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Rue

Aesthetics; what's important and what's banal?

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aes·thet·ics

/esˈTHediks/

noun

noun: aesthetics; noun: esthetics

a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty, especially in art.

•the branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste.

This comes up from time to time...and I have been interested in aesthetics since I can remember...(I think the first time I was 'aware' I was around 5 years old)...

 

Styles change.  Fashions change.  Trends change.  But certain elements of 'beauty' (and I'll highlight both universal and cultural ideals; often the same, but not always).

 

We have heroic beauty...we have subtle beauty...

 

We have the beauty of sound and we have the visual beauty of art such as paintings, sculpture, etc.

 

I'll toss out Tartini's Devil Trill and Michaelangelo's David as examples of 'heroic beauty'...that seem to span the ages and be universally acclaimed...

 

So...now on to the banal...concert dress.

 

Our symphony orchestra does not dress well.  Why does it bother me?  I've been told...very dismissively...that it doesn't matter...that one goes to the symphony to HEAR the music.

 

Well...not true.  If I only want to hear the music, I'll listen to a CD...and I'll have some ideal visual in my head as a backdrop...

 

If I go to a concert...I want to see the music being played.  In a formal setting I do expect the orchestra to be dressed in a non-distracting way - so that the focus is on the music...and IMO on the beauty of the instruments.  And then I take in the entire picture/experience...the sound melded with the visual beauty of the orchestra working together like one entity...

 

I am not the only one who notices this...and during intermission yesterday someone else noticed it and mentioned it...

 

Just looking for thoughts on the subject :)...and hopefully not just dismissive ones... <_<

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So, it's not black tie with your orchestra?  Or the suits are wrinkled?

 

Uniforms are effective.  They are used for a reason.

 

This semester, for the first time, I told my students that they should show up to their lessons dressed one step more formally than they dress for their other classes.  I think it has been effective at inspiring a more professional attitude towards lessons.

 

I like aesthetics too.  We like symmetry and patterns, but that's because we see it in nature.  I like Schoenberg when he starts his Theory of Harmony by saying that art is (at its most primitive) an imitation of nature.

 

Birds of a feather flock together.

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No, they wear black tie.  And I don't want to nit-pick too much :ph34r:, but here are a few examples:

 

The Concert Master wears a mismatched tux.  Under the lights it's very obvious that his jacket is blue-black and his pants are brown-black.

 

Several men (including the new conductor) wear trousers that are much too short...

 

One percussionist's fly was open...(okay...that's an unfortunate oopsie, but it didn't help...)...

 

Among the women:  Crocs (rubber shoes), an apron-like outfit that reminds me of something Baba Yaga might wear, tops that are in danger of wardrobe malfunctions (and not in a good way)...

 

It doesn't matter so much what the brass and some of the woodwinds wear...because they are hidden in the back.  I wore a black pair of jeans to our last two concerts - a no-no even to myself...but you can't tell they are jeans until you are very up close (in my personal space) and no one can see me from the audience.  If I was sitting in the front I wouldn't wear jeans.

 

I realize when you play for a living you want a comfortable uniform - and I don't care if you wear the same outfit to every performance (and I've seen the same Baba Yaga outfit for years, so I know it's the concert uniform)...but how hard is it to pay attention to details like hem length, bodice height and shoe choice?

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Among the women:  Crocs

 

This alone is a most heinous crime on its own....

 

In my opinion, anything that distracts you from the music is bad, at least for me. So clothes not matching, would be one. It would annoy me the whole time. I agree that an orchestra needs to dress professionally. And I agree that one does not go to an orchestra JUST for the music. I would much rather WATCH a performance on Youtube, for example, than listen to a recording.

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In their defence...the Crocs are black... <_<
 

Yeah, no, that's pretty bad.
 
What do you think, are we snobs?  Are our priorities misplaced?


That's what I'm wondering. :(
 
But - if we wear a uniform...shouldn't we pay attention to basic details of that uniform?  Can a football player come to a game in a say...green uniform... that doesn't match the colour and style of the rest of the team - and say it's close enough?
 
And I'm certainly not a snob as far as expense goes.  You can put together an appropriate concert outfit from Goodwill if you want...

 

Maybe all orchestras need a yearly meeting with a stylist...or a tailor...or both...just to do a little nip tuck... :rolleyes:

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This semester, for the first time, I told my students that they should show up to their lessons dressed one step more formally than they dress for their other classes.  I think it has been effective at inspiring a more professional attitude towards lessons.

 

 

I think if you check out the Heifetz Masterclasses, you'll see he demanded suit and tie, and dresses.

 

I always recommended practicing a few days in what a student was going to wear for a concert, if the change in dress would make him/her feel uncomfortable.  A jacket can feel quite restrictive all of a sudden.

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No, they wear black tie.  And I don't want to nit-pick too much :ph34r:, but here are a few examples:

 

The Concert Master wears a mismatched tux.  Under the lights it's very obvious that his jacket is blue-black and his pants are brown-black.

 

Several men (including the new conductor) wear trousers that are much too short...

 

One percussionist's fly was open...(okay...that's an unfortunate oopsie, but it didn't help...)...

 

Among the women:  Crocs (rubber shoes), an apron-like outfit that reminds me of something Baba Yaga might wear, tops that are in danger of wardrobe malfunctions (and not in a good way)...

 

It doesn't matter so much what the brass and some of the woodwinds wear...because they are hidden in the back.  I wore a black pair of jeans to our last two concerts - a no-no even to myself...but you can't tell they are jeans until you are very up close (in my personal space) and no one can see me from the audience.  If I was sitting in the front I wouldn't wear jeans.

 

I realize when you play for a living you want a comfortable uniform - and I don't care if you wear the same outfit to every performance (and I've seen the same Baba Yaga outfit for years, so I know it's the concert uniform)...but how hard is it to pay attention to details like hem length, bodice height and shoe choice?

Rubber shoes, aprons, open flies...... Dear heavens, Rue, black slacks, black sneakers, and matching t-shirts would be an improvement.  :blink:

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I always thought the reason for uniform dress was primarily to keep the audience from any distractions.  But individuals in an audience can ALWAYS find something to concentrate on:  I once wore some shoes that didn't quite fit with some clown's idea of decorum, and I got called in by the manager.  The shoes were a normal shape, and black, and clean; but there was a fine lattice work on the toe instead of solid leather.  That was enough.  Hi-effing-larious!

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Okay...so I suppose, in part, what I'm asking...

 

Where do you define what constitutes appropriate black shoes for example?  How much leeway do you permit?

 

I wouldn't notice lattice on the toes of a man's shoe...so obviously there's someone fussier than I am... :)

 

But should concert shoes be black leather?  Or look like black leather?  Patent?  Matte?  Heels for women?  No heels? It does get confusing...and then personal taste factors in...and people feel their rights are being infringed upon... :rolleyes:

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BTW...I just watched an older video of Itzak Perlman playing in Russia...

 

His pants were also way too short.  When he sat, the hems were up to just below his knees...

 

I find that really distracting for some reason...

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I suppose it all depends on how authoritarian the management is.  I was on tour with someone whose "eye in the audience" got upset that the French horn players were spreading white towels on their laps.  Afterwards, they got them some black towels.   That allowed the powers-that-be to find something else to whine about.   :)   

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Back to the OP, can't we assume that there are certain things that relate to the human being in such a way that to ignore them puts the artist, or even the clothing designer, on a tight leash?  Thinking of one example:  The Pyramids are essentially unassailable by critics, but the same shape upside down would drive us crazy.

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I suppose it all depends on how authoritarian the management is.  I was on tour with someone whose "eye in the audience" got upset that the French horn players were spreading white towels on their laps.  Afterwards, they got them some black towels.   That allowed the powers-that-be to find something else to whine about.   :)   

 

I was instructed to tell one of my section members that she needed to wear longer sleeves because an audience member had opined that "her skin is too white"--!!

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I think skin colour is sacrosanct. ..

But how much skin you show may not be...hence covered bosoms and covered calves. ..

And again..there's my problem...where is the line?

If men wear tuxedos...should women wear long sleeves? Everyone covers their arms.

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Another good reason to play in pit orchestras:  I will always take off my shoes and relax.  But ya gotta be subtle—no white socks.

 

We** once played an outdoor concert which was so miserably hot that the conductor suggested that the men take off their "white sport coats"  (they were probably tuxes) which was pretty common dress at the time.  A clarinet player refused to do so, and things got heated (no pun).  Finally he gave in, and it became apparent why he hadn't wanted to take his jacket off:

 

He was way ahead of the rest of us fools and had cut up his shirt in such a way that only the part left was that which would show while wearing a jacket; no sleeves, no back— just the collar and area around the buttons was left.  That was funny.  Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be too clever.   :)

 

**This is a true story, but was actually told to me by someone else; if I recall it was in New Orleans.  As the story goes, at the time they had a metal acoustic shell which was just murder coupled with the humidity in N.O.

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Right!    :)

 

Back to the same tour where the horn players' white towels were considered unpleasant to look at, we also got chewed out because all of the male violinists' bow ties were crooked after taking our violins down.  I don't remember how we solved that, except to get into the habit of adjusting them more often.

 

Some of these "show biz" types of musical events cause more awareness of these things because of the large screens that show everything as if magnified.  You've got to watch your expression and general demeanor because you just never know when you'll be caught doing something.  And it's usually recorded.   In fact, it is often no longer good enough to just sit there looking neutral;  you're expected to show personality and interest in what is going on.  I'm surprised we didn't have to join the actor's union.   :)

 

One fellow looked like he was picking his nose.  From a balcony in a symphony hall that would often go unnoticed— but not with one of those big screens.  I hope they don't come to symphony concerts.  (For all I know, perhaps they already have on some occasions.)

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Ah!  You need to perfect that 'beauty contestant' smile!  I took a dance class for exercise only...but some of others were performers.  I was told repeatedly to "look like I was enjoying it!"  I guess the puzzled and concentrating scowl I wore wasn't aesthetically pleasing.

 

I never thought of the impact of the 'big screen'...

 

And hopefully I won't ever have to worry about it... B)

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Ah!  You need to perfect that 'beauty contestant' smile!  I took a dance class for exercise only...but some of others were performers.  I was told repeatedly to "look like I was enjoying it!"  I guess the puzzled and concentrating scowl I wore wasn't aesthetically pleasing.

 

I never thought of the impact of the 'big screen'...

 

And hopefully I won't ever have to worry about it... B)

This thread's anecdotes of the joys of performing in an orchestra once more leave me amazed and thankful that they can get anyone besides the conductor and the soloist to show up at all.  What I've been seeing seems to remove the "b" from "banal".  :lol:

 

There's some top end violin soloists I'm fond of listening to (and whose videos I study) who often look, while playing, as if they are either having a migraine or in a state of complete consternation about something, then at the end, break into a brilliant smile for everyone.  I often wonder how hard those soloists who do mostly smile engagingly during a performance have to work at it, and if it's any coincidence that their repertoires are usually heavy with (less challenging) pop, trad, and "light" classical? [Glares at a bug landing on her scroll, and sees it spiral, smoking, to the floor, while three spectators, unnoticed, attempt to take cover under their seats.....   ;) ]

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I get the feeling you've been to some spectacular performances! :)

 

That also brings up another question...of what I've heard called 'piano face' or things like excessive body movement...or not enough movement.

 

I wish I could find the one piano video with the very disturbing contorted face of the performer.  :mellow:

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It is a stage show.  What the performers wear is very important and part of the performance presentation.  Players can get away with wearing clothes that are a bit worn out, but certain things must be paid attention too.  Matching colors, modesty, proper fit in areas that can be seen such as pant leg length.   Shooes shoudl be clean and well polished.  In my opinion, no bare arms - men or women - at least 3/4 sleeves for women - and while skirts are fine, please keep them well below the knee, but I am of the opinion slacks are best for both sexes.  No jewelry that flashes or dangles.  The clothing one puts on for a concert should not make an individual statement but blend into the group.   

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