Thursday, February 24, 2011

Musical Pagentry and the New York Times

I am continually surprised at how the New York Times doesn't "get it" when it comes to music. First there was an article about the Petrucci Library that calls it "a boon to garret-living, financially struggling young musicians."

All musicians benefit from this library. It offers pieces of music that haven't been in print for hundreds of years (yes hundreds of years) for musicians young and old, experienced and inexperienced, financially struggling and not financially struggling. Where do they get the idea that it's only young musicians who struggle financially? And what's this thing about living in garrets? They quote a G. Schirmer manager complaining that the library hurts sales, which seems to be the point of the article.

Then the Times put this article on the fashion page about a 22-year-old fiddle player who wears odd Lady-Gaga-like costumes and strange masks when he performs. They don't say anything specific about his playing, and the article would lead the uninformed (like me before reading the article) that Hahn-Bin is probably not a very good violinist, but he has a rather good technique as you can hear. It's not my kind of playing, but the repertoire he plays is not the kind of stuff that calls for much in the way of introspection (he holds Andy Warhol and Mozart in "equal esteem" and thinks of them as complementary). With or without the bird mask, Hahn-Bin's performing is musical pageantry. His outrageous hair, clothes, makeup, and antics take the focus away from what is missing in his musicianship (though he is a technically good fiddle player). It is clear that his main intention is to perform and impress. I don't see myself buying his recordings or going to his concerts, but I suppose there are people who like this sort of thing.

Others have done the musical pageantry thing before, but during the 1950s through the 1980s opulence and decadence was more about musical men emulating Za Za Gabor than musical men emulating Lady Gaga.

I can't resist including this:


Lisa Hirsch said...

The placement of the Hahn-Bin article on the Style pages and its focus on his looks and clothing had me rolling my eyes, but I don't think Dan Wakin was too far afield with that line. If you omit "young," after all...and I seem to recall that the article, which I read the day I saw it in print, also discusses the Borromeo's use of IMPSLP.

Anonymous said...

So New York is still the center of the musical universe (in their own minds)....

The new reality of several online free-to-use music libraries is that anything in the public domain will very shortly find its way into them. That leaves the publishers of so much modern classical drivel to suffocate, while many new composers sidestep them and simply self-publish. So the NYT takes the side of a Schirmer outlet, whose sales slide? The NYT is also losing marketshare.

The times, they are a'changin'....