A few weeks ago, Vivien Schweitzer tracked my meteoric rise to fame in The New York Times:
OK well actually, it was a profile of pianist Yuja Wang, the reaction to whose concert dress I discussed here. The dress was written about in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, by Perez Hilton, and by Jezebel, among others. The first Google search suggested when you type “Yuja Wang” is now “dress”.
Should you not have time to hark back to my original post, I wrote that Wang can wear whatever she wants so long as she can still play in it (and by all reports, she can play in anything). To expect her clothing not to be discussed in concert reviews, though, is unreasonable: this is a performance, and aesthetics matter. Anne Midgette argued that we don’t talk about the style choices of male classical musicians, but if Joshua Bell walked on stage in an unbuttoned shirt, would critics really just type-type-type about his round tone and not mention it? No.
Wang Tweets regularly, and no doubt her managers get Google Alerts. I have the utmost respect for her and her team for not responding to any of this. I received no angry emails from management, Wang didn’t Tweet about it or comment on it, and (far as I know) no publicist swooped in to damage-control the situation: they just let it all swell up and die down; resistance to internet entanglement is, apparently, not futile.
As a brief side note, composer Nico Muhly recently blogged:
We should all be ashamed of ourselves for participating in any of these online comments threads. I’m ashamed of myself for reading them and even more ashamed that I’m blogging about it. I remember I lost my mind a few years ago when Sequenza21 had an entire Uptown-Downtown argument in the comments thread (if you don’t know what that is, count your blessings; it’s essentially #shitoldpeoplesay). I lost my mind a few months ago when that Justin Davidsdóttir wrote some dumb thing about Philip Glass and then all of a sudden everybody and their mom (in one case, literally) got on Facebook and mouthed off, circularly and ad infinitum. Why did I read that!? I may never know, but it’s hours of my life I will never get back. I want to invoice somebody. I could have written several bagatelles in that time! And now there is this new hellery, and its attendant comments insanity. Who wins in a situation like this? Nobody. Even people who are not involved end up implicated in battles they never wanted to fight. Then you get the comments akin to those left on Toni Tony Toné Tomassini’s like, desert-island hit-generating non-contest: “Astonishing in their absence from this discussion– and evidently banished from any reckoned aesthetic importance in so-called 21st century music” — see! It’s astonishing! Banishment! Astonishment! Importance! Banishment! Astonishing! Je sues é, tone, NAY, girl. I can’t even. We all need to humble ourselves before each other and listen to the Tallis Scholars and prepare for Whitsuntide and read more about North Korea and the Navajo Nation and the history of Singapore and Saint Ambrose and pickling techniques and call our grandfathers and write thank-you notes and buy stamps for the same notes and compliment our friends’ babies and go to Evensong.
Composers! Next time you find yourself tempted to get involved in some online tautological wormhole, grab some manuscript paper, and quickly set the following text for SATB voices, and send it to me. Let’s release a disc.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. -Psalm 24, 3-5, KJV version, obvz
It’ll be the Back 2 Tha Tabernacle: Online Displacement Psalm Setting Double CD Set. And we’ll donate all the money to something awesome and have a campari about it.
In her New York Times profile–presumably only when asked–Wang responded to DressGate 2011:
Ms. Wang said she was initially both “weirded out” and amused by the reaction, noting that she had already worn the same dress without fanfare in Santa Fe, N.M.; at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; and at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. “Europe loved it,” she said, so she hadn’t thought it would be a big deal to wear it in Los Angeles. “They were paying attention to this rather than the music,” she said. “Which makes sense, as L.A. is kind of superficial and more visual. But they have rules about what classical musicians should be wearing, which I think is stupid.”
Yet she acknowledged that the publicity might have helped her Carnegie debut in October sell out. For the first half of that concert, she “looked like a nun,” she said, in a long black dress. “I wanted to do the shock value,” she added. “I can wear long and black too. I like being versatile.”
Keep quiet, sell out the concert, and show up looking like a nun. That? Is a good PR strategy.
In February, she expressed herself in Photoshop, via Twitter:
In March, she quoted Mel Brooks:
I hope–when we’re both in our forties wearing awkwardly-fitting pants suits–she and I can have a Campari about it.