Saturday, June 02, 2007

Truth In Advertising

Introductory tangent: Last night I saw Maria Schneider have her picture taken with a man wearing only an apron. I lead a bizarre life.

Newsweek has a story this week of one Jon Bauman (better known as Bowzer from Sha Na Na. Yeah, those guys.) as part of a Truth in Music committee, crossing the nation promoting similiarly named laws. According to Bauman, doo-wop and other pre-MTV musical groups are particularly susceptible to musical imposters due to their faceless radio popularity. Could you pick out one of the Temptations off of the street?

This leads me to think about another sort of faceless musical group. Can you name a member of the Guarneri Quartet? Would you recognize someone from the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet? Orchestras have the very visible figure of the conductor to lead them and ascend to rockstar-dom, but chamber groups (I suppose the pre-MTV analogue would be pre-Internet) normally don't have such as "face". Of course the answer of why there aren't any fake Takacs Quartets and such running around is simple: there isn't any money in it. I'll posit some other ones anyway.

There is the temptation (get it? get it?) to say that chamber audiences are more educated about the performers than doo-wop fans, but especially in the case of big-ticket concerts that's not really the case. However, I will say that chamber audiences, especially in the case of touring groups as opposed to seasons, are coming for the performance overall as opposed to particular songs. That's not to say that when I saw the Assad Brothers I wasn't hoping they'd do Piazzolla's Tango Suite, but there isn't the same sort of obligation to play the hits.

There are a lot of recognizable chamber groups now, either by being explicitly constructed as such (Il Divo, Bond or whatever those girls are called, those insufferable piano playing children) or badasses that also market themselves well (Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet). Also most groups are business entities unto themselves rather than entirely slaves of a record label. Lastly, except maybe in the case of string quartets you can't just get away with putting a 70-year-old man on cello so everyone can elbow each other saying "That's the real one!"

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