Monday, 5 October 2009

Dudamelmania the movie ?

Please read Operachic on Dudamel mania in LA. It ought to be a movie. Poor kid makes it big and he's a hearthrob too. But will it end like many movies do? Of course LA needs to market Dudamel to raise its profile and make mega money. Fair enough, and a certain amount of media savvy is a good thing. No problem either with the marketing aimed at the Hispanic market because a lot of that market does listen to classical music. Or the idea of appealing to people who don't normally like classical music. Anything to get people interested is fine. But interested in what?

Classical music is never going to appeal to the same mass market as pop, rap etc etc. It's just a completely different sensibility. Sure, people will come in droves to hear Dudamel and buy his records but what kind of music will they be expecting? Years ago, the Three Tenors trapped that mass market and lots of fans went on to become serious opera fans. But it's just as likely that some went on to think they know opera because they can karaoke Nessun Dorma. The danger with popularity is that it creates expectations that may or may not be good in the longer term. "I never heard of (famous composer) but I know that is how he should be played" said one fan on the net.

The horrible thing about classical music is it "is" elitist in the sense that it does benefit from deeper engagement. The more you get into it, the more you realize how much more there is you don't know, so you go on. It's the opposite mentality to instant gratification.

A lot of the Dudamel market comes from exposure through youtube, Facebook and short downloads. This is a market geared towards quick-fix thrills. Trouble is a diet of fast food will kill you in the end. Just as Faust discovered, pacts may get you goodies but you pay in the end. Will the market lock into easy listening blockbusters? Will this kill performances - and music - that might require more finesse? Of course the fans will spend whole evenings at concerts, dressed up in tuxedos to prove their taste and standing, but this isn't a market necessarily geared towards music, as opposed to making a social statement. Being rich doesn't mean anything.

Dudamel shot to fame overnight after the famous Proms appearance in 2007. As with Susan Boyle millions suddenly heard him and fell in love. Good for him, but much of the appeal was that he fronted the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, a worthy and noble cause. When they waved their colourful jackets, who would have the nerve to put them down. Significantly, Dudamel had appeared at two previous Proms to no effect, and his 2008 appearance with the Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra (his first full time professional band) wasn't impressive. Of course much is made of the fact that prior to the Bamberg conducting competition in 2004, Dudamel was helped by Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado but that doesn't mean he's in their league. Helping new performers is something they do a lot. The tragedy of Gustavo Dudamel is that he's been caught up in a machine which will bring him glory, but not necessarily as an artist. And we're all affected, not just LA. A movie in the making?

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