Special (Merriam-Webster): distinguished by some unusual quality.
Life’s a Pitch just finished a week hosting a virtual panel on when and how artists, managers, journalists, presenters and publicists single out musicians for being “special” in their promotion and career-building efforts. Amanda’s summary of the posts by her 4 guest bloggers is here.
I hesitate to spend most of an entire blog post regurgitating other writers’ material, but this is worth it. Great food for thought for musicians, presenters, and music lovers of all stripes. If you need more motivation to click through, some highlights:
Jonathan Biss (our Wolf Trap Debut Artist from 1997!) writes that “Traditionalism is big in classical music, of course, meaning that there’s a lot of knee-jerk “this is the way to do it because this is the way it’s always been done.” (“It” could be any number of things – from questions of musical style, to programming, to concert attire, and on and on.) But recently I’ve heard a lot of the marketing-driven opposite, which seems equally knee-jerk to me: “this has never been done before, and therefore it is relevant and interesting.””
Michael Kondziolka at University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan says that “yes, hooks are fine and human interest angles (sometimes) riveting…but, never a substitute for convincing music making that reveals some truth or provocation embedded within, some kind of technical accomplishment, or, maybe, some hint at a shared humanity… Actually, the more I think about it, if one can be certain that the players will hit the accomplishment quotient, then human interest hooks are actually welcome in my book. And we shouldn’t be afraid of them or feel that they somehow cheapen the artist’s integrity. (Please.) Any information sharing or story telling that aids, abets, or heightens a sense of empathy between performer and listener – whether artistic, human, spiritual – has to be a good thing. Right? Live concert performances must, after all, traffic in empathy.”
Matthew Guerrieri of Soho the Dog weighs in: “On the other hand, I personally find assertions of specialness within the concert presentation itself–spoken explanations, multimedia elements, &c.–to be often more annoying and distracting than anything. I’ve seen it done well, but only rarely; it’s harder than it looks, and it takes just as much (if not more) preparation as the music. If there’s absolute commitment on the part of the performer(s), if they really believe in whatever high concept they’ve come up with, I can happily go along for the ride, even if, in the end, I don’t quite buy it.”