Am I a dinosaur?

May 25, 2007 at 01:18 AM · For sometime, I have been disturbed by the marketing strategy of classsical music. If exploiting sexuality really sells, I would think there's nothing that can stop it. On the other hand, I personally would buy more if less sexuality is involved. How about you? Does a performer's look influence you to buy or not to buy classical music CD's or concert tickets?

Replies (103)

May 25, 2007 at 01:25 AM · What's wrong with sexuality? None of us would exist without it.

May 25, 2007 at 01:32 AM · I don't buy CDs with covers that I don't think could be shown to my pre-teen students.

May 25, 2007 at 01:39 AM · When one of the highest forms of art sinks to the lowest levels to sell more records you know it's a sign of the end of western civilation.

Classical music doesn't need the sexuality on the covers to sell, the music and performances should speak for themselves. Of course, this is why I wasn't a business major.

May 25, 2007 at 01:46 AM · quote: "When one of the highest forms of art sinks to the lowest levels to sell more records you know it's a sign of the end of western civilation."

The end of western civilization occurred in 1982. Eveyone knows this. You can look it up.

quote: " the music and performances should speak for themselves."

You're missing the big picture. Art never existed without commerce. I think all these local orchestras that are having trouble filling seats are missing out on a great trend. How about some post-modern performances?

Naked concertos.

Beethoven in the buff.

It would be HUGE, I tell, you, HUGE.....

May 25, 2007 at 06:12 AM · Nothing wrong with sexuality per se and exploiting sexuality definitely will sell to certain market. To me though, most of the CDs I have brought resulted from reading good reviews and my own research. For instance, Buri’s recent review on Shaham lead me to purchase 4 more CDs. I probably would buy such beautifully played music even Shaham looked like Quasimodo on the cover.

Overly sexual appearance on the CD cover does make me think twice before purchasing, especially if I don’t know the performer. I don’t like the feeling of being tricked into buying something I don’t want, and buying something based on the package without knowing the content or the substance certainly is one trick a lot of women fall into. On the other hand, if the performer designed his or her own CD cover and if it’s interesting in itself, I think it has some added value.

May 25, 2007 at 02:23 AM · It's amazing to me how quickly people love to trumpet the apocalypse over something so trivial as classical music. It certainly is the language of the soul, but I think a meteorite or nuclear holocaust is far more likely to bring us to our knees, so let's end the catastrophizing there.

Classical music has only become so stoic because we've made it so. If you take a look throughout art history, female sexuality and sensuality, not to mention even homoeroticism, is everywhere. Brahms was friends with all the prostitutes in his area. I'm quite sure that Beethoven, given the passion in his music, had quite a few mistresses and was probably a little kinky. So, I think everyone should get off this inane idea that classical music is some museum piece.

I am against gimmicks to be sure, but I don't think what Lara St. John did was really that bad. I'm sure all of you prudes who are getting angry over an exposed breast probably love to discuss art and literature. Well, I guess that you must all go absolutely crazy in The Louvre, seeing all those glorious paintings of naked men and women everywhere. O yea, but that's "art". Or I wonder, how you all would react to authors like Hemingway, describing sexual acts in his novels? Maybe something like the Nick Adams Stories. But perhaps I forgot again, he's a great American author. Lara St. John is just some air headed hack.

We aren't losing the quality of our music because some of the girls who are good at playing it happen to be pretty (thank god).

To be totally honest, I think that a lot of this prudishness comes from Judeo-Christian values, which wants us all to cover up (well, I should definately cover up, and so should most people...). This is not how art works. Guess what, a lot of your favourite composers were probably against the Church, hated the man made concept of God, and some of them were even gay! Now I'm sure by now you're running for your shotguns but calm down a minute and think about this.

Do you really think Lara. St. John needed her neckline and bare stomach to sell albums? No, she's pretty good, so people bought it. Personally, I don't like her Bach, but she plays it a lot better than I do, and better than most period. You see, if Lara St. John or Janine Jensen couldn't deliver on the concert stage, then you'd have a point. Is this because some of us ugly ones feel threatened by the possibility that maybe a good looking girl is going to steal your job or spot on stage? Well, play better than Janine Jensen first, then come back to us with that complaint.

As for thinking using sex to sell albums is the end of civilization, then we should have blown up a long time ago. If you are at all into the lives and history of your favourite artists, you'll know that they were often incredibly liberal for their time. And, given that many of us are so obsessed with authenticity and getting back to the composer, then maybe we should re-examine whether or not it's actually a big deal than someone better looking than you (and probably a whole lot more talented than you), has an album cover that by today's standards, doesn't even qualify for the cover of Maxim where propriety (by aforementioned Judeo-Christian values), are concerned.

PS. Preston's article was very nice.

May 25, 2007 at 02:15 AM · Thank you Pieter--that's one of your best rants. It is essentially what I meant in my one-liner:)

May 25, 2007 at 02:34 AM · Agreed, that's a top-class rant Pieter, and I agree with a good 99% of it. Lara St. John's "violin as lingerie" cover pic was going a *bit* too far for my own personal taste, but shoot, it's a free country.

The main point I've been trying to make in this ongoing discussion is that there is a difference between physical beauty and sexual provocativeness. Returning to my cited-ad-nauseam example of Anne-Sophie in her strapless gowns, I don't consider that she looks "sexy" in those dresses, but she sure does look beautiful. A lot of it is attitude as well--if you behave like a dignified, self-respecting and intelligent human being, you'll be respected and taken seriously whether anyone can see your bare shoulders or not. (Oh God, I'm starting to sound like an advice book for teenage girls.)

More on this later, I'm sure. This is just one of those issues that we never get tired of....

May 25, 2007 at 02:37 AM · Besides, the Lara St John photo wasn't "revealing" at all!

May 25, 2007 at 02:24 AM · In the business of marketing, nothing stands alone. It's all about associations. The context in which certain images or sounds are employed is important. Ever wonder why beer commercials often have scantily-clad women in them? Or luxury car commercials have classical choral music and men and women in designer suits, wearing expensive jewelry and watches? Whether or not Lara St. John's cover is socially (within the classical community) acceptable is not the important point. The important point is, what kind of association the marketer is trying to make between the cover image and the music. Is the association with sex? with sensuality? Or with the beauty of a female human upper body? In any case, well-crafted associations stick like glue. How many people here have entirely shaken off that Lara St. John cover image? I bet hardly anyone. If that's the case, Lara St. John Bach album is a marketing success. But whether that is good or bad for the performer is an entirely different question.

May 25, 2007 at 02:39 AM · I started writing a response, but it got too long, so I turned it into a blog entry.

May 25, 2007 at 03:15 AM · Those poor old Judeo-Christians. They always get accused of everything. Maybe Nero was right.

No, he was wrong. So is Richard Dawkins and that other new guy who recently wrote the book that religion is the cause of everthing bad in the world.

Just plain old bad scholarship, bad knowledge of history, bad science, and bad use of thought. Those Judeo-Christians gave us so much. Jews taught us how to play the violin. Bach was a Christian who believed.

He believed.

P.S. I don't like sexy looking cd covers or advertisements for classical music concerts, yet Allan makes a very good point about the realities of business. Whatever gets bums on seats. But the point about art somehow losing out is true. Sex is a great thing, but in its proper place. Ihnsouk's point is that it will NOT be good for classical music if the current drive toward hedonism/materialism is given too much emphasis.

May 25, 2007 at 02:51 AM · Trying to separate classical music from sex is silly. Music has always been about love, passion, jealousy, disappointment, etc.--and sex is a part of life. It's not all Bach cantatas after all. Franz Liszt used his calculated sex appeal to further his career. I can think of many operas that contain sex--and singers have had to exude sex appeal. And classical music has always embraced sensuality, with even conservative tastemakers such as Richard Strauss composing a work like Salome.

May 25, 2007 at 03:07 AM · There are some on this website who think they are cutting edge with their satire and sarcasm, but actually Pieter I find you to be quite boring. I've been trying to stay out of the debates I used to get into on this website because I grew quite tired of them. Not making any headway for days at a time got to be very frustrating. It would be great if all the athiests and liberals would do the same and show the same restraint.

May 25, 2007 at 03:16 AM · Doesn't western classical music have its roots in chants of the early Christian era?

May 25, 2007 at 03:26 AM · If sexuality is bad for art, then I guess Indian art and religious artifacts must be very base.

And what about Greek mythology?

This whole thread is headed for trouble. Why? Because we all have our own *sensibilities* and *touchpoints* with respect to propriety, taste, etc. Better to enjoy each other's company and relish the variety rather than step on each other.

I may feel that Lara's album cover is no big deal but I also accept that for some, it is cheesy or in poor taste.

May 25, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Johnny - you think Bach was a stuffy prude? No way, he was a lion. He had something like 12 kids. He was red blooded enough for you.

That's fine about all the sex and drama in opera. That's opera: a theatrical presentation of sex, attraction and violence, presented through the medium of art (music and theatre). But if the sex begins to take greater precedence over the music and theatre (which it can so easily do, being so powerful), then the art starts to lose its edge.

Gay composers? No problem. Just don't go bashing religious people. The free west owes its freedom to such.

May 25, 2007 at 04:07 AM · Sex is selling this thread. No one would question it sells, but I say it's the only thing that sells. The next time you're in a supermarket pay close attention to containers. Some of it's sublimial and some it's overt or even utilitarian. I subscribe to the Sigmund Freud belief that music is all about "obtaining a more beautiful lover" as he put it. Repressed in some people, and not as much in others. The reason artists painted nudes was to get people into the gallery. Every old issue of National Geographic had naked pictures in it, to sell magazines. Portraying it in a socially acceptable form is the power of subliminal advertising. The more convoluted the path, the "higher" the art. Now, when you expand the idea of sex to include the other forms of power over people, then you have an explanation for pretty much everything that ever happens in the world, both micro and macro levels of the world. Boss/employee, Pastor/congregation, Politician/citizens. Typical boss-employee relations are some of the kinkiest things I've ever seen, even though no physical sex is taking place. Check out some marketing textbooks at a college bookstore. I'd suggest not buying them though because they're probably $500 by now :) The more convoluted the path, the "higher" the art.

May 25, 2007 at 04:02 AM · It's true, if obvious, that sex sells.

But to those decrying "prudishness" would you yourselves buy a CD of performances you knew to be inferior to others, based on the "sexuality" portrayed on the cover? If the answer is no, then why is this standard good enough for other people if it's not good enough for you?

May 25, 2007 at 04:48 AM · Mitchell, I don't think many people would buy a CD to own the cover. What's happening is the performer is being portrayed in an appealing way.

May 25, 2007 at 05:01 AM · For me, female beauty probably have better chance for me to spend money to buy their albums, since I bought most of Suwanai's and Sarah Chang's CDs... :p Although they don't have CD cover like St. John's Bach album or strapless dress like Mutter's.

Well, I think St. John's cover went a bit too far for my taste, and just because of that Bach solo's cover I will question why she has to use this kind of cover to make the sells? Is it because she's not good enough as a violinist? So far I haven't try any of her album yet.

And for Mutter, even though she's pretty in those covers, but I don't like her music that much. I stop buying her albums for a while already.

May 25, 2007 at 05:04 AM · I should clarify by saying that I have not seen any covers (or works of art in the Louvre) that I personally found offensive (including the Lara St. John Bach CD).

My concern is that classical music will take the same road that other forms of music have taken (rap and hip-hop in particular). I think that those of us in the classical music world have better taste than that.

May 25, 2007 at 05:41 AM · Personally I am pretty much indifferent to what's on the cover of an album; I make my decisions based on the performers and the music, as (I imagine) do most of us on this list. (OK, I might be a bit turned off by someone who is REALLY flamboyant).

I think the question is not so much whether 'we' would buy such a CD, but whether folks not knowledgeable about classical music would be enticed to buy a CD they might not otherwise buy. This might, in other words, expand the audience base for classical CDs and classical music in general.

(And of course, it might not...)

Personally it worries me when I see concert halls in which the audience is mainly gray to white haired (no offense intended to those in this age group) and 50% or more of the seats are empty. OK, maybe it's not that bad everywhere (actually not even where I live), but I have attended some concerts recently where that was the case.

But then we would need to start another thread to discuss how to introduce the fine arts more effectively to a wider public, beginning at a very young age...

but I digress...anyone want to start that thread??!

May 25, 2007 at 05:57 AM · Well....OK, maybe I'm wrong about the sex. It's probably necessary to get the cd and ticket sales. I don't know. Personally I find the commercial, glitzed-up, standardised version of 'sex' and 'celebrity' that is spoon-fed to all of us via the media utterly boring. I'm totally in agreement with what Karen wrote in her reply to Ihnsouk (in her blog).

May 25, 2007 at 05:53 AM · J.S. Bach often wrote "Soli Deo Gloria" on his manuscripts.

In a recent Strings article Jian Wang is quoted: "With the Bach cello suites, although I am aware they are based on dances, I hear something much more profound than just dances. In a few preludes and some slower dances, I feel they are nothing less than prayers."

Lara St. John's Bach album cover makes a statement, but not, I am sorry to say, one that reflects the spirit of this great composer.

May 25, 2007 at 06:00 AM · So true, Gary.

May 25, 2007 at 07:05 AM · Let me clarify my position.

I only mentioned Judeo Christian values because they are what America is founded upon. They might not necessarily be the basis of values which now persist in popular culture, but given that much of classical music's "fan base" is old, usually conservative people, this genre of music has become linked with a certain set of values. I was trying to underscore the fact that because of this association, people might be losing sight of what classical music is.

There is as much hot blooded passion in Beethoven as there is in anything, and I think it's important to remember where this music came from. Now, most people think that Beethoven is beautiful music to listen to, for old people, and generally the choice for a more conservative set. Well, he Beethoven was alive, it was the music of revolution.

Also, just for your information, I am neither atheist nor liberal. Also, to think that this is bashing religious people means that perhaps you need to reread what I wrote. The point is, music is what it is. And I'm telling you point blank that a lot of great art is quite violently in opposition with convention and conservatism. So, imagine how interesting it is to me when people want to assign these highly conservative values to it? That's fine if you want to do that, but I think that's missing the point of the music.

Finally, who ever said anyone is buying inferior music just because the performer is good looking? Didn't I just finish saying that there are great performers who are equally as competent as anyone out there? We will never run out of good violinists, so just relax.

May 25, 2007 at 10:55 AM · Heifetz posing nude on a record cover! now there's a thought. We girls should have a chance to goggle as well! Come on lads drop em!!

May 25, 2007 at 07:47 AM · Certainly art has to crash through the petty sillinesses and mediocrities of its own time. It has to be revolutionary. The revolutionaries of our own time are where we would least expect to find them.

I think a few people have made the point on this thread (and in blogs) that the current trend in classical music is not at all revolutionary. There is nothing so timeworn, so tawdry, so stale and unrevolutionary, as the so-called sexual revolution. Sadly, it is simply boring, the greatest yawn of them all. But, if that is what it takes to sell tickets in the current social climate, then that is what it takes.

That said, I'm all for attractive people (and specifically, attractive women) getting around the place, and even appearing on cd covers.

PS Dear Janet, just make sure the weather is warm.

May 25, 2007 at 08:24 AM · Jon I agree, but it's not so much a sexual revolution as classical music simply catching up with rest of society. That in many ways is not a good thing, but to think that people get upset because a woman shows a little skin is just sad.

May 25, 2007 at 09:39 AM · Hi,

Pieter, very nice posts!

Cheers!

May 25, 2007 at 09:42 PM · To me, Joshua Bell's look in some of his posters is just as sexy as anybody's bare shoulder. So, Janet, I think lads are on their way of dropping their pants. As I said in the other thread, they say it was Elvis Presley who started sexualization of their genre, not a girl.

My interest in this debate is mainly that how much performers inject their person in the music they perform, that is beyond the interpretations, matters that are not related to the music itself. Do we collect their cards, personal trivia, etc? Or do we communicate through the art they represent?

I am sure composers and players have had active sex life that was crystalized in some way in their art that we enjoy. Could it be that we enjoy their art since our basic instinct is expressed in a way speaking to our imagination not just to our eyes? The question is how the sexuality is expressed not sexuality itself.

What's wrong with feeling apprehensive about open sexualization of classical music anyway? There is already so much sex in the entertainment industry. Don't we need a little desexualization if just for the sake of variation?

I quote Rostropovich below from Darcy' front page blog which I interpret as suggesting that performers claims their indivisuality through their art not through who they are in person.

Rostropovich relentlessly hammered home the point that the musician's calling should be to serve the composer, rather than to stand on stage showing off.

"It's important to detach yourself from your day-to-day feelings and do what the composer really wrote," Vengerov explains. "It sounds boring but it's not. It's very difficult. Slava said: 'We musicians are like prostitutes! We like everyone!' He meant that you're no longer your own character, you're trying to be the composer somehow, and this is fascinating."

Ihnsouk

May 25, 2007 at 11:45 AM · Nice points, Ihnsouk!

Some thoughts:

"My interest in this debate is mainly that how much performers inject their person in the music they perform, that is beyond the interpretations, matters that are not related to the music itself. Do we collect their cards, personal trivia, etc? Or do we communicate through the art they represent?"

Both, I'm sure. When I was a teenager, I used to go backstage after all sorts of concerts to meet the artists. I wanted to make some sort of personal connection with them - wanted to get to know them, so to speak. For me, experiencing great artists on the stage was only the beginning, and I definitely wanted to develop some sort of personal 'relationship' with them.

"I am sure composers and players have had active sex life that was crystalized in some way in their art that we enjoy. Could it be that we enjoy thair art since our basic instinct is expressed in a way speaking to our imagination not just to our eyes? The question is how the sexuality is expressed not sexuality itself."

But as Pieter and several others mentioned, this type of marketing isn't necessarily directed at us converts. Its job is to attract people that wouldn't even consider buying a classical CD or going to a concert otherwise. Does it work? That's another question...

"Rostropovich relentlessly hammered home the point that the musician's calling should be to serve the composer, rather than to stand on stage showing off.

"'It's important to detach yourself from your day-to-day feelings and do what the composer really wrote,' Vengerov explains. 'It sounds boring but it's not. It's very difficult. Slava said: 'We musicians are like prostitutes! We like everyone!' He meant that you're no longer your own character, you're trying to be the composer somehow, and this is fascinating.'"

Good point, but 99% of the time, the performer isn't the composer, and often doesn't have the chance to work or communicate with him/her personally. The process of discovery, of trying on new roles, is essential - but I disagree with the idea of taking on the composer's role at the expense of your own as performer. And honestly, day-to-day feelings are part of what make music interesting to hear again and again - a different colour each time, spontanaeity. The search for the composer's 'truth' is essential, but more as a means than as an end - it's the process that really matters, and the results we get from it. And that is 100% dependent on the performer(s).

How does sex fit into this all? I don't think it matters, to tell you the truth. Marketing will be marketing, and without it, performers won't survive. I do my best not to let it affect me, but if it does increase classical music audiences, I'm certainly not complaining. Don't like the dress? Just close your eyes - after all, we're all there for the music. Aren't we?

May 25, 2007 at 01:10 PM · Jon: You're reading far more into my comments. Who says I'm bashing Bach or religious people? No need to be defensive. This is an open forum for people to express their ideas. And I'm not attacking anyone.

May 25, 2007 at 02:02 PM · I have just finished reading a couple of books on the sex lives of great composers. I'd have to conclude that nothing has changed in the last 500 years. From Lully and his homosexual orgies to Chopin and his cross-dressing mistress George Sand to Percy Grainger carrying an assortment of whips with him to all his concerts to....well, the list goes on and on. Many of them had STDs and groupies galore. It is interesting how many were inspired to write music by the impulses that began in their love lives. And the number of performance decisions based on the sexual attractions to soloists, singers, etc., and how they looked onstage is astonishing. So, I think you'll find the opinions expressed in this discussion being issues that have been rampant in classical music (and human nature) since its beginnings.

Sandy

May 25, 2007 at 02:02 PM · "for sometime, I have been disturbed by the marketing strategy of classsical music."

You need to lighten up, or move to a fascist theocracy where classical musicians must cover every inch of their bodies. I say let the marketers do their jobs. It's tough enough to survive as a classical musician these days. I don't care how they sell tickets. Show a little skin? Fine. Add a little playboy airbrushing or gloss lipstick? So much the better. I'm a violinist, not a monk.

May 25, 2007 at 03:03 PM · this is what I posted to Preston's blog:

The more I read about this tempest in a teapot of adding sex into the equation of classical music--the more amused I become. After all, music is part of the larger society there are not two separate societies of people out in the world( there are actually but not for the purposes of this discussion) there is simply the world. Unless, of course, you want to assume the effete, affected air of such a one as Babbitt who doesn't give a fig whether you listen to his music or not. But today's musical society is not quite as much a caste system as it was back back in the days when Babbitt wrote his little piece. In those days classical musicians and aficianados seemed to enjoy their relative isolation from the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, today like it or not everyone hears everything. Hip-hop, rock, classical even opera come at us from the background music in commercials to odd bedfellows on concerts which honor musicians of every stripe all at the same time. The world has changed a bit over the past 125 years and Strauss' view of Musik ist eine heilige Kunst is all very well an good save for the fact that some of the people listenng to it might just as well like opera and hip-hop and don't care if they aren't equally rarified. For those who are offended that 'marketing' has or will corrupt their precious art--no one was ever influenced or had their lives made better by music they never heard. For art to have its impact it has to have an audience. (The height of rarified silliness is an operatic performance sung for people in a language they do not understand--or perhaps, it's simply 'chutzpah'--unmitigated gall--for the uninitiated. but that's another topic.) People have to come to the performances to hear the music. Who cares if you're wearing a tank top and jeans or a ball gown the object is to have people in the seats, otherwise we're back to the argument of'if a tree falls in the forest'.

May 25, 2007 at 03:31 PM · Megan - Thank you for the thoughtful post. Let me think about it more before I reply.

Just to focus the discussion; Does it really sell? So far, everybody on either camp seems to think it doesn't make any difference to them. If it is to convert people to listen to classical music, does it work? Isn't it like selling beer wrapped in a chocolate bar wrapping paper? Are we hoping that people will be converted if they just take a sip of beer even if they initially thought it's chocolate?

Ihnsouk

May 25, 2007 at 04:19 PM · Ihnsouk,

Good question here: do ad strategies really work? you really have to wonder why huge companies like Pepsi or Budweiser have to pay zillions for ad space during the Superbowl. Can it really sell one more drink for them?

One could argue that many people do shop with their eyes. If they pick up two CDs of a concerto, will it make a difference whether the cover has a good-looking young thing, or some old guy in a tux?

It very well may, especially if the buyer is young and not a classical musician.

May 25, 2007 at 04:20 PM · Let me put it out there -

I hate advertising! I hate marketing strategies and integrated marketing, and especially market research! I wish our society's goal wasn't to make so much money to put everybody else in one's field out of business. Consumerism, capitalism, GREED - is it really that necessary? I'd certainly be happier if it weren't.

May 25, 2007 at 04:42 PM · If all young buyers see are pretty and handsome faces on classical CD covers, they'll think that one has to be pretty and handsome to be successful in classical music.

May 25, 2007 at 06:03 PM · Where does Itzhak Perlman fit into all this? I'm not calling him ugly (I wouldn't be that cruel) but he's no male model, and it seems like he's still pretty successful and popular...

May 25, 2007 at 06:21 PM · I think Ihnsouk has the matter well in hand. It isn't so much the artist's covers, but the assumption that we NEED the covers which is disturbing to me.

As I see it, some artists today feel that the most important priority is to communicate how much they feel emotionally about the music---rather than having the wisdom to allow the audience to experience their own emotions in response to the music.

Its as if they feel they must project their individual personality into the performance, as if to say "See how good I look while feeling so deeply about my playing?" It all seems rather narcissistic to me.

Give me the old guys any day.Or at least give me the young ones who have the mindset of the old guys. Or at the VERY least, give me the ones who want to learn the mindset of the old guys! ;-)

May 25, 2007 at 06:47 PM · I agree that serving the music is of the utmost importance, and I liked how Inshouk talked about performers injecting their personality where it really is not needed. But, I don't think there's a place in music for moralizing, because in essence, you are cutting off certain channels that need to be explored. There's a lot of four letter words in Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and especially Shostakovich.

I agree with you Mr. Russell, that the "old guys" had a good thing going, but I like that the new generation has taken the idea of serving the music much farther.

I guess ideally, there would be no marketing of music, but that is the world. Once the quality of music suffers, I'll complain... however, I don't think there's anything wrong with a woman wearing a somewhat revealing evening gown to play a concert (and probably a gown which would be viewed as tasteful in any other sphere) or Janine Jensen showing some skin on an album cover. At the end of the day, they're both great players who need to sell albums.

Igor Oistrakh used to have his concerts advertised with the name Oistrakh in large letters and his first in little ones. All of Zakhar Bron's students (besides Vengerov and Repin) seem to put Bron's name in their bios (which they should), but then back it up by mentioning he is the teacher of Vengerov and Repin. What does that have to do with anything? It makes you into a commodity saying, hey, I'm kind of like those two individuals. I could go on and on. Slightly deceptive/superfluous marketing has always been around, it isn't new.

At the end of the day, if you don't like what a performer is doing, just walk. You can vote with your dollars. No one is forcing you to look at anything, nor to listen to anything. When I watch competitions and I see people doing rehearsed motions, fake little smiles at the jury and other maddening, obviously pre-meditated ticks, I just make a mental note not to go see them again. For every idiot out there who has been encouraged (whether of their own volition or not), to sprinkle their personality all over a work to try and make it more accessible or to make it their own, there are many more who simply want to play what's on the page as well as possible, because they realize that the real masterpiece is Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, not THEIR "Tchaik".

May 25, 2007 at 06:51 PM · Pieter wrote:

"For every idiot out there who has been encouraged (whether of their own volition or not), to sprinkle their personality all over a work to try and make it more accessible or to make it their own, there are many more who simply want to play what's on the page as well as possible, because they realize that the real masterpiece is Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, not THEIR "Tchaik"."

You're basically right, but why does it then matter which version of the Tchaikovsky we buy? Why on earth would we ever buy more than one? Because what performers find in the music is also very important - it's not imposing 'personality' onto a work as you mentioned, but it is the combination of composer, music, and interpreter.

May 25, 2007 at 07:10 PM · Megan, there is a difference between a performer playing a piece of music and through osmosis if you will, the egocentricities and personal artifacts manifest themselves in the performance. That is quite different from someone doing certain things which don't need to be there, and are deliberately done. It's hard to explain, but I assure you that you'll know it when you see it.

I like Mr. Russell's "Bear and the log" analogy... the R-rated version is the best.

May 25, 2007 at 07:16 PM · Pieter,

I do know what you mean - I just don't want to encourage the opposite extreme.

May 25, 2007 at 07:28 PM · Megan, I agree. That's why we have so many people at opposite ends, some of them quite fundementally adamant about what they're doing. It's the struggle between those two opposing forces which keeps things interesting, and prevents artists from stagnating. It's the same reason I'm glad there are bleeding heart liberals, and gun-toting, bible thumping Republicans. We need both.

May 25, 2007 at 08:22 PM · To paraphrase what I said before:

music = sex

You can pretend otherwise, but if you think otherwise, you're under a delusion. Rap or hoity-toity, it doesn't matter. Always has been, always will be. Sander has it too.

In fact rap and American Idol is probably 1000 times less sexual than classical, it's just that rap makes it obvious, puts it out front. That's a tradition of American black culture.

May 25, 2007 at 08:20 PM · Jim,

This year at McGill Sandy Pearlmann (I doubt I need to tell you who he is) gave a course called Heavy Metal and Bruckner. His basic contention is that these two especially, were aimed at making the audience experience ecstacy. So, your assertion probably isn't far off.

May 25, 2007 at 04:50 PM · Classical music means to me bearing the soul not the body. I feel because of the aura surrounding classical music this type of packaging is a novelty and most probably will be short-lived, but if it does continue we might see something rather like a schism between the traditional and liberal classical music. BTW I know many musicians who are not regular church go-ers and many who are outright atheists who do not approve of this newest trend so don't play the Judeo-Christian values card. Also let's not forget it isn't just the clothes ( or lack of) there are other forms of questionable taste, like venue for instance, Menuhin took Bach's chaconne to an historical and beautiful ancient church, Bell took it to the train station! I find that a lot more offensive than a strapless gown.

It is difficult to even debate this argument when there are posts that indicate you must be old, ugly or a religious fanatic if you hold anti nudity views in classical music.

As for the Louvre, the Painting IS the Art, do you see under the painting a photograph of the naked artist who painted the picture? The Music IS the Art the sound is the end result just like the painting is the end result.

BTW there must be many other marketing tools that could be employed why is their creativity so narrow? For these artists that have worked so hard and become so accomplished they should take pride in their achievements and themselves and just say no to the big business machine.

May 25, 2007 at 09:00 PM · Pieter, obviously. What other aim is even conceivable?

Laura, why do you find it offensive he took Bach to a train station? Don't you want the unprivledged unwashed to hear it or something? Plus for all we know that ancient church was the site of medieval tribunals :)

I'm developing a funny hypothesis...something about people's concept of music being the same as what they do on a first date...

May 25, 2007 at 09:29 PM · laura... I was trying to take you seriously until you said you're offended by Bach being played in a train station. I cannot possibly argue with someone who is an even bigger snob than I am.

Also, Judeo-Christian values are what has built this country. Even if you don't go to church and are an atheist, a lot of what you consider moral and right comes from the aforementioned. Again, I am just drawing your attention to the fact that it's interesting that people want to assign such restrained and conservative values to music, when like Jim says, a lot of it isn't as proper as we'd like.

May 26, 2007 at 10:19 AM · Jim - As I said in my earlier post, can we have a different way of expressing sexuality or does it all have to be out in front if it is sexuality?

Pieter - About your comment, showing a little skin to sell records, that's exactly what I am asking. Does it work? If it sells, who am I to say to do or not to do? As Mr. Russell said, does it really sell or are we just assuming it does? So far, according to this little survey, it doesn't sell.

I may have my opinions on this, but right now I am just asking a question, Does sexualization sell classical music to general public? I mean general public not the advertising executives, music managers, and other small circles in music industry.

Ihnsouk

May 25, 2007 at 10:08 PM · I heartily agree with Pieter on this matter. Classical music is not a dusty monastery where we must all shave our heads and wear hair shirts to display our absolute detachment from human society and our complete pure devotion to Absolute Artistic Truth, nor is it simply a gilded, lofty far-off concert hall where only the morally and intellectually superior may cross the velvet rope. Those are false stereotypes that most likely grow out of some combination of (a) pseudo-populist anti-intellectualism, (b) artificially-imposed aristocratic division between "folk music" and "art music", (c) ordinary snobbery, or (d) lingering Puritan heritage. (I still sound like an Oberlin freak, don't I...)

Honestly, it's no wonder so many people think classical music is boring, when it gets hammered into people's heads that oh no, Serious Classical Music is no place for emotional immediacy, red-blooded vitality, earthy vigor, or yes, sensuality. No, this kind of music is only for the brain, and only for the brains of stuffy geniuses.

For crying out loud, Beethoven was the most red-blooded, earthy, raunchy, foul-mouthed and pranksterish guy you'll ever meet. Mozart swore like a hussar and never got sick of potty humor. Bach had something like 20 kids, enough said there. Liszt was, well, Liszt. Brahms was a rude, grouchy old grump with a surprisingly gentle side, Bartók felt most at home hiking through the countryside and living with peasants, and, horror of horrors, Tchaikovsky was gay.

The point of that rambling paragraph was that I don't know of any major composer who was just a stodgy old fart covered in distinguished cobwebs and erudite dust. Most of them were larger-than-life revolutionaries, full of life, often slightly crazy but undoubtedly brilliant. Consigning them to the realm of egghead snobbery and cloistered "piety"? It's almost insulting.

May 25, 2007 at 10:47 PM · playing naked is not neccessarily sexual. In fact, it is apt to be anything butt.

May 25, 2007 at 11:28 PM · Anything "butt"? Is that a Freudian slip or a deliberate pun? ;-)

May 26, 2007 at 12:30 AM · To be honest, is it really to sell records or is it just because todays fashions are far more revealing than in the past?

If the violinist's music is good, then I kind of don't care. However, more often than not, gimmicky musicians like Kennedy let their personality seep into the music... as a result........

May 26, 2007 at 12:02 AM · Awww, nuts. I don't know why we're even arguing over this topic. It's all silly. Play the violin naked if you want, or play it in a puritan high collar and full suit of clothes. Wear a chastity belt as well while you play if you feel it will sell more cds.

PS I'm not a gun-toting Bible thumper, by the way. I'm a moderate, free thinking soul. If I came on too strong yesterday in my Bach/Judeo-Christian responses, Johnny and Pieter, I apologise. I must have been having a bad day. It happens.

May 26, 2007 at 01:41 AM · It seems like all the examples connecting music and sex show that music sells sex, not the other way around.

May 26, 2007 at 01:58 AM · "I'm not a gun-toting Bible thumper"

You say that like it's a bad thing...

May 26, 2007 at 02:02 AM · How 'bout a nude pic of Oscar Shumsky ? or Leonid Kogan ? Maude Powell ? What a foolish direction this thread took !

May 26, 2007 at 03:16 AM · For me the issue is what kind of marketing strategy we as classical music lovers are willing to support and pay for. CDs produced by Hyperion, BIS, Duetche Grammophon, Phlips and Naxos are a few examples come to my mind. I haven't see many if at all covers with sexy women or men and they probably don’t have to. The quality and content speak for themselves.

May 26, 2007 at 04:10 AM · I agree Yixi. Who cares if the composer's boyfriend was a transvestite, lets boycott CD covers with anything on them except black and white lettering in New Times Courier.

Ihnsouk, I agree with you too (seriously). I probably wasn't clear or complete or something.

May 26, 2007 at 03:51 AM · Pieter maybe you should watch the CD "The Art of Violin" I was absolutely hypnotized after seeing Menuhin perform the Chaconne, putting it in the setting it was originally intended for made a great deal of difference for me, and apparently I'm not the only snob, Julia Fisher and Hilary Hahn also played the Chaconne in a church. A great deal of time and effort was spent to find the ideal setting and camera and crew had to record from a outside room just so there would be no distraction from the music. To me that was a touching example of how one artist honors another, rather than how one artist serves his own agenda.

I also know that values are not limited to the Judeo Christian tenets and in fact find a home in nearly every religion and culture on this planet.

May 26, 2007 at 07:16 AM · Firstly, it sounds like you've never been to a subway station in Prague, for example. And I know that there are some in Russia which are more beautiful than most churches in England.

The place where music is being played makes no difference. When Joshua Bell played in a subway station, it was a social experiment. I also doubt that when he played, he didn't try his best. As we know, his best is pretty good, and worthy of praise (like him or not).

Also, just because Fischer and Hahn recorded in a church does not mean that they'd probably disagree with you about the Bell thing.

May 26, 2007 at 08:48 AM · "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." --Paul

I know, I know, those Judeo-Christian ethics are a tight fitting shoe, aren't they?

Or are they?

May 26, 2007 at 11:42 AM · Hi,

If I may interject a couple of thoughts...

An important point which seems to be re-iterated over and over... we are at the service of the music, the music is not at our service. Someone asked which version of a piece - in the end, the great readings all agree on the important points though the individuality of the person's sound can be different.

As for the rest, well to each his own take.

Cheers!

May 26, 2007 at 01:51 PM · To me, what was most interesting about that Joshua Bell experiment was what he said. He said he was nervous there because he had to attract audience himself contrary to a concert where he plays to ticket holders that are already sold. It made me wonder, Did he give some thoughts to how hold the attention of passers-by, to what kind of pieces he should play? Or did he play what he plays best, what shows him best whether that meets the need of possible audience at that moment? If he didn't, may I suggest that it examplifies disconnect between artists and audience.

Just to get sex out of the discussion, let's assume painters with a piece of art to display to public, their masterpieces. Let's say they are also good with their hands and made clever frames, not a piece of art , but a good piece of craft. Should they showcase their masterpieces in their own frames? Frames that are louder than commonly used simple black type or gold ones? Should we be delighted to see the personal side of the artist when the masterpiece is framed in their own handy work or should we be annoyed if the frame interferes with experiencing the masterpiece?

Megan - My delayed reply to your earlier post about Rostropovich's remark of leaving day-to-day self behind. I understood "day-to-day self" as something like making their own frames if that makes sense.

Ihnsouk

May 26, 2007 at 12:36 PM · Should classical musicians have to repress their sexuality to be taken seriously? Why is bare skin still so taboo in 2007? What's wrong with taking audiences seriously and experimenting with what their needs and desires are, and whether they feel like they're getting value for money out of their entertainment?

And to everyone who says that Bach's solo violin works were written for the church, this is not true. This was secular music which he wrote while Kappelmeister to Prince Leopold of Cothen. As well as the tearjerkers, there is a whole lot of dance music in this set of pieces. Anyone who says they weren't written for entertainment needs their ears examined.

May 26, 2007 at 03:23 PM · Hi Venus,

Just want to suggest that the audience is hopefully drawn to be uplifted from their current status quo. They are opening themselves to beauty. Giving an audience what they desire and need might also apply to the citizens of Rome and the gladiators! Porno movie audiences? (now THAT is uplifting!;-) Please understand...

the personality of the performer is necessarily second to the "objective" expression of the music. Otherwise, its like giving someone a gift , opening it for them, using it how you wish, and expecting that they will feel exactly how you feel about it, and will leave you wondering why they don't feel fulfilled after you put it away. Its also like watching someone else eat your favorite gourmet meal--- not quite the same sense of gratification as when you eat it!

Anyway, that is what I think.

By the way, if the performer happens to exude a sensuality as a normal part of their daily being, then fine! So be it. That is who they are! If it is in any way re-created to assist the music... it seems to me to be the wrong mind-set.

May 26, 2007 at 04:12 PM · The aptly-named Venus is not talking about fighting to the death for entertainment, or even dirty movies. That comparison is the product of flawed reasoning.

"I know, I know, those Judeo-Christian ethics are a tight fitting shoe, aren't they?

Or are they? "

They are!

May 26, 2007 at 04:34 PM · They are tight-fitting clothes that fit perfectly after you have shed excess weight.

May 26, 2007 at 04:36 PM · Jim,

I guess I may have misinterpreted what Venus meant by "experimenting with what the audiences needs and desires are"... In the context of the discussion, it would seem that the emphasis is on giving the audience what they desire.... but there are many less noble things an audience desires, are there not? Plus, the overall point is

the effect the MUSIC has on the performer AND the audience. Entertainment is one thing. Art is another. There is some crossover, but I think we are beginning to expect different things from artists these days. It can be insidious, in my opinion.

An extreme example is the old fad in the rock world of smashing guitars on stage. Biting heads off of chickens, etc. How did that all come to be? Even Elvis wouldn't have seen that coming!

Look, if the music is worth anything, it will survive and do its magic.It won't matter if a gorgeous young person is playing it, or otherwise. I do think we need to check our motives on occasion, though. Most of the world likes its chicken cooked. haha

May 26, 2007 at 04:50 PM · Actually Bach had 22 children. :)

And America was not founded upon Judeo-Christian values. It was founded on values of the Enlightment. America was founded on values of science, reason and democracy, and the founding fathers created an explicit separation of church and state. Washington was an Episcopalian, John Adams and John Quincy Adams were Unitarians, Jefferson was somewhere between a Unitarian and a Deist, Franklin was an atheist, Madison and Monroe were Deists who attended an Episcopalian church.

The Founding Fathers were very clearly sons of the Enlightenment.

They also wrote the First Amendment, which protects free speech and debate. I'm all for that!

May 26, 2007 at 06:14 PM · David,

You touched on something that's really interesting to me, the difference between "art and entertainment."

I wish you would start a thread on this. It would be interesting.

I don't know the history of biting heads off chickens but I don't see it as being at odds with art necessarily.

My favorite violinist, from around the 1920s, was a chicken farmer. Literally; no bad attempt at metaphor...

By most objective criteria I can think of he's more entertaining than Kreisler, so therefore is he not more artistic?

I went through a couple years of music school, and so I don't think I come at it from a classically ignorant point of view.

Start the thread!

P.S. The idea isn't to fight over the superiority of one thing over another, but to hopefully truly define things.

May 26, 2007 at 05:58 PM · There are so many different issues here, but I think that artists’ freedom of expression that Venus and Laurie have referred to is extremely a good one. That freedom includes the freedom of artistic and also commercial expression and is defended and protected fiercely in North America and most democratic countries in the world. I fought for such right almost all my life -- you don’t know what’s like to not have such right and such right is so easy to be taken away no matter where you are.

On the other hand, while artists should be freely express themselves with whatever they see fit, including their sexual aspect of their expression, the freedom of commercial expression (such as marketing strategies) can muddy the water. When the covers of CDs more and more look like the covers of current fashion magazines, it’s not unfair to call it boring or lack of imagination.

May 26, 2007 at 08:52 PM · I think the worst perpertators of self indulgent performances are ones which are overly violinistic. Most of the time, it's shortsighted teaching. Also, you find it a lot with kids who only listen to violin music, and not symphonies etc... If you own more CDs with Sarasate, Wienawski and Paganini on it than you do with Beethoven and Mozart (that aren't violin related)... it's time to re-examine life.

Concertos and other great pieces aren't meant to be vehicles to show how great the performer is on the instrument. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who find it acceptable and even teach it.

May 26, 2007 at 08:04 PM · Pieter - I couldn't agree more!

Cheers!

May 26, 2007 at 10:18 PM · I think most people here would be mad if a 300 pound woman exposed skin on a CD cover.

I think the issue here is looks and body image in America. If women perpetuate the stereotype of what a perfect woman looks like, more and more 14 years old will be starving themselves to look like them. So the best way to stop this horrible cycle that mostly effects women, because most men aren't as obsessed with looks and clothing (you don't see Gil Shaham being bashed for the more than revealing suit), is for other women to dress with class and taste. Dress in a way that any woman can feel happy about herself. Do not put so much emphasis on body image. By using sex to sell, we are furthering the idea of a body that sometimes just can not be attained.

Totally new theory added to this thread. Sorry.

May 26, 2007 at 10:02 PM · "And America was not founded upon Judeo-Christian values. It was founded on values of the Enlightment. America was founded on values of science, reason and democracy, and the founding fathers created an explicit separation of church and state. Washington was an Episcopalian, John Adams and John Quincy Adams were Unitarians, Jefferson was somewhere between a Unitarian and a Deist, Franklin was an atheist, Madison and Monroe were Deists who attended an Episcopalian church."

Let's take a look at ALL of the signers of the Delaration of independence:

Catholics:

Charles Carroll

Congregationalist:

Samuel Huntington

Roger Sherman

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

Lyman Hall

Samuel Adams

John Hancock

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

William Ellery

Unitarian:

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Episcopalian:

George Walton

John Penn

George Ross

Thomas Heyward Jr

Thomas Lynch Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Edward Rutledge

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Richard Henry Lee

George Read

Caesar Rodney

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Elbridge Gerry

Francis Hopkinson

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

William Hooper

Robert Morris

John Morton

Stephen Hopkins

Carter Braxton

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson Jr

George Wythe

Thomas Jefferson (Diest)

Benjamin Franklin (Diest)

Button Gwinnett

James Wilson

Joseph Hewes (Raised a Quaker)

George Clymer (Quaker)

Presbyterians:

Thomas McKean

Matthew Thornton

Abraham Clark

John Hart

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

James Smith

George Taylor

Benjamin Rush

Signers of the Constitution of the United States of America:

Catholics:

Daniel Carroll

Thomas Fitzsimons

Congregationalists:

Roger Sherman

Nathaniel Gorham

John Langdon

Nicholas Gilman

Abraham Baldwin

William Samuel Johnson

Episcopalian:

James Madison Jr.

George Read

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer

David Brearly

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr.

Robert Morris

Gouverneur Morris

John Rutledge

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Charles Pinckney

Pierce Butler

George Washington

Benjamin Franklin (Diest)

William Blount

James Wilson

Rufus King

Lutherans:

Jacob Broom

Methodists:

William Few

Richard Bassett

Presbyterians:

Gunning Bedford Jr.

James McHenry

William Livingston

William Paterson

Hugh Williamson

Jared Ingersoll

Alexander Hamilton

Jonathan Dayton

John Blair

Quakers:

John Dickinson

George Clymer

Thomas Mifflin

To say that America was not founded on Judeo-Christian values is incorrect. It's obvious that these were men of different christian religions.

How many of these men of the Enlightment were also slave owners?

Anyway, I'm sure I'm about to get crapped on by several violin.commers (I don't consider myself a commie). It's not my intention to shove religion on anyone, I just wanted to counter what Ms. Niles said.

May 26, 2007 at 10:23 PM · I admire women like Jane Austen who was witty and smart. She could write a romantic story with all the excitement and beauty without using sex as a crutch. I do not know, but I just think the world would be a better place if sex weren't such a big deal in everything we did as human beings. The population would go down. Global warming would decrease because of population decrease. Men and Women would marry out of love instead of lust (divorce rate would decrease). Everyone would be respected despite sexual appeal.

Classical music is so beautiful, it just seems like class and good taste should represent it. If unclassy and unwitty sex starts to represent then it will be horrible like well... I won't name names. Hey, classical music may have been full of sexual connotations from the past until now but atleast back then it was hilarious and classy. Now its just becoming stupid.

But, of course that is my opinion...

May 26, 2007 at 10:36 PM · Marty Dalton,

just because people are religious does not mean they follow exactly they're religious beliefs. I think they founded ideas upon the ideas of the enlightenment, not of their religious beliefs. Although most laws mirror the ten commandments. But the commandments are a matter of common sense anyways... Thou shall not kill. I would hope not!

May 26, 2007 at 10:42 PM · Though the Founding Fathers were indeed children of Enlightenment philosophy, most of them, including some of the few that Laurie mentioned, understood that the ability to "reason" was a God given gift. You can't read the writings of most of these men, including the writings of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, without realizing that they held a very real belief in God and the Divine influence He had in the formation of this country. Also, the separation of church and state was understood back then to be a protection for the church from the meddling affairs of the state, not a protection of the state from the church as it is falsely used today.

May 26, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Marty, I posted my last responce before I had read your responce. Thanks for taking the time to make the list.

May 26, 2007 at 10:49 PM · Jasmine,

I agree with you 100%. I myself am not a terribly religious person, but that doesn't mean I don't try to follow christian morals.

My prior response was just to show facts. We're all friends here :)

...at least I hope!

May 26, 2007 at 11:51 PM · Jefferson outlawed slavery in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence. One of his grievances against the crown was the foisting of slavery, and it's the one and only thing in capital letters. It was struck out by influence of Georgia, I believe, and one of the arguments was that the bible authorizes slavery. You don't have to read much actual Jefferson to understand he wasn't Rush Limbaugh or an evangelical of some kind. Now, Jefferson maintained ownership of his slaves because he couldn't make it without them under those circumstances.

I think the separation clause for the most part was to protect the church from the state, to guarantee free exercise of religion, but - never take that to mean that they intended to give the church authority over the state, or to authorize undue influence. If that was the intention they'd have considered a theocracy. They didn't. Far from it. We are a product of the Enlightenment. France began trying to follow suit shortly thereafter (with a few fits and starts).

May 27, 2007 at 12:15 AM · To show the religious backgrounds of the founding fathers doesn't counter what I said, Marty. The country was founded on Enlightenment principles.

May 27, 2007 at 01:51 AM · Wow, was it 22 children? Thanks for correcting me on that Laurie.

Getting back to the original topic, I feel that Kevin Cheung and Jasmine Reese both make excellent points about the insidious effects of using modern sex-celebrity type marketing in classical music. It sets yet another extremely difficult bench mark for new and emerging artists to have to deal with. What if you are a beautiful violin talent (musically speaking), but do not have the correct celebrity look? The discouragement would be immense. Art has got to be a higher thing than this.

I know that we have to make the sales, and that the realities of the world are sometimes far removed from the ideal. But it has to be said that such trends do have consequences. Modern man I think sometimes forgets that everything comes at a price. We think we are truly free to do whatever feels right. That is an illusion.

Sure, as Pieter and Jim write, it is not like we're talking about nuclear holocaust or gladiatorial combat. It's just showing a bit of skin, isn't it? But all we are doing on this thread is discussing where things are possibly heading.

May 27, 2007 at 01:15 AM · For those who regard themselves as "open-minded" when it come to using sex (or skin) to sell classical music, will you balk at listening to Bach's Chaconne in a tavern? Or Hotel California in the Sistine Chapel?

If you do, then you're not really that open-minded. If you don't, then basically the word "context" doesn't mean much to you.

May 27, 2007 at 01:55 AM · Ahem. It seems to me that the issue of how sex or sensuality is used to market music is one thing, sex as an element in music itself is another, and the degree to which the performer's sexuality or sensuality is inherent (or, you should pardon the expression, injected) in the performance is yet another.

I hesitate to bring up the name of Sigmund Freud, because there is a strong bias against his ideas today. There were some things he said that have been discredited, but much of what he said is part and parcel of our society's discourse.

One of the things Freud concluded is that art is a sublimated form of expressing and sharing basic human emotions and impulses. If this doesn't apply to music, I don't know what does. What the heck do you think musical "climaxes" are all about? Do you think it's just an accident that the term "climax" is the absolutely the right term for such moments in music?

Try this some time. Listen carefully to the 3rd movement of the Brahms 2nd Piano Trio (Opus 87). In the ABA format of the movement, the "A" section has a tight, anxious, intense quality. But that middle section, the "B" section, if you listen to it carefully, is I believe a musical depiction of a sexual orgasm. There is a buildup that has pauses but that goes on to higher and higher levels of anticipation and excitement, until the climax is reached, and then there is a clear release of tension, as if coming down from the top of a mountain. What's that all about? And if anybody was aware of the sublimated nature of music as depicting sex, it had to be Brahms.

There are hundreds more moments like that in classical music. You think all of these great geniuses, even the religious Bach, were unaware of the visceral, sexual nature of what they were composing? I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

You know, we go into raptures about how Beethoven and Brahms and Bartok imitated the sounds of feel of nature in their compositions. We talk about how they used music to depict the feelings of love and war. It doesn't take too much imagination to realize that they would not have ignored as basic a human experience as sex.

And as for Menuhin playing the Chaccone in a church, he also played it in army tents and battlefields during World War II. It's played on street corners, in living rooms, in bathrooms, in back yards, in offices. So what? In my opinion, it ought to be played in all of those places. Because the Chaccone is all about real life, about what it means to share Bach's inspired vision and emotions. I don't think that's limited to certain settings we pre-judge as being proper.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. There are such interesting discussions on this website; I love reading them.

Cordially, Sandy

May 27, 2007 at 02:03 AM · Kevin, I'd be surprised if Bach didn't actually hear the Chaconne played in a tavern, or do it himself if he had the fingers. As for Hotel California, decent people balk at hearing that anyplace.

Also, "Enlightenment principles" is really saying values based on reason and unrestricted free thought. Deeply at odds with evangelism. Politically, Jefferson was like like today's libertarians.

May 27, 2007 at 02:11 AM · The Prelude and Love Death (is it Liebestod?) of Wagner is....well, I don't like to say it in polite company but it has a rapture to it that is rather descriptive.....Hmmm I give up.

PS the sword of Damacles is going to fall on this thread soon, consigning it to the archives from here to eternity. Let's finish it all on a good, friendly note. There have been many many top class responses on this thread.

May 27, 2007 at 02:15 AM · "The Liebestod is a great big musical orgasm". Not really that hard to say. ;-)

Backing up a little bit, away from all the (*ahem!*) for a moment, a recurring theme in this debate is the perception that it's harder if not impossible for someone to make a career, no matter how much of a musical genius she (or he, but most often in these discussions "she") is, if she's plain-looking or downright homely. But isn't the implied counterpart to this theory that most of our modern violinists made the careers that they did based primarily on their looks? I really disagree with that. You might prefer the sound of the older generations, or maybe you just can't stand (Joshua Bell/Hilary Hahn/Lara St. John/Maxim Vengerov/insert other modern violinist here)'s playing, but are we really prepared to say, even implicitly, that they are lesser violinists and musicians than those of previous generations, only getting by on sex appeal?

May 27, 2007 at 02:14 AM · I like you Maura. Can I admit to that?

May 27, 2007 at 02:22 AM · "Kevin, I'd be surprised if Bach didn't actually hear the Chaconne played in a tavern, or do it himself if he had the fingers. As for Hotel California, decent people balk at hearing that anyplace."

Please define "decent people".

May 27, 2007 at 02:24 AM · It was a joke. I think it's a lousy song.

May 27, 2007 at 02:23 AM · Laurie, I'm not saying that the founding fathers weren't men of the Enlightenment. I'm countering your statement that the country wasn't founded on religious principles. Most of these men were Farmers, business owners, and soldiers; normal people who grew up with religious values. Do you not think that some of that religion didn't spill over into their political beliefs?

May 27, 2007 at 02:32 AM · And now here's a real red herring to throw at y'all. Speaking of dinosaurs, do you all know that scientists have recently found a T-rex thighbone in a sandstone formation that has blood and flexible veins and stretchy tissue in the middle of it? Yeah, scary stuff. Dinosaurs were meant to have died out 60 million years ago, or something like that. This dinosaur died recently. It is properly documented in a scientific journal.

May 27, 2007 at 03:01 AM · this discussion is not about the role of sex appeal in classical music. rather, it is about the poster's taste or level of tolerance/acceptance of sex appeal in classical music.

the premise raised is that good classical music becomes unacceptable because of the presence of or too much sex appeal. it becomes a threshold to buy or to boycott. an otherwise auditory experience is preceded by a visual censor. ok to have sex, ok to interpret musical passages with sexual connotation, ok to picture it in the head, but just don't show the picture!

to me this is an individual decision, just like a decision may be by another to welcome just the opposite. in either case, western civilization is not going to die :)

the classical world of yesterday has evolved into the classical world of today which will evolve into the classical world of tomorrow. individual voices together will form the symphony with an unique sound. sit back, relax and buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gents. or in this case, cover your eyes and open your minds.

ps. dinosaurs have fared pretty well with fossils left here and there. where will you be in time?

May 27, 2007 at 02:33 AM · Maura, I'm afraid you made a logical blunder.

The implication you raised is:

1. No sex appeal implies no success.

The converse of the above is

2. Sex appeal implies success. (Equivalently, this reads "no success implies no sex appeal".)

Unfortunately, you cannot conclude 2 by assuming 1 because in logic, you cannot conclude "B implies A" by assuming "A implies B". In short, you're disagreeing with something that is not the point of the discussions.

May 27, 2007 at 02:29 AM · I know the Chacconne is a celebration of life it was written for Bach's wife in loving memory as a testament to her, which is why I considered a church fitting, not because it's church music. I'm sure the Chacconne has been played in many assorted places, but taverns, army camps and bars at least all had an audience, or at least an audience that would be able to be more receptive. My point was using sex to sell a C.D. or Bach to pull a publicity stunt are both self serving to the artist not the music.

May 29, 2007 at 02:37 PM · Is there a 100-message limit on all threads or is there not?

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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