Fame is Manufactured
There’s been a bit of well-deserved brouhaha here over Newsweek‘s coverage of the Arts as of late. But this negative take on the media has a positive parallel as well. Last month when I was in Lithuania for my own premiere, I was interviewed on Lithuanian National Television. When’s the last time a little-known composer got onto TV to talk about a new piece of music in America? I remember being so excited when John Adams got on CNN for both Nixon in China and Klinghoffer, but these were isolated events triggered by hot-button (and name recognizable) events that the American media understood and could respond to.
The fact is that fame is manufactured. The media claims to respond to events rather than make events, but in this era of Realpolitik we all know that’s a bit disingenuous. The same week I got onto TV for a minute to talk about a big piece in a small country, Madonna got her own segment on all the international networks (CNN, BBC, you name it) for falling off a horse on her birthday. All the reports mentioned that she had a new album coming out in a couple of months. Wonderful free advertising.
When I was in Los Angeles for the Critics Conference a few months back, we were all given tote bags from the L.A. Phil which had the face of Esa-Pekka Salonen emblazoned on them. Suddenly hundreds of people were walking around downtown L.A. with a bag bearing the face of a contemporary composer (and conductor, of course).
This is precisely what we need to do. Rather than complaining about the lack of attention the music we care about is getting in the media, we need to create media ourselves. In the 500-channel plus world of TV and the infinity-plus world of URLs, there is no longer a mainstream. When’s the last time you read Newsweek anyway?