Letter: An Artist’s Right to Privacy
To the Editor:
Alex Hanson’s superb piece “Stalking J.D. Salinger” (Sept. 1) made me reflect on my own career as a composer and the dozens of writers and artists I have known in the 45 years I have lived in the Upper Valley. Many like Salinger were reclusive — Ivan Albright of Woodstock and Grace Paley of Thetford, for example. This is to say that most of the people with whom they had daily interactions were unaware of their importance as artists or didn’t care. This is the way they wanted it to be.
My friend, composer Christian Wolff of Royalton, and I chose to live in the Upper Valley for many different reasons. We could earn a living as teachers, raise our children in a healthy environment, and enjoy the anonymity and lack of culture vultures we might encounter in New York or in a European capital.
I don’t like talking about my music with others. This has been my life’s work, and I hope it will be until the day I die. Having people enjoy my music is certainly gratifying but not why I compose. I have little to say about my music (except perhaps to other professionals) — the music speaks for itself. Hanson is correct when he states that “readers (listeners, in my case), critics and scholars have always had trouble separating the works from the author.” Certainly nothing about my personal life can be discerned from my music. This is also true of the Upper Valley painters and sculptors I have known. Perhaps it is less so for some writers. I don’t think people should care about my personal life when listening to my music.
Non-musicians have told me that this information helps them “understand” the music more fully. I don’t get it. I have no interest in the fact that Van Gogh cut off his ear or that Tchaikovsky was gay. How could this gossip assist me in appreciating their work more than I already do?
Artists have a right to their privacy — at least while they are alive. The Upper Valley artists I know do not depend on celebrity or gossip to sustain their work.
White River Junction