Warning: this post contains mildly gross content

The other day I was thinking about composer Alexander Zemlinsky, who once shaved his face using shoe polish instead of shaving cream.  He nearly poisoned himself to death.   Zemlinsky popped into my head for two reasons: first, because his music seems to be flying on a wave of appreciation fifty years after his death. Second, because nearly killing yourself by smearing shoe polish all over your face is so incredibly absent-minded professorish it’s almost admirable.  To live life like that!  So engaged in art that nothing else matters!  I love the idea.

But . . . 

. . . life always pulls you down to earth.

 I went home after work last Friday night slouched with exhaustion.  Our public radio station staff had spent a week asking for listeners’ donations, and after five frenetic hours of talking, I was simply out of words. Out of thoughts, even.  It felt great. (I know it can be annoying to listen to, but doing it well feels a little like jazz.) 

I got ready for bed.  After I finished brushing my teeth, I ran my tongue over them. They seemed peculiarly slimy.  I realized I’d brushed with hand cream instead of toothpaste.  Gross!  Then I flashed on Zemlinsky.

English composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is in the news this week.  He was bilked out of nearly a million dollars by his former manager. A friend of the composer’s is quoted as saying, “But [Davies] has never had real interest in the business side, only in creating music. He is a genius when it comes to music – an ignoramus when it comes to money.”

The artist’s life!