Saturday, September 7, 2013

Musicians Looking Silly

As I have probably said a few times before, I have always had a problem with marketing. The idea of myself, or worse, my performance of Bach or Villa-Lobos as being a commodity, a product to be flogged in the marketplace troubles me. No surprise then that my career as a performer was less successful than it might have been! But I don't think I am wrong to be troubled by things like this. It also troubles me to see what classical musicians are reduced to these days in the attempt to sell their wares. Example, an album cover:

Honestly, you see that and all you really want to do is start a caption contest, don't you? Something like Rattle shouting, "Damn it, Lang Lang, I've told you before, that's a quarter-rest, not a half-rest!" Or Lang Lang crooning, "Is this my best side? Or should I turn to the right?" Here is a "trailer", meaning a little video clip advertisement for the album. YouTube refuses to embed, so you will have to follow this link:

I'm afraid that I stopped listening when Simon Rattle commented on Lang Lang's being "sheerly, uncannily accurate". Well, sure, obviously, knowing he had a recording session coming up, he practiced a bit. I can tolerate the white lies, half-truths, out and out fabrications and smelly little falsehoods of most advertising as they concern things I am not very interested in such as laundry detergent, blue jeans and over-priced perfumes. But when they are connected with something I am interested in and respect, classical music, then I find them quite intolerable!

I like to imagine what Bartók might have thought or said about this marketing and performance of his concerto...

I'm afraid that whenever I see musicians mugging for the camera like this, over-dramatizing their gestures and desperately trying to catch our attention (and dollar), it leaves me just a bit cold. I tend to avoid this sort of thing. I prefer musicians who happen to have some dignity. Who are trying to express something other than mere accuracy and their own narcissism. Here is Grigory Sokolov playing the Schubert Sonata, D. 960:


Nathan Shirley said...

I think the increase in ridiculus live performance photos is in part due to the huge technological leap video has made in the past few years. A lot of these photos are likely just stills taken from video. A producer can go through a performance frame by frame until they get the "perfect" still. Their idea of perfect is often ridiculous.

The commercialization of it all is especially disturbing when you consider the terribly isolated states both Bartok and Prokofiev died in.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think one reason I found this photo so bothersome was just that: Bartók and Prokofiev both deserve much better! This photo suggests rather more trivial music. Something by John Williams (the film composer) or Andrew Lloyd Weber perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Time changes and so do fashions and forms of graphic expressions. I have to say, I really like this cover, because it not an overly beautified photograph of artists posing. This is what music making looks like - it may not always be pretty, but damn honest.