via MATA’s blog
INTERVAL 4.3 BLOG #2 FASHION AND MUSIC IN NCP: OR HOW I ACCIDENTALLY MADE A MANIFESTO
Friday, March 4th, 2011 – 1:55 pm
“Dressing well is kind of good manners, if you ask me. When you’re standing in a room, your effect is the same as a chair’s effect, or a sculpture’s. You’re part of someone’s view, you’re part of that world, and so you should dress well. I find it’s a show of respect to try to put on your best face and look as good as you can.”
I remember being at NYU and wearing to my performance of Schumann Piano Quintet an outfit that would be considered a regular, stylish outfit by most people. And if not stylish, not a big deal at least. It wasn’t ‘slutty’ or revealing, but it was thoughtful. I was really excited about performing one of my favorite pieces and I wanted to ‘put on [my] best face.’
And therein lies the problem (to use a phrase I’ve read in many a scholarly paper). I don’t think that it was the non-saturation of black that led two professors to say to me, ‘Is this [gesturing to my clothes] appropriate?’ AND compel one of them to pull me aside the next day to talk to me about getting taken seriously, never mind that I practiced 8 hours a day. It was the fact that what I wore was remotely noticeable, making me more noticeable. And not noticeable like, ‘Oh, what a nice appropriate red gown that one can also wear to a party at the Russian Tea Room,’ but more like, ‘WHY is she dressed like a young hip person in her age and demographic group?!’ I was simply not generic enough.
I give this idea the proverbial finger, the idea that a concert is all about the sound rather than the complete experience, which performers just happen to be a part of. Just as I shun (see Dwight Schrute with chopping hand gesture) the idea that nail polish is distracting–you must have some heightened level of OCD to get distracted by something that occupies maybe 2% of our entire bodies–and the idea of wearing plain black to hide oneself, I do not condone the mentality that the musician should be the least noticeable thing in a performance. After spending numerous hours on one hour of music, I think it should be okay to wear whatever the hell you want besides attire that looks like you’re either a stagehand or, in my case, simply not myself. Also, I just want to note that I love black, the fashion world loves black, and classical music has somehow managed to ruin this sleek, beautiful color for people.
The reason I bring this up is to segue into the question of ‘Why fashion?’ The best answer I can think of is, ‘Why not?’ For me, fashion is a form of expression, and additionally, an effective form. Here in New York, it’s a dynamic and prevalent form of expression. We’ve all heard this, to excuse our inclination to want to date people we find attractive: ‘You can’t see someone’s personality.’ So think about all those posters outside Carnegie Hall and think about how any young person who doesn’t attend music school will be interested. Look at the Met Opera posters, and hell yes! They’ve got it down. Also, the art and popular music world seem to be at home with fashion, why not the classical music world?
I think The Nouveau Classical Project is my answer to that question. Not really a solution, but more like a ‘Here ya go.’ For Amped/Electrified, Jonathan Cohen is the perfect fit. ‘His woman is bold, elegant, and equally rebellious,’ just like the music on our program.
For the most the part, the music on Amped/Electrified stems from a tradition. The music demonstrates adeptness in structure and skill but asserts a desire to deviate from ‘schooling’ and in many cases, a desire to be modern. It seems to me that today we are at crossroads where classical music is really meeting face to face with contemporary music—a lot of us love musicians like Kanye West, Arcade Fire, whomever—and a lot of us are grappling with the idea of wanting to be present in, well, the present, and displaying the classical tradition from which we stem. I know we can’t stop talking about it, but Jay Wadley’s Things My Father Never Told Me was derived from this idea, in addition to the unexpected struggles both artistically and professionally.
I hope that this may have clarified any questions as to the ‘why’ of the Nouveau Classical Project. As with most things in life, when you whittle things down, the answers are so much simpler than you thought. Fashion was the simple answer, for me, to bringing a shred personality to classical music. Yes, a lot of us see this personality because we studied it in school. But I mean something, a little thing, that would show people we aren’t just geeks, we’re hot geeks. Think whatever you will of that statement. I don’t think fashion is the end all be all answer to getting more listeners for classical music (news: there is none!) but it’s what I’m interested in and it’s what our fans are interested in, and to put it simply, I just want to be creative and have fun (gasp!). That’s right. The reason for the Nouveau Classical Project’s existence is fun.
People are aware of all sorts of important causes and precious endangered species going extinct…but what about the survival of classical music? Or at least its relevance to people outside classical music-dom. Like philately (which used to be one of my favorite hobbies before the miniature works of art went adhesive), classical music has become one of those hobbies that contain a handful of middle-aged aficionados, who I’m sure want to see classical music (ahem, concert music) live beyond their lifetime.
So let’s make it happen! Our new and improved ‘Classical Music is Dead*’ tee, exclusively designed for us by Gigi Burris, will help get classical music in people’s heads and get you loads of attention. It sure did for Rachel, read about her shirt shenanigans here. These limited-edition gems are rare, so you’d better nab one fast and get ready to be stalked by paparazzi! Shirts arrive February 5…more info and pics coming soon.
Publicity for $1?! Your name in lights (ok, more like in ink on quality paper) at our next event! Details here.