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.
…And guess what? It’s us! On March 10 at Issue Project Room. If you are already excited about going, get tix here. Below is our first blog post for MATA, and we’ll have more coming up with composer interviews, insights from our designer Jonathan Cohen, y mas…but we’re not giving everything away! We do like to tease ;)
Via MATA’s Blog:
posted on February 10th, 2011
First of all, we’d really like to thank everyone at MATA. It definitely takes a group of open-minded and daring people, especially in [classical? art? concert?] music to support a project like this.
The Nouveau Classical Project is a concert series that connects fashion and music. For Amped/Electrified, designer Jonathan Cohen will style the musicians’ attire based on the music they perform. He has already started listening to the music and has a lot of great ideas brewing. Jonathan’s fashion presentation is this Friday, so stay tuned for photos of his show and an interview about Amped/Electrified on our blog!
In the spirit of MATA, we decided to program experimental and electro-acoustic works by composers who have a classical background but are breaking ground with unconventional approaches to music. So we searched and encountered a few speed bumps on the way, but it all came together. We got a hold of some great works that each have something unique to offer. Izzi Ramkissoon’s The Asperity of Lace asks musicians to improvise, compose something on their own, which is something that we think every musician should be able to do, but is instead something that most of us with a classical background find intimidating. (Maybe I’ll have a Jameson before performing that one.) Ananta (New York Premiere) by Ryan Manchester puts us in a calm, meditative yet focused state, while Jay Wadley’s textural and strangely beautiful Things My Father Never Told Me (World Premiere) expresses the anxiety and self doubt many of us experience. And then there’s Danielle Schwob’sMehr Licht, whose sound literally reveals ‘more light,’ and Trevor Gureckis’s arrangement of Aphex Twin’s Cliffs. APHEX TWIN. Enough said there.
Admittedly, we haven’t programmed but one work with tape in the past, but we knew that being part of MATA means embracing innovation and looking beyond what we had already done thus far. We hope that this comes across in both the music and our approach to the classical (for lack of a better word) concert, and we are thankful for being involved with an organization that pushes us to push boundaries and be open.
We’ve got more things to say on what we do and why we do it, plus artist interviews. Keep up with us on Twitter: @ncp to get updates on new posts and photos!