Examples of "X's X"s
December 3, 2021 3:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in learning about people who are highly respected and known by colleagues in their field, but may or may not be appreciated by a wider audience. For example, people who are considered to be a "musician's musician", a "director's director", a "chef's chef", etc. If you can provide reasons why they have this reputation, even better!

I'm most curious about art- and food-related fields, but any field could be interesting!
posted by Yiggs to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I nominate... Jason Becker. I admit I have NEVER heard of him before I discovered his name via Herman Li of DragonForce. Nor did I know he's in a power wheelchair suffering from ALS, and he's STILL composing music. He was a guitar prodigy in his youth, and still admired today by legendary "shredders".
posted by kschang at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Previously (to some extent).
posted by xenization at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yasujiro Ozu for cinema, although I couldn't begin to explain why.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2021

Morgan Levine is a potter's potter, because the technique used in her ceramic pottery is such a remarkable achievement if you know anything about making pottery (she uses marbled colors in slip as surface decoration, so the color is only on the top of her hand-made pieces. the mugs especially are an honest to god feat!)
posted by wowenthusiast at 5:15 PM on December 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

A quote often attributed to music producer Brian Eno is: "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band." This has always been interesting to me because the sound quality of the recordings is atrocious. The bass drum sounds like somebody pounding a cardboard box.

You have to have studied music to get most of the jokes in P.D.Q. Bach, not sure if that counts.

Ricky Jay was described as such.
posted by wnissen at 5:28 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've heard Leo Kottke described as a musician's musician. I caught one of his shows live in Atlanta club years ago and the rest of the crowd sure seemed to live up to it.
posted by jquinby at 6:05 PM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

When Sean Lock died somewhat recently, a lot of people memorialized him as the comedian's comedian. He was pretty widely known/loved (at least in the UK), but his humor was definitely on a whole 'nother plane. See the famous "Carrot in a Box" skit on YouTube, or just watch any of the "best of Sean Lock" compilations to watch him crack up other comedians on the regular.
posted by carlypennylane at 6:19 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Chef's chef: Thomas Keller.
posted by cooker girl at 6:30 PM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Some people excel at making content that meets a very wide audience where it is. Others excel at making sophisticated material that requires more than passing familiarity with a genre to appreciate. The 'X's X' are those people -the ones who speak at a level the already-initiated are best positioned to understand, and whose relative understatement and disinterest in being accessible makes them a bit more invisible to a mass audience.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on December 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Sir Antony Sher, an English stage actor, has recently died and is being lauded by theatre-types as the finest actor of his generation, a giant, a titan, etc. I'd be surprised if most people have heard of him, but he appears to have had an enormous reputation within his profession.
posted by underclocked at 2:42 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Jacob Collier seems to have the respect of everyone who thinks about contemporary music.

In mathematics, it's Terence Tao.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:03 AM on December 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think Paul Erdős falls into this category too. The man lived an itinerant existence and would just show up to other mathematician's houses to live there for a bit and make new theorems.

In chemistry there are some old greats too. Like maybe Bob Woodward. He lead the synthesis of vitamin B12 and was one of the first chemists to pursue such complicated molecules from the natural world. In the planning for his syntheses he also elucidated some general reactivity rules for Diels-Alder reactions and those rules are still taught today.
posted by crossswords at 8:20 AM on December 4, 2021

Metafilter's own Zompist is probably a conlanger's conlanger. He hasn't had his work associated with a big media property (like Avatar, Game of Thrones, Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings), which is basically the only way for a conlang to be famous. But basically everyone involved in conlanging as a hobby has heard of him. And his work definitely focuses on language-nerd stuff, like specifying the fine points of grammar and modeling how a language family evolves over time.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am currently reading a New York Times article that calls Prince Paul “a music nerd’s music nerd.” No link due to paywall, but the article is titled His Ears Are Wide Open To All the Great Albums, by Iman Stevenson, in the December 4, 2021 Arts section.
posted by smokyjoe at 8:31 AM on December 4, 2021

Richard Yates, a writer’s writer. I always associate the “blank’s blank” with a certain obscurity, sort of like the old saw about the Velvet Underground cited upthread. (They may not be obscure now, but they were then.) Miko’s definition is excellent and more accurate than mine.
posted by scratch at 8:57 AM on December 4, 2021

Charles Portis turns up frequently on the novelist list, but is True Grit really all that obscure?

Evan S. Connell could qualify, I prefer his non-fiction to his fiction. Joseph Mitchell? Always fun.

Periodically someone will write up an appreciation of some obscure writer, regretting that their genius is unfairly ignored. (Politics frequently inspire the choice of subject.) On closer examination, the reasons the author in question has faded become all too apparent. In a world flush with more writing than the world can handle, mere adequacy does not warrant reprints.
posted by BWA at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2021

Almost all mathematicians are mathematician's mathematicians.
posted by aws17576 at 3:28 PM on December 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

PJ Harvey.

Was just watching random music videos and went down a rabbit hole. She’s definitely a musician’s musician. Unappreciated outside of the scene, absolutely adored within. Or at least should be.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:08 PM on December 5, 2021

Besides Sean Lock, I've also heard Gilbert Gottfried described as "your favorite comedian's favorite comedian", although I last heard that at least a decade ago.

Joe Satriani has definitely been described as a guitarist's guitarist, and I see he was name checked in the AskMe from 2015.

Professional wrestler David Starr used to have the phrase "your favorite wrestler's favorite wrestler" as part of his intro, although recent events mean that probably isn't true anymore.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:35 PM on December 5, 2021

I would push back very strongly on the idea that Keller is a chef's chef. He is clearly the leading representative of fine dining in the U.S., with multiple Michelin starred restaurants, multiple cookbooks, branded All-Clad pans, and a line of cake mixes, for cripes' sake. This is no knock against Keller or his team, the French Laundry deserves every bit of its praise, which is really saying something since so much of what they do has been imitated by countless other restaurants. He's as close to universally acclaimed as it gets, except for the little thing where they apparently underpay their stagiares and won't give a reference unless you stay for a year.

For a chef's chef, I would put up Alain Passard, Pierre Gagnaire, or Wylie Dufresne. They're influential, ahead of their peers, and outside the narrow world of haute cuisine, most people couldn't name them or recognize them on the street. For Gagnaire, I'm sure that's true because he was going for a morning swim at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas and the only people excited were me and the kitchen staff.
posted by wnissen at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I love this question. "Exhibition of Artist's Artists" is such a nice theme for a show (and probably has been presented numerous times)

The automatic art skool answer is Duchamp (who influenced so many others), but I would encourage someone to view Duchamp's work and find their artist's artist from there. (There are definitely more interesting original answers, here)

For musician's music, Mozart's The Magic Flute has been suggested as a great base- a favorite anecdote for this work, is it's rumor to be relevant to women in freemasonry, which I find a little funny/interesting.
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:40 PM on December 26

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