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Sex and the Art of Selling Music

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(@capriccio)
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I mentioned Sonya Bach Plays J.S. Bach in another forum ( https://lifeisclassical.com/community/instrumental-soloists/oh-dear/#post-1105). What I didn't talk about is the album cover, with Ms. Bach draped over the keyboard:

I've been thinking a lot about female soloists and how sexiness is used to sell albums. I know the topic's not new, but it seems that at least every other album cover features female performers as sultry, sexy or sporting a come-hither look. It's not the same for men, no surprise there.

I have several questions about this:

  • Who is losing out to the Yuja Wang's and the Khatia Buniatishvili's of the classical world? We know that women for centuries were hidden or banished from participation; is it now a case of "plain Janes" having a harder time cutting album deals and securing performances?
  • How do we separate our response to the music and to the visual stimulation of the performer? Do we need to separate the two? 

(Take, for example, Ms. Buniatishvili's beautiful emotional responses to the music here:

I love her deep involvement in the music and it enhances the performance, but it clearly has orgasmic overtones.)

  • For the sake of musical purity should we avoid watching performances on streaming sites and stick to listening only?
  • Sex is used to sell so many things, including other artforms, so should we just lie back and enjoy it? 😆 

I'd love to know your thoughts.

 


   
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(@nenad)
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@capriccio 

This is a very good observation. I've never noticed before but yes, in the classical music world there are beautiful young ladies all over the place. Why is that? Is it that the unattractive girls don't graduate from music schools anymore? I don't believe this. Or is it that good look is required for entering the business? Is it possible that there are no ladies like e.g. Tatiana Nikolayeva, with comparable musical skills and talent and with comparable appearance? By the way, I cannot imagine an interpretation of Bach's keyboard works closer to perfection than hers, which are in every respect superior to, say, already mentioned Ms. Sonya Bach's. Yes, she had grey hair, thick brows, clumsy appearance and she was overweight, but who cares? Being beautiful and half-naked on the stage doesn't mean anything, at least in my eyes. 

I tried several times to open the posted link with Katia Buniatishvili's performance, but there is apparently an error. What does she play? 


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @nenad

I tried several times to open the posted link with Katia Buniatishvili's performance, but there is apparently an error. What does she play?

I've edited my post and used a different link. Ms Buniatishvili is playing the Rachmaninoff No. 3. I hope the revised link works for you.

PS. Thanks for mentioning Tatiana Nikolayeva. I am listening to her play Bach's Goldberg Variations right now.


   
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 Jen
(@jen)
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Posted by: @capriccio

it seems that at least every other album cover features female performers as sultry, sexy or sporting a come-hither look. It's not the same for men, no surprise there.

Except for…

https://app.idagio.com/albums/anima-sacra

Does Mr Orliński own any shirts? 😂

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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Yes, @jen, there's always those exceptions. I had a couple in mind when I wrote that post, but they are definitely the exceptions that prove the rule. 🙂

PS. And clearly Mr Orliński doesn't need any shirts. It's interesting though and made me think of Star Trek, where the women stars were mostly dressed in absurdly sexy "uniforms". But this was so unnecessary (on multiple grounds), because on the occasions when they wore uniforms like all the other crew they looked even more attractive. At least to my eyes. Looking at Mr Orliński with his very beautiful facial structure, I think the wispy drapes are a distraction.


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @capriccio

I've been thinking a lot about female soloists and how sexiness is used to sell albums....

This is a huge and fascinating topic and that one could probably write a dissertation on.  (Don't worry, I won't do that here...)

However I'd like to call attention on @capriccio's reference to "female soloists".  Because, from a purely casual, personal-anecdotal, and not-at-all scientific/statistically grounded study, I think the "soloists" is as key to that observation as "female".  I haven't noticed anything remotely comparable with say, women conductors and composers.   

This post was modified 8 months ago by jchokey

   
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 Hugh
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Posted by: @jchokey

I haven't noticed anything remotely comparable with say, women conductors

The conductor who comes most readily to mind is not a woman.


   
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(@capriccio)
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That von Karajan cover has rather dodgy Nazi overtones!


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @jchokey

I think the "soloists" is as key to that observation as "female".  I haven't noticed anything remotely comparable with say, women conductors and composers.   

I think that may easily be accounted for. Composers work, on the whole, out of the public eye. It is not the female composer's buxom form that adorns a new release, but the soloist who performs it. And with conductors, perhaps because there are so few female conductors that labels regard as cover-worthy (reputation-wise), most of the images convey authority rather than sexiness.


   
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(@capriccio)
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There's a really fascinating article in April 19th's Guardian about fashion and classical music. It's nuanced and really worth a read!

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/apr/19/fashion-fabrics-and-fishtails-why-we-need-to-talk-about-what-female-classical-performers-wear

 


   
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(@jchokey)
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Thanks @capriccio!  That is a great article.

It actually reminds me, if I may go off on a tangent, of a recent exhibition I saw at our local art museum on Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican modernism.  One of the room's in the exhibition was devoted entirely to Kahlo's dresses, hairstyles, and jewelry.  My first thought, was-- "What?  I'm here to see her *paintings*, not her clothes and accessories."

However going through that room, I was persuaded by the notes and the objects that in fact, Kahlo's self-presentation (through how she dressed, wearing bright, traditional garments was very much linked to what she was doing in her paintings (and especially in her many self-portraits wear these two merged).  


   
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(@capriccio)
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@jchokey Yes and yes! With visual artists, I think the connection is easier to make and whenever I think of Frieda Kahlo the visual palette she presents in herself is foremost in my mind.

On the musical side, when I think of Khatia Buniatishvili, for example, I think of passion, partly because of how she dresses and presents herself visually and in (at least equal) part how she plays. I love how intensely she gets into the music. I think her fashion style amplifies the way she feels about the music she is performing.


   
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