The Story of Yob
By Matanya Ophee
Editor’s comment: This article was first published in our 1993 Catalogue, a document that was distributed for free to several thousand recipients on our mailing list at the time. I post it here, as the issues involved have a habit of resurfacing with regular predictability in our midst, usually on full moon days.
Some people collect stamps, antique cars, ancient porcelain, Georgian silver, parking tickets, stray cats, bed-mates, hi-fi records and other strange things. Me? I collect the strangest of all guitar magazines.
Ah, the passion of the inveterate collector! Volumes have been written about it. The excitement of discovering the existence of an unknown gitmag published in volapuk in 1851 by the Queen of Lilliput, a well-known guitarist other time! It’s too much, sometimes. I collect gitmags because they have something to say, or because they have nothing to say, because they are beautiful to look at, or graphically revolting, because they are historically significant, or pointless, because they are published by my friends, or by those who wouldn’t be caught dead speaking to me in public.
Early on in my writing career, I discovered that you cannot please everybody. No matter what you say, some people will love you and some will hate you. I decided then, to speak my mind openly. My convictions are not subject to popularity contests, nor are they tempered by short-term commercial considerations. Wearing simultaneously the hats of a commercial publisher and historian/publicist, I often ran into a conflict of interest. Ruffling someone’s tender ego is not a good way to make the sale. Yet, I developed over the years a circle of followers who eagerly wait to read the latest from my word-processor. I also developed an equally devoted circle of enemies who waste no time nor effort in denouncing me to the world. How lovely!
Running a periodical also entails a great deal of responsibility. The Power Of The Press and all that. I have known some editors who thought that just because they owned the keys to the editorial office, they owned the keys to the truth. A few years ago, during the noise-drenched Frankfurter Musikmesse in Germany, I have been told, by several well-meaning persons whose integrity I have no reason to doubt, that the late Mr. George Clinton, then Editor in Chief of the now defunct Guitar International magazine, was telling anyone who would listen, that:
Yotsmakh Boiberik declared publicly that the writings of Matanya Ophee will destroy the guitar.
Yotsmakh Boiberik (Yob for short) is someone you all know. He is an important concert performer, a leader and innovator of the first rank. Yob is also a dose friend. He has been to my house, ate at my table, and drank my wine. I love Yob dearly and I refuse to believe that he would have said anything derogatory about me to anyone. Without question, a nasty piece of rumor-mongering. Third hand gossip at best.
The rumor pays me, in its own unique backhandedness, a supreme compliment. It implies that I, poor little ‘ol music publisher from Columbus, Ohio, U.S. of A., hold the power to destroy the guitar.
This is utter nonsense. No one has that power, just as no one has, or ever had the power to create the guitar in his own image. The guitar existed as a human experience for over three centuries now. It is a force which depends on the contributions of many. Some people were able to contribute more than others and their names are forever enshrined in our collective memory. The guitar always existed, and will continue to exist as a potent human endeavor because of all of us and in spite of any one of us.
Yet, I must admit, I am out to destroy certain concepts about the guitar. I wish to destroy the most abhorrent form of commercial hype known to man the facile manipulation of history for personal gain so often exercised by guitarists in their promotion. Another thing I wish to destroy the idea that the only way for young artists to make their way in the world, is to follow in the footsteps of their mentors and seek a career based on the solo concert. It was my friend Yob who gave out the secret. His idea of good chamber music with guitar is a piece which allows the guitarist to show off, without investing too much time in learning the score. The Castelnuovo-Tedesco Quintet, or his Ecloghes? Forget it. Too difficult to rip through in one rehearsal. Requires too much work. And this is not coming to us from some one who is under-equipped, but from one of the most glorious virtuosos of our time! The man would invest the most in producing monumental feats of digital pyrotechnics, but only if the effort allowed him to reap the harvest of this all by himself.
What can I say? Yob has been to a good school. What a frightening narrow-mindedness! Don’t they know these kids that chamber music is where the money is? that the audience for good chamber music is a hundred-fold larger than that offered by guitar societies?
No, I take this back. It is not the size of the audience that matters, but what it has to offer in terms of your own artistic growth. The brightest stars on the concert stage today, violinists, pianists, flutists and cellists, make a habit of performing and recording chamber music. Guitarists? they are few and far between. Tanenbaum, Starobin,Yamashita, Fisk are names which quickly come to mind. But my friend Yob, who is certainly of the same rank, will not belittle himself to play with other people, preferring to play with himself … Oops! I mean to say by himself.
Last Modified on:03/01/2011 01:12:28 PM