Pet Peeves, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, are “minor annoyances that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find them.” One of my pet peeves are writers who begin what they have to say by defining words or phrases we generally all know.
Enough said. Moving on….
Mary Jane Leach unleashed my current list of things to whine about with her comment about “scantily clad musicians on brochures.” And Jill Rafferty-Weinisch’s post on July 11th had soothed an about-to-bubble surface by demystifing the notion that artist’s services have little to no value, that only the products do especially when they are provided for good causes. But a comment from someone this past Saturday began the bubbling again. So, instead of talk therapy … here goes my whine list … in no particular order. I’ll try to keep them brief.
- Scantily clad musicians on brochures
I’ll just get it out there … the majority of these photos depict female artists using the underlying assumption that sex sells. OK, I get it … but where are the provocative photos of scantily clad male artists with their sensual looks and poses? Let’s be fair here! It is said, that more often than not, females are the decision-makers and ones who make the classical music purchase (unlike jazz where the ticket buyer tends to male). Let’s up those tickets purchases!
- Pronunciation of composer’s or artist’s names or musical titles on public radio underwriting spots
I guess it might be somewhat excusable if it were in a news story … maybe? But the underwriters are paying for the spots and the proper pronunciation or lack thereof reflects poorly on the underwriter as well as the radio station [personnel] reading/recording and broadcasting the spot.
Now, let it not be said that if the name or title is clearly not familiar to the general public (note: not just the “enlightened” music public) the underwriter should make it its business that the radio station’s talent reading the spots know how to pronounce the names or titles. It’s a two-way street. Underwriters can provide guides or leave examples on voice-mail or point to audio examples on the Internet. For those who are not familiar with names like “Jean-Yves Thibaudet” or “Camille Saint-Saëns” or “Hai-Ye Ni” or “Ernó Dohnányi” or “György Ligeti” or “Dvorák” or “Yannick Nézet-Séguin,” these can be little land mines. Titles such as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and La Cenerentola and Aida and Armide provide challenges for the uninitiated. At least something like Die Zauberflöte has the option of being promoted as The Magic Flute. Whew.
- Exploitation of child talent
The other night I caught a segment of the Great Performances special featuring Jackie Evancho. Visions of Charlotte Church’s “early years” came racing to the forefront. I needed nothing more than a minute to realize that once again society is enthralled with and the music industry is cashing in on child talent. Young Evancho’s performance is so unnatural—no doubt the source of the fascination—extremely staged and anything but sincere. Shame on the adults robbing a child of their right to be a child to play and explore and learn without having to be cyber schooled.
- The Superstar Market
Similar to the sports world, one of several similarities, the presentation of live and recorded music thrives on the superstar market. The “superstar market” exists in labor markets where small differences in ability lead to vast differences in compensation,* creating a strained, competitive environment for all professional musicians or those in serious professional pursuit and tainting concert presenters trying to survive. Are audiences looking to be entertained or gain clout by supporting these superstar’s performance fees or going to the concerts truly because of their love of the music-making itself?
I fully acknowledge it is not completely as black and white as this, but the superstar market creates a huge variation in artist fees. The rare superstar is earning millions of dollars a year and the average artist is making little more than minimum wage.* We continue to see and hear the same superstar artists over and over and over again throughout our region and on the radio. I know, these artists are terrific and puts butts in seats and pays bills, but surely there are up-and-coming artists with wonderful performance abilities who are not children and who deserve proper presentation.
The superstar market and all its participating players misrepresent the pool of talent available and feed their underemployment. So much more can be said on this. If you are interested in this subject, check out The Performing Arts in a New Era* (commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts from RAND) and The National Endowment for the Arts’ report on Artists in the Workforce: Employment and Earnings, 1970-1990 (#37R).
- “You mean the performers get paid?”
I have to reiterate what Jill Rafferty-Weinisch has already said extremely well only because I had occasion in my box office role at The Egg to have a conversation with a young adult inquiring about the cost of tickets for the Ajkun Theatre Ballet’s performance of Donn Quixote. “Why are the tickets so high,” he asked. In an educational response, I explained a variety of expenses involved in a dance production … including paying the dancers and directors. “Wow, you mean performers get paid,” he exclaimed!
OK, you see where I’m going with this…. Jill said it wonderfully … I just needed to get it off my whine list for the moment.
And finally …
- “Classical Music is Dead”
Not it’s not. Get over it.
Find a concert you want to go to, there are plenty out there. We are blessed in this region with choices. “Subscriptions are down ….” Well, ticket buying habits have changed as the demands on our lives have changed and how we retrieve the news of the day. Maybe the subscription model isn’t as meaningful to people as it used to be.
Want to listen to a new recording or new music? Search the Internet, plenty of classical recordings are available … to buy or stream. There is so much out there we are now relying on other people’s playlists online to guide our explorations via Spotify, Facebook, Amazon, etc. We are no longer relying on TV for recommendations from Ed Sullivan and Leonard Bernstein.
Like almost any other genre, classical is not the highest ranking in pop culture, but it certainly is alive and not dead. The corporate recording industry will tell you it is terminal and on its way to the morgue. Norman Lebrecht has done well selling his book Who Killed Classical Music? Yes, musicians continue to starve and work day jobs because of the “exposure” factor (Well said Greg, in your comment!)—hmmm…. this has been going on for centuries!
As Allan Kozinn said it in 2006, “Rumors of classical music’s demise are dead wrong.” His New York Times article is still relevant. Check it out.
Thank you Mary Ann for unleashing the pet peeves!
And Thank You readers for “listening!”
I feel much better. Enough said. Moving on ….