what conductors and dentists have in common

I had gum surgery yesterday, and it didn’t go quite as planned.  I posted a Facebook update about this, to which my dentist friend replied:

Periodontics is the fuzziest of th’ dental sciences…and certainly not the warmest. The vikes tastes better if you pop ’em from your palm to mouth w/o them ever touching your fingers in as cavalier a style as possible.

The reference to dental sciences made me think of something he talked about a long time ago.  The reference to Vicodin–or perhaps not the reference itself, but the fact that I’m taking high doses of narcotics every four hours like clockwork and may therefore have slightly impaired judgement–made me think I should blog about it.

And here’s the thing he said and what dentists and conductors have in common: we are constantly striving to make ourselves unnecessary.

In an ideal world, everyone would brush after every meal and floss every day, and they wouldn’t need their dentists’ services so much.  People would still need them sometimes–there will always be olives with pits in them and people drinking enough martinis to forget to be careful about biting into those pits, but that’s really all a dentist would need to help with.

In an ideal world, every member of the ensemble would know the score backwards and forwards, and be personally, expressively invested in performing it with thoughtful, insightful specificity.  People would still need conductors sometimes–there would always be tempo changes that not everyone will agree on every time, but that’s really all a conductor would need to help with.

Alas, that’s just not how it goes most of the time.  But we keep trying, keep striving to get our patients/performers to be able to do it on their own because it’s really better that way.

The major difference, then, between conductors and dentists is that conductors don’t put anyone in this much pain.  Maybe they disagree with  my tempo, but I never needed to prescribe painkillers to get them through post-performance recovery.

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