Sunday, November 09, 2008

William Eddins

The Internet is the greatest tool ever invented for public and profligate display of idiocy.

Tribute must be paid to a particularly notable piece of idiocy I encountered last week, notable because of its extravagant ignorance and conspicuous foolishness.

The idiocy in question was authored by William Eddins, a Minneapolis-based musician who has been trying, without much success, to create a minor conducting career over the last couple of decades. This weekend, for instance, Eddins finds himself in Portland, Oregon, doing a one-off “talk and demonstrate” educational outreach appearance with a local ensemble, the kind of thing a talented and serious musician would never consider doing unless money for the household were in very short supply indeed.

My parents met Eddins a few years ago at some function or other in the Twin Cities. At that gathering, Eddins tried first to corner my father, who allowed Eddins to talk to him for three or four minutes until my father could not stand it any longer and managed to escape. Shortly afterward, Eddins tried to corner my mother, who immediately dismissed Eddins with one of her subtle but skillful maneuvers for extracting herself from unwanted social exchanges. In neither case did Eddins even have a clue that he had been cut.

Last week on, Eddins wrote an astonishing entry about funding for The National Endowment For The Arts. The piece contained not a single word of truth, but it offered spectacular confirmation to the world that Eddins is indeed an idiot of the very highest order.

The content of what Eddins wrote was disorganized and largely incoherent, but the thrust of his muddle was that the budget for The National Endowment For The Arts took a “nose dive” during the Reagan Administration, a nosedive that was especially painful—or so Eddins claims—after the generous decade of the 1970’s, a decade which Eddins believes, inaccurately, to have represented some sort of glorious period, a golden age, for government-sponsored arts funding. Eddins suggests that The National Endowment For The Arts has yet to recover from The Reagan Era.

Eddins does not think or write clearly, so instead of trying further to clarify his presentation, I reproduce his key paragraph. All errors are his, not mine. It would be pointless to attempt to correct them all.

Think back to the 1970s if you dare. Disco, Oil at some ridiculous price, Blaxploitation movies, La Choy makes Chinese food … taste American! And, of course, the NEA. Grants to artists, interest in local Arts organizations, Arts funding through government councils, etc. Then Reagan, Helms, and the rest of them got into office with the “Just look at those stupid, silly Artists making their Godless Art! Why are we wasting money on them? Those poor Rich people are suffering so much that they need a tax cut” ideology and…. voilá!….. Arts funding in this country took a nose dive. Ironically, in trying to “wrest Art from it’s elitist ideals” the Reagan revolution firmly ensconced the artist into the back pocket of the rich and famous. It’s the rich, after all, who have disposable income. The average Joe (non-plumber) no longer had a stake in the Artist’s life because none of their tax dollars went in that direction. So a vicious cycle was born.

None of what Eddins writes is true.

While The National Endowment For The Arts has often been a source of ridicule by politicians over the years, what Eddins has written about its budget is sheerest fantasy on his part. Eddins has espoused—publicly, boldly, foolishly—utter nonsense.

The entire Appropriations History of the NEA, from the agency’s inception through Fiscal Year 2008, may be viewed here. Had Eddins bothered to google “National Endowment For The Arts” and “budget”, he would have found the referenced comprehensive tabulation to be the first search result.

The Appropriations History of The National Endowment For The Arts disproves Eddins’s many misstatements.

There are four particularly telling facts contained in the government data.

First, NEA funding was far more substantial and generous in the decade of the 1980’s than it had been in the decade of the 1970’s.

Second, there were only two reductions in the budget of the NEA during the Reagan Presidency.

The first reduction was in Fiscal Year 1982, Reagan’s first budget, when Reagan imposed budget cuts of 10 to 15 per cent across the board upon all Federal agencies. The NEA suffered a budget cut that fiscal year in line with other government agencies.

The second reduction was in Fiscal Year 1986, when the NEA appropriation was reduced by $5 million, or less than three per cent, from the 1985 appropriation. The NEA budget increased annually during the other six fiscal years of Reagan’s terms of office.

Third, the budget of the NEA during Reagan’s final six fiscal years was higher than it is today, over twenty years later. This is so in real dollars, not in inflation-adjusted dollars (in the latter case, the disparity is even more pronounced).

Fourth, there HAVE been cuts in the NEA budget since the agency was established—substantial cuts, indeed—but such cuts came long after Reagan left Washington and returned to California. Those cuts came, not under Reagan, not under Bush I and not under Bush II. Those cuts came under Clinton, when the NEA experienced a drastic decline in its appropriation. Under Clinton, the appropriation for the NEA was cut almost in half, declining in six of eight fiscal years for which Clinton was responsible for the federal budget.

In sum, literally nothing Eddins has written about the NEA and NEA Appropriations History contains a syllable of truth.

Alas, Eddins’s childlike, uninformed and unsophisticated views on matters economic and political are not restricted to the domestic realm. They are international in scope.

After demonstrating his vast ignorance on the subject of American arts funding, Eddins goes on to allege that decreases in arts funding are spreading, American-style, to Europe, Canada—and even Australia, of all places.

The latter nation, Eddins assures the reader, is hobbled by a “vicious, short-sighted, conservative” government, a government “which has lost its collective mind”.

The people of Australia would be startled to learn this dismaying news, having narrowly elected, one year ago, a left-of-center government.

Of course, Australians would be equally startled to learn that they were living in what Eddins describes as a “bastion of Liberalism”. Reading such a description of their country, Australians would all have a hearty laugh—and this is so whether Eddins intended to refer to Liberalism or liberalism (not that he would know the difference between the two).

Of course, in the world of Eddins, things are no better in Canada, which is also burdened by a “vicious, short-sighted, conservative” government.

One can only ask: is any nation immune?

According to Eddins, things are so bad up north that it was he who had to break the news to professional musicians in Edmonton that orchestras in the U.S. receive virtually no government funding. Eddins’s earth-shattering revelation caused “looks of shock” on the faces of Edmonton musicians, or so Eddins claims.

Such an incredulous assertion signifies one of three things: (1) that orchestra musicians in Edmonton are too lazy to keep up with their profession by reading arts newspapers, music periodicals and music trade journals; (2) that orchestra musicians in Edmonton are mentally retarded; or (3) that Eddins inherently lacks credibility.

The correct answer, as a general rule, is the most logical one.

Of course, public displays of idiocy are generally accompanied by further indicia of imbecility, all guaranteed to provide great entertainment value if nothing else.

Eddins does not disappoint.

Eddins’s profile on informs the reader that “Bill has many non-musical hobbies”. Those “hobbies” include “cooking, eating, discussing food and planning dinner parties”.

What versatility!

Of course, none of this comes as a shock—only the very dullest reader could be surprised to learn about this fascination with food after glancing at the accompanying photos of a very, very well-nourished Eddins.

Eddins’s agent, naturally, is drawn into the picture, and the fun continues. His agent is an “innovative leader in the music business” and “works over nationally known soloists, conductors, ensembles and institutions”.

Well, that last bit certainly explains why his agent only has four clients!

There are no other conductors, alas, on Eddins’s agent’s roster—not even Christoph “Eschenback”, to use the Eddins spelling of the German conductor’s last name on InsideTheArts—but this surely may be explained away by the fact that Eddins’s agent, according to the agent’s own website, runs four or five other businesses in addition to his thriving arts management practice.

The agent’s comprehensive client list is comprised of two brass ensembles (in both of which the agent himself is a player), one utterly unknown pianist, and Eddins.

This all must be very efficient. The agent, no doubt, need devote only a few hours each year to his arts management business, with all necessary paperwork contained within a single manila folder.

I could go on and on, given the excellent fodder Eddins has provided—this is a case in which the material virtually writes itself—but my point has been sufficiently made.

The genuine question for which I would like an answer is: what is it about America that propels its citizens to engage in public demonstrations of profound, flagrant and basest idiocy?

Low intelligence and lack of education play a role, of course, but low intelligence and lack of education are capable of explaining, only in part, the contemptible ravings of someone like Eddins, who quite clearly believes in the lunatic fantasies to which he gives public utterance. That his fantasies are connected to his field of work simply makes his fantasies more troubling still.

I wish a good explanation were at hand.

Josh’s answer is a simple, pithy one: “IQ is determined at birth”.

A colleague at work who read Eddins’s article made references to “brains” and “rubber ducks”, but his full remarks are unprintable.

My father said that the article offered conclusive proof of the validity of Justice Holmes’s admonition regarding society’s legitimate interest in preventing generation upon generation of imbeciles.

My mother only had two words to say: “Oh, dear”.

Oh, dear, indeed.


  1. Joe, I have deleted your comment. If you want to use foul language, there are many other places on the Internet for you to display your mastery of profanity.

    Danen Rubbra, in deleting Joe's comment, I mistakenly deleted yours, too. Sorry.

  2. Andrew,

    No problem. It wasn't much of a comment, anyway.

    I did not read Joe's comment. It is astonishing to me why anyone would respond disrespectfully to your post, the content of which I found to be edifying.

    How sad that the vocabulary of some of your readers is so shockingly small!


  3. Andrew,

    Another idiot American bodhisattva-of-a-critic just wrote (I can't remember where) that Anthony Payne's pastiche after Sir Edward Elgar was Elgar's "greatest symphony" - a masterpiece that greatly surpassed the two preceding, numbered works (!).

    Can you believe such mongoloid insolence?


  4. I don’t know, Dane, whether I am happy or whether I am sorry that I missed that particular bit of foolishness. It makes me wonder, frankly, whether the person making that statement has even HEARD the two Elgar symphonies.

    Have I mentioned, Dane, that I am busy completing Mahler’s Eleventh Symphony? My reconstruction will be based upon a couple of stray, offhand remarks Mahler wrote in a postcard to Bruno Walter. That will be all I need, I believe, to realize fully Mahler’s original intentions.

    I expect my completion of the Mahler Eleventh will be greater even than the Mahler Ninth or “Das Lied Von Der Erde”.

    As soon as I am done completing the Mahler Eleventh—and I expect to finish my work tonight—I MUST get to work on putting together Bruckner’s Symphony No. 000 (“Die Triple Nulte”).


  5. Good morning, Andrew.

    I would be delighted to see your recension of Mahler’s Eleventh! I understand that Mahler wrote the entire four-movement sketch in 1911 (what a coincidence) during the three days he traveled for the last time from New York to Europe.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Andrew, but I believe he wrote the sketch on a half-used roll of ship’s toilet paper, and that’s why he never completed the finale. How did you acquire the roll? Is it true that Mahler left instrumental clues for every “page” of the roll on the backside of Alma’s secret letters from Walter Gropius?

    Well, I myself have a secret. For the last twenty years I’ve been working on the complete Symphony No. 8 by Sibelius! Sibelius consigned the Eighth to the flames twelve years before he died, of course; but I was able to reconstruct the entire score by interviewing the surviving relatives of the gardener who worked at Ainola until 1952. Sibelius, you see, had a habit of whistling while walking around the house and strolling to and from the Lake. As it turned out, Sibelius’ gardener had a surprisingly fine memory, and over 17 years he wrote down everything he heard coming from those lips before passing these papers down to his children.

    Can you imagine the difficulties I had in putting the symphony together, Andrew? The hardest part was discerning which fragment – indeed, which entire movement – among the sea of music that Sibelius eventually discarded from the 1945 score. As far as the orchestration is concerned, I was able to approximate very closely the composer's final intent by taking in the view of Lake Tuusala and by standing in the winds in order to breath in the "aura" of Sibelius.

    I can honestly say that I believe my orchestrations are far more faithful than Cooke’s orchestrations of the Mahler 10.

    Indeed, I believe that my version of Symphony No. 8 by Sibelius is the greatest work ever written in the twentieth century. By Jove, it is superior even to the 1945 manuscript!

    Do you think I will make a lot of money?


  6. Andrew,

    On that postcard of Mahler's to Walter, did the sick composer mention the fact that he had only enough time aboard ship to furtively jot down on his wife's letters the glissandi-rich parts for the four trombones?


  7. Dane, I predict you will make a mint on the Sibelius Eighth!

    I predict the work will immediately enter the repertory and become an instant classic. It will be destined to be performed constantly between now and the end of time. In fact, scholars will, no doubt, lament that you were not present to assist Sibelius with his other symphonies.

    Mahler’s postcard to Bruno Walter makes only the scantest reference to the symphony I completed on his behalf last evening.

    “Thinking about a new symphony—-five or six movements-—a full portrait of the world, a journey from darkness to darkness—-will tell you more later”.

    That was all I needed to realize Mahler’s full intentions. References to orchestration—-or anything else—-would have been entirely superfluous.

    I can’t wait to see what Henry-Louis de La Grange will make of all this!