Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vanity Press

I remember, as a wet-behind-the-ears naif, being surprised to discover how much of the art world was based on self-aggrandizement, trust funds, vanity press, self-written bios, press-releases and the like. I had so foolishly assumed that there was a way to actually succeed in the arts by doing art, that there was an arbiter in the world that chose the best, that knighted those that deserved it, and that the cream would rise to the top, that you would get the phone call or the letter that said you had made it, that you were now allowed to join the pantheon, loved and fêted by your peers as well as the adulating multitudes.

But soon I discovered the fallacious nature of this belief, that when the ballet or the opera or the symphony or the local new music promoter called you or sent you a letter, it was always merely to ask you for money, to ask you to support their own self-aggrandizement, their own vanity press and their own tenuous careers in the arts.

For example, I recently received an oleaginous letter from a record company, flattering me with silken tongue. Let's take a look-see, some details redacted and some annotations added:

Hi Erling,

The informal introduction catches me off guard.

My name is [French female name here] and I am writing from the Boston-based production company [whatever].

The pretty name opens the heart, allow the knife to enter.

I’ve familiarized myself with your music and career, very impressive. I listened to your "On the Death of David Blakely" and loved it - emotionally moving piece, full of intrigue and mystery.

But here we see already the seeds planted of the doubt to come, a glimpse of the future: the fighting, the recrimination, the tears and blood and shame and hurt.

We have a vibrant release schedule and sessions lined up through 2009 - just this November we produced music for clarinet and piano with Richard Stoltzman in our Boston Studio (I have attached a picture that was taken during the session).

I have also attached an article featuring [whatever] and the press release for our formalized agreement with Microsoft to include [whatever] music in Windows. We're in close touch with Microsoft’s Lead Music Supervisors about providing more content in the coming months. Exciting all around!

At this point it is simply embarrassing and we really need to look away. Needless to say, our ensuing conversations, although light and airy and of some social interest, lead in the direction we have foreseen: the deal offered akin to that of prostitute and john, that where she looks away at the moment of penetration, separating herself from her body to avoid feeling the revulsion that is welling inside, and he feels a vague discontent, knowing that it is not what he had hoped.

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