she suggest such a thing. I find that comment arrogant in the extreme, and as anyone who knows me will attest, I know arrogance. I hope it is just her misplaced anger talking. Her performances are open to the public, and no one has a greater right to attend than me or anyone else. If she wishes to restrict her audiences to people who can pass her muster for being deserving, she ought to require some kind of test, instead of taking money from any undeserving gift-giver who would dare to intrude on her worship service. (That's my anger talking.) And she compounds this by suggesting that, in order to attend her shows, I must first do some kind of research about her and her music.  I gave my reason for attending at the beginning of my review: I went because someone I care about likes her music, and I hoped to be lucky enough to be entertained myself. I don't think I'm under any obligation to delve into her musical history or philosophy, and if Ms Hendrix really thinks I am, then she's just way too full of herself.

Finally, she says that because I don't hold my identity out publicly, there's something rotten about me. I sense a small irony in this, coming as it does from someone who herself hides from the public when off stage. I can easily imagine good reasons for her to keep her contact information private. She, apparently, hasn't imagined mine, but assumes I guard my identity in this forum for nefarious reasons.

Well: I know my reasons, and that they are sufficient. I feel no need to justify my choice in this matter to her, or anyone else. Yes, I know that a lot of sleazy people do mean things under the easy cover of anonymity afforded by the internet. But there are also lots of other reasons for keeping one's identity private, not the least being the same reason she keeps her address and phone number hidden. It's not just stage performers who would deter cranks and crackpots. She has no right to impugn my integrity on the strength of her ignorant assumption. 

And notice that I say "private," not "secret." Who I am is known to many people, people whose views I respect and whose good opinion I covet. I rely on them, as well as my own sense of right and wrong, to keep me honest in my comments on my blogs. 

1 comment:

  1. I wonder why she's so sensitive about her voice.

    I haven't seen her perform live for years. I thought your review of her show was pretty kind. I wasn't all that impressed.


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