time to change the way we view music and the arts

America’s Next Top (Musician) Model or, “Symply” sultry instrument(alists)


“Okay, you’re mid-stage about to hit a three line passage full of “presto” 32nd notes!”
(Cit. otekafoto.wordpress.com)

There is never a deficiency of things on the web to spark “the next thing to write.” Sometimes the initial premises I conjure up sound so outlandish or head turning that I even recoil and rethink on occasion –but that usually subsides after I start typing and any starkness ebbs back.

This would be the case today. So, if you find yourself taken slightly aback, just inhale and roll with it if possible. Deal?

Chloe Veltman, (Arts Editor, Colorado Public Radio / Host, Producer, VoiceBox Media / Lies Like Truth, ArtsJournal) whose thoughts I’ve addressed here before, was actually the catalyst that set a seedling of a thought in motion; one which I tossed back and forth a bit but, this reflexive inquiry recorded by tweet that she posted a few days ago helped me make the definitive choice to, do the writing thing, if you will.


“Why can’t I look sexy playing the oboe?”

Opinions on Ms. Veltman’s self-referent, judgement aside, who’s to say oboists the world over can’t look sexy, trendy, sharp, fashionable or any other manner of aesthetically appealing and intriguing? True, when a musician, instrumentalist or vocalist, is busy performing a piece, they have a need to focus on a multitude of actions in need of precise execution –the least of which is whether they are striking the right kind of pose or projecting a proper coy glance to an audience with their eyes (that for most, are probably fixated on music or a conductor’s arm).

Still, the fact that a question like this gets posed at all prompts possibility for crafting something quite artistic that could very well be mixed interestingly with the likes of fashion and photography.

Cross-performance instrumentalists like David Garrett, Break of Reality and Lindsey Stirling, can make the violin and cello “look sexy” through a combination of movement, clothing, facial expressions and the general practicality of how the two are held and played. Recalling Ms. Veltman’s oboe for a moment, what about other instruments though? Any singer out there can be made to fit the needs of a “hot magazine cover shoot,” since their voice is intertwined with just their physical selves, so there’s no external pieces to take into account. Instrumentalists on the other hand, have the additional elements of their musical tools and the fundamental way each of those tools are manipulated.

If artists were to be stylized in a shoot intent on at least partially channeling realism –and I say partially with a grain of salt not far behind– there’s no reason a good stylist and photographer could not manage to find that ideal middle ground between feasible and fantastical. Think themes and props applied to high fashion shoots a la “(Insert Country Here)’s Next Top Model.” None of the many girls who have siphoned through that reality show experience is or were actual surfers/jockeys/trapeze artists/jedis, etc. etc. but, they are choreographed and dressed up to at least make it look that way, even if they are/were ultimately keeping the fashion factor at the front. Therefore, rather than bringing the activity to the fashion portrayal, what would be difficult about bringing the fashion-inspired portrayal to the activity –in this case, playing X-instrument? After all, the people in question would know how to do what they are being fancifully shown to do; that is, in terms of real life experience.



As a lighter, supporting aside, take a minute to think about the fact that one the one hand, the playing of some instruments might not be commonly regarded as aesthetically attractive (read: sexy) but then I semi-rhetorically ask why, are the musicians who play, able to make plenty of less than blasé jokes about their instruments? There’s no denying that among the myriad of inside jokes and mutually understood gripes musicians in each instrument family share, plenty of sexual innuendo comes into the picture. Cracking such a line in the back of a high school rehearsal is a social practice that is probably as old as secular music itself. (Okay, maybe exaggerating a bit on that last part, but still.)

One would imagine that if you can make a sexually laced joke about a violin(ist), trumpet(er), timpani(st), oboe(istt), flute(ist), so on and so forth, then all that would be needed is to dial it back a bit, maybe watch the controlled class just a nod and, voila, sexy instrumentalist mentality.

Yet, the fact that certain instruments, (here’s looking at you electric guitar) and their respective players, just grace magazine covers more easily and frequently, I say any instrumentalist can be made to look badass, hot, sexy and or non-intimidating; even with their instruments. Why should only instruments from more free form music styles like the saxophone with jazz, drums with rock or the voice with opera (no shortage of dramatic looks there!) be the major players who come to mind where things exciting and visually appealing are concerned? After all, when any musician, even ones on lesser common symphonic instruments, are trying to make it solo and they are contracted to work with an agency, they still need solid, eye-grabbing photos for press pieces, right?

Here’s an idea: Why not dress it up by smearing the borders of practicality a little? Most anyone with an agency contract has already proven they know how to play their instrument well, so if you are putting photos out there and being that photos lack sound, why not loosen up how a musician is visually conveyed with their instrument, and maybe convey a more prominent sense of mystery or edgy character? No one would presume the person in the photo is just using their instrument as “a prop,” that’s for sure.
Get intrigued by the fantastical photo in the pile on the desk or in the inbox, get hooked when you cue up the recording.

So long as people don’t start airbrushing batons or bassoons, I say, bring on the “art within art” of photographing any instrumentalist-in-action as sexy!

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