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.