From the album Some Professional Help
While the struggling-artist-narrative is hardly uncommon, it has been my experience that modern and classical musicians are expected to be geniuses; to be discovered and peak in their twenties. It’s not hard to imagine this romanticization started with Mozart, continued with Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and then there’s likes of Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus . . . In addition to our cultural fixation with superhuman talent, there is also an intense economic and emotional burden to shoulder when musicians veer off the path of this unrealistic trajectory. How much great music have we lost, simply because musicians could not sustain themselves long enough for them to develop and be discovered?
One of the things that I have always found inspiring about Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is that unlike so many composers, he was not a prodigy. He didn’t even start composing until he was in his twenties and found no immediate success while squeaking out a paltry income teaching music.
Nadja (Nadezhda) Von Meck was a wealthy Russian businesswoman who started a correspondence by mail with Tchaikovsky. Upon learning that he was considering leaving music for a more lucrative professions, she decided to support him financially so that he could devote himself full-time to composition. Nadja stipulated that they were never to meet in person. The thirteen years of support Nadja gave was not just a financial fortune, but an emotional one. They exchanged over 1,200 letters between 1877 and 1890. She became his most intimate confidant, and eventually went bankrupt herself. Without Nadja, Tchaikovsky’s name and music would likely have been forgotten. There would be no Swan Lake, or 1812 Overture, and there would be no Symphony Pathetique!
Will Magid- trumpet
Brian Adam McCune- percussion
Amanda Wu- bass
Scott Alexander- vocals and guitar
Recorded by Adum Muñoz and Jesse Nichols at Fantasy Studios
Mixed by Jesse Nichols at Opus Studios
Mastered by A.T. Michael MacDonald at AlgoRhythms Mastering
Every day I’m going to the mailbox
On Sundays and holidays
Just as bloody likely
Midnight, daylight, online, and all the time
I’m waiting for a countess to notice me
I’m looking for your letter like Peter Tchaikovsky for Nadja
We all fantasize about the lottery
But I have this dream that you’re gonna sponsor me
Oh Nadja, please!
I know that it seems pathatique
But that’s just how things feel when you don’t write to me
Because with your help, I’ll need for no one else
Please don’t think it’s a crime to patronize
If you never want to meet me, I understand completely
I don’t want to fool around
I just want a pen pal
And I’ll share my secrets
while you see genius
cause on these pages nothing’s wasted
The ledger lines will take us higher
Through the wire is a kind of romance so please,
Kiss me with your supple finance
Because the fortune you could offer me
Is more than common currency
And I know you’ll invest if you believe in me
But how can that be true
If Nadja, I do not believe in you?
Every day I’m going to to mailbox
On Sundays and probably most people think I’m crazy