A Hunk With a Heart

Well, I’m late once again to the party, but having just this week stumbled upon the G-Spot at Muso Magazine, how could I not be expected to voice my indignation? (Hat tip to Matt Marks for mentioning Muso in a tweet.)

Let’s be non-coy, for a moment, in contrast to the saccharine and eyelash-batting tone that Muso adopts: What’s a section called “The G-Spot”—after the Gräfenberg spot—doing in a classical music magazine? If you couldn’t bring yourself to click the link above (and I wouldn’t blame you) the G-Spot is a collection of publicity photographs of classical musicians accompanied by mildly saucy blurbs lauding their looks alongside their musical skills. Naturally these passages are very restrained, but the sentiment is unmistakable: What these musicians have to offer is, at best, an even split between art and sexiness.

This is a tremendously insulting proposition. Consider Michel van der Aa, a Dutch composer whose music I wrote about here a few years back: The G-Spot opines that “if his music is as beautiful as his eyes, we are going to be in serious trouble”; without disputing that Michel is not a terrible-looking fella, I have to ask why someone from Muso didn’t pay a visit to his content-rich web site and listen to some of his music. To observe that someone’s music is more or less beautiful than his eyes—his eyes!—is about the most superficial judgment one can make about our quadrivial enterprise, but it’s not like we have to speculate wildly about Van der Aa’s work, samples of which are readily available online. In this case, Muso is writing about a musician’s attractive physical traits instead of, rather than in addition to, what his intellect has to offer the world.

The retreat of classical music into celebrity culture has taken an alarming turn: Part of Osmo Vänskä’s appeal to Minnesotans, for example, is that he is a sort of local mascot for classical music; his name is synonymous with consecrated musical activity in the Twin Cities, just as is George Clooney’s with integrity and earnestness in Hollywood films, so to some extent what he actually does as a musician is no longer important—he can be trusted to deliver a certain kind of experience. In contrast, Rudens Turku, the top-rated male on the G-Spot, is a “hunk with a heart.” Muso’s profile also notes his charitable and educational activities and his tenuous connection to “world-famous ladies’ man Bill Clinton.” Unlike many of the female musicians on the G-Spot, Turku is pictured with his instrument, but the nature of his relationship to it—his actual job, in other words—isn’t mentioned.

I’m all for un-starching classical music, but this is a project that should be pursued through demystification, democratization, and critique—in short, by concentrating the field on music, not its ancillary marketables.

9 thoughts on “A Hunk With a Heart

  1. pgullo

    Eh.
    I’m not offended (or alarmed) when I see something like this. We live in a superficial world and I’ve grown to accept that; people are attracted to certain marketing techniques and it shows. If Muso is attracting an audience with the use of words like G-Spot, it’s fine. I doubt it’s affecting classical music sales in the way it might affect pop music sales. When it comes down to it, I’ll buy a recording that sounds good instead of one that simply has a good-looking soloist in a compromising position on the CD cover.

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  2. Jeremy Howard Beck

    No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
    Reacting this way to what is honestly a pretty tame site seems a little ridiculous to me. Would musicians in any other genre take offense this way? What does it make us look like, to outsiders, when we do?

    Or, to put it differently: In one person’s version of an ideal world, everyone’s focus would be only on the music, and not on the people playing it. But in this world, classical music is barely getting anyone’s focus at all anymore. Griping about the kind of attention we do get seems, I dunno, petulant.

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  3. colin holter

    Griping about the kind of attention we do get seems, I dunno, petulant.

    Are you in the G-Spot? I’m not. To put it in a more mercenary way: Do you want to compete in an economy of prestige where physical beauty is redeemable for performances, reviews, publishing contracts, etc.? Maybe so – if you have the chiseled jaw for it, why shouldn’t you? I don’t.

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  4. bgn

    What I really want to know is, does this sort of publicity actually work? Does it actually draw real live people’s attention to the music, or is it just a lot of pretty pictures?

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  5. holbrooke

    Do you want to compete in an economy of prestige where physical beauty is redeemable for performances, reviews, publishing contracts, etc.?

    It makes sense to me that society gives a little extra advantage to people who are good looking, even in activities that are primarily related to talent, hard work, creativity, etc.

    Consider how sophisticated our ideas about looks are. It seems to me that the single most important part of our mainstream middle of the curve idea about attractiveness is fitness. In a society that is facing huge costs due to diabetes, heart disease, and other often times avoidable conditions it makes good sense that we incentivize physical beauty.

    Also consider the amount of resources society collectively invests in highly advanced fields. If our most brilliant people are not encouraged to take care of their bodies we face the tragic and expensive prospect of their important work being cut short.

    I think it is really short sighted, even selfish, of people working in occupations of the mind to discount the body as some sort of inferior aspect of our species.

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  6. Elena

    It seems as though publicity like this could attract non-listeners, but all it would do is create a few laughs and maybe a few listens. But it wouldn’t attract anyone to the point where it would matter. In the mean time, I can see the offensive side to it. It makes these obviously hard working musicians seem frivolous, the word that describes the polar opposite side to their character. While it may not degrade them, it certainly does nothing to compliment them (which is what they deserve).

    -Elena

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  7. Juan Calderon

    but I thought Akiko Suwanai was so cute I actually went and checked her out on Youtube… she’s awesome! Gotta keep working out, I guess.
    And I still love Morton Feldman, for all chubby smokers out there.

    Juan

    Reply

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