by John Stoehr
John Kennedy's good taste evidently makes room for the bad on occasion. Which I like about him. Even though his joke's implications might be considered sketchy (I don't), his heart was in the right place.
The director of Spoleto's Music in Time series usually presents himself as a courteous, urbane, and sophisticated spokesman for new music and contemporary composers. Yesterday was no different, except we also got to witness Kennedy's impish impulses at a recital by the peerless Yumiko Tanaka. Tanaka is a master of the shamisen, or three-stringed guitar from Japan. One of her pieces was by the Japanese composer Michio Mamiya.
Called A Monster, it was inspired by a story reprinted in the program. To allow the tech crew time to make stage changes, Kennedy read aloud the story. He seemed to realize while reading it that some of the translation was a little off, but seeing a chance to have some fun, Kennedy apparently ran with it. The story is about a monster too big to live in Japan, so he jumped into the sea, after which he realizes there are "five thousand little whales inside his trousers." He eventually roasts them with the fires of Mt. Fiji and washes them down with water from "the drinking cup of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan."
But you couldn't hear the part about Mt. Fuji or, for that matter, much of the rest of the story. Why? Too much groaning from the audience. You see, Kennedy paused for a long moment after reading the word "trousers," as if he were thinking, "Those have to be some big-ass pants to be on a monster who's too big to live on an island nation." Perhaps, his mind on fire with word association, those "little whales" weren't so little at all. Indeed, maybe they are like another kind of little wriggler inside one's pants, just super-sized like McDonald's French fries.
"It doesn't say if they're sperm whales," Kennedy interjected in that long pause.
(Insert loud groaning and laughter here.)
Fortunately, there wasn't time to consider the implications of adding "sperm" to a story about a big monster eating "little whales." Even so, it was a pleasant departure from the norm. Kennedy's all right. -JS
(Image courtesy of Zazzle)