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Musicians and image: glamour, imitators and functionaries of music

Looking at the different approaches classical musicians adopt in their relations with the public and the media, it appears evident that image and communication play an increasingly significant role in determining professional success. It is important, then, that all artists should pay attention to how their image is managed and steered.
For some career-oriented  musicians, however, the primary aim seems not to make music in the best possible way, trying to be as sincere and faithful as possible with regards the intentions of the composers, but rather to implement their own personal success by working carefully on their image, “using” music for their own personal ends: these are the “glamour-musicians”. And when their care for appearance far exceeds their attention to content, some doubts arise about the authenticity of this approach. Success, though, often smiles on glamour-musicians, and this shows how the public, unfortunately, is ever more sensitive to the allure of an attractive photo on the cover or on the poster for a concert, a trend that goes hand in hand with the increasing decline in the musical awareness of the average listener, ready to let themselves be swayed by the careful marketing campaigns.
Many [over] serious musicians are, of course, critical of the “glamour-musicians”, while envying the ease with which they achieve success. There also exists, however, an opposite extreme, that of the “music-functionaries”: these remain too attached to an academic reality, and unconsciously repropose musical schemes and formal rituals learnt from their teachers or models, without any real awareness of their own role in modern society. For these too, the attention is not focused on the music as such, but, paradoxically, once again on the image: and an image, though, that is not at all glamorous, but intentionally grey, obstinately endorsing formalities and attitudes that may have had some sense 50 years ago (but already then there were great musicians like Glenn Gould or Leonard Bernstein who were by nature allergic to the external clichés of the “classical musician”). The “music-functionaries”, lacking in individuality and sincerity, relegate their role to an administrative one of reinstituting pre-existing stylemes. By doing so, they assume a position that is paradoxically similar to that of the glamour-musicians, with whom they share a lack of any deep-rooted artistic motivation or any sincere message to divulge: for these too, what counts is success. With the difference that usually they don't attain it, except, perhaps, in competitions where also the juries are similarly made up of like-minded “functionaries” (that is to say, their teachers).
There is, moreover, a third category, no less intent on cultivating an image (of others): that of the “imitator- musicians”. These are the ones that consciously take great artists as their models, but limit themselves to appearance: violinists that mould themselves on Uto Ughi or Jasha Heifetz, pianists that attempt to become the reincarnation of Glenn Gould or Michelangeli. But a young pianist that tries to recapture the composed and elegant gesturality of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli could hardly be able to replicate also his congenial charisma (which among other things was original: Michelangeli didn't imitate anyone). And, even if they managed to produce a perfect copy of a historical performance, are we really sure that this has any point today? Is it really the fruit of a genuine sensibility? Shouldn't an artist be above all himself, and as a consequence original, the bearer of his “own” artistic message, to disseminate with courage, also at the cost of breaching long-established schemes?

Roberto Prosseda