I recently had a chance to catch up with the great composer Ben Theirb4 and talk with him about his work. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
LD: How does it feel to be such a great composer?
BT: Well, of course, I don’t think of myself as a composer – that term has too much cultural baggage. Certainly I’m great, but I’m more of an Originator, someone who comes up with completely original ideas that nobody has ever thought of before. Like for instance, has it ever occurred to you that people are dying all the time and nobody is doing anything about it? Of course not, because you are not an original like me. That’s why I wrote my piece “Hamsters.”
BT: Yes – you see, you take a barrel of hamsters and dump them into a piano. Then you bang on the keys while singing “The hamsters are dying, are dying, are dying, the hamsters are dying and we’re dying too!”
LD: How long does that last?
BT: Until every hamster, or everybody in the audience, is dead.
LD: Very interesting.
BT: Of course it is — I thought of it. And can you believe it – “Hamsters” has only had 1500 performances in the past year. How am I supposed to change the world if I can only get 1500 performances a year?
LD: Change the world?
BT: Yes, of course, that’s the artist’s role. The world is a terrible place. Everything has to be changed – nothing should stay the same. For instance, look at my belly button. Notice anything?
LD: Um… not really.
BT: You wouldn’t. See, it’s there in the middle of my stomach. What a terrible place for my belly button! Who ever sees it there? That’s why I’m having it surgically removed and grafted onto one of the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge.
LD: Wow. You are a surgeon, too?
BT: No, of course not, I would have a doctor do the surgery.
LD: Sounds painful.
BT: Not really – one of my devoted assistants has agreed to supply the belly button. But there will be a humungous flat screen under it saying it’s mine, so it works out well for everyone. There will also be a webcam trained on it 24/7 so anyone can visit www.ben’sbellybutton.com and see it.
LD: That’s an amazing idea.
BT: No kidding. But you wouldn’t believe the expense! The surgeon alone is going to walk off with 5% of the grant I got to do this. I don’t know how I’m going to make ends meet. I may have to dip into my beach money.
LD: Beach money?
BT: Yes, I’m working on a performance piece that takes place on all of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I got a $16 million grant to do on-site research, but I’m so busy being original, I’ve only spent half of it so far.
LD: Wow, I’m impressed by all the original ideas you have.
BT: What can I say? I’m pretty great. But it’s not easy being great. You wouldn’t believe all the people who don’t realize how great I am.
LD: No, seriously?
BT: Yes, it’s a big problem, and I blame it on our public school systems. If kids aren’t exposed to my work all through grade school, how are they ever going to develop an appreciation for how important I am?
LD: I see.
BT: But I’ve got an answer. I’m working on a proposal to shut down all the elementary schools and turn the spaces into detention camps for children. That way I’ll have a captive audience for my work. Every room will be equipped with a humongous screen, which will alternate showings of my beach piece, my hamster piece, my belly button, etc. Building the audience of the future.
LD: Sounds like you have it all figured out.
BT: But of course.