September 9, 2016

New Yorker article about a female piano prodigy keeps talking about her sexy clothes...

... and I'm listening to the audiobook version, which is narrated by a male. It feels so awful to me, stuff like this...
What is one to think of the clothes the twenty-nine-year-old pianist Yuja Wang wears when she performs—extremely short and tight dresses that ride up as she plays, so that she has to tug at them when she has a free hand, or clinging backless gowns that give an impression of near-nakedness (accompanied in all cases by four-inch-high stiletto heels)?...

As she performed, the thigh, splayed by the weight of the torso and the action of the toe working the pedal, looked startlingly large, almost fat, though Yuja is a very slender woman. Her back was bare, thin straps crossing it. She looked like a dominatrix or a lion tamer’s assistant. She had come to tame the beast of a piece, this half-naked woman in sadistic high heels. Take that, and that, Beethoven!...

My visit to Yuja’s apartment had taken place after this conversation. It was around four on a hot August afternoon, and Yuja was dressed in denim shorts, very short ones, and a tank top.... She rummaged through the suitcase on the floor and extracted two garments—strapless black-and-white minidresses made of a stretch fabric, called bandage dresses by their French designer, Hervé Léger, because that’s how they fit, and characterized by Yuja as “modern and edgy” as well as practical, because they don’t have to be ironed and lie nice and flat in a suitcase—and asked my opinion. Should she wear one of them or stay in the shorts? I asked what the issue was—was she interested in comfort or in how she looked? She stared at me as if I were crazy. What weird world was I living in where comfort could even be thought of? She wiggled into one of the bandage dresses, added her high heels, and we walked the three blocks to Lincoln Center at a brisk clip.....
... and on and on, until it dawns on me that I don't know that the article is written by a man. I keep listening and eventually decide it must be a woman, because a man would have felt deterred from writing about his sexual response to the pianist in an article that takes art very seriously. I get home and look it up, and yes, it is a woman. And not just a woman. It's Janet Malcolm, one of my favorite authors.

31 comments:

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"extremely short and tight dresses that ride up as she plays, so that she has to tug at them when she has a free hand,"

I've hung out w/ gals who wear pants/jeans and/or skirts where they're constantly tugging up or down, respectively, especially while walking or getting into a seat.

If they're not comfortable w/ the lack of coverage, why not get something that fits w/o constant adjustment? They could still to skin tight w/ the covering clothes, so it'd still be obvious that they're hot.

I don't get it.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

...could still do skintight w/ more covering clothes...

Bob Ellison said...

I knew an extremely talented pianist who was also an extremely beautiful woman. Difficult to divide the two.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I'm sure she possesses many admirable qualities, not the least of which is her ability to comfortably grab an octave.

Paul Zrimsek said...

She played Prokofiev's 2nd concerto here in Boston a couple of years ago. At first I thought her outfit a bit much (or a bit not-enough), but quickly decided that anyone who can play like that has earned the right to show off a bit.

Evgueni Damaskine said...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128820860

Grant said...

I didn't even read the full headline before I knew whom it was about. She's a very, very fine pianist, one of the two or three finest of her generation for sure, which makes it a little easier to look past her showoff attire. If she weren't so talented and so profoundly artistic the clothes would be just a shtick, like Liberace.

rhhardin said...

There was a naked cellist long ago who attracted converted classical music fans in NYC.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Whelp, you guys induced me to pop her name in the ol' YouTube machine and I can confirm she apparently performs in v. skimpy clothes quite a lot.

I saw the Eroica Trio when I was in college and remember their event posters showing them pretty sexed-up, but I can't find any examples. I recall it as a good concert.

I...may not actually have much to add to the discussion, here.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Those are some serious heels, though!

rhhardin said...

Sarah Chang plays the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D is good for a few minutes until they decide to stay away from tight shots.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Also, also: Professor, doesn't "prodigy" usually connote a young person, if not a child? Wang's 29--wouldn't "virtuoso" be more appropriate?

Oh, and: What's the rule about dressing in a way that shows off your garter suspender clips?. I don't think I mind, but I'm not sure it's exactly "classy." WWTom&LorenzoSay?

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Trans-social.

rehajm said...

On the way to work there's an 8 ft high picture of her in the window of the Steinway Store, in the orange dress where she's flying on the piano bench...

It made me look, but I didn't buy a piano.

Peter said...

Then there was the hard-of-hearing genie who went around granting three wishes. One poor schmuck ended up with a twelve-inch pianist.

Peter

jdniner said...

In her case I think her dress reveals how she feels the music moves through decorum.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...which is narrated by a male
...until it dawns on me that I don't know that the article is written by a man... I get home and look it up, and yes, it is a woman.


Are you sure? Have you asked them? Recently?

David said...

Wang has a great body, beautiful skin, a megawatt smile and a world class hair stylist. She has chosen to use all of these attributes to advance her career. In logic and sense that should allow a man as well as a woman to emphasize her looks as well has her musical performance. Think Taylor Swift. Or back in the day Linda Ronstadt. It's part of the performance, but good luck to the man who writes about it that way.

readering said...

How does Lang Lang compete?

The odd thing is that the average age for a classical concert when I go appears to be 70, with a large gay male contingent. For whom does she dress?

SukieTawdry said...

Why would you wear clothes while performing that you constantly have to tug at? As a concert goer that would be annoyingly distracting to me. A woman can project plenty of allure in clothes that don't hitch up and threaten to fall down.

We, both men and women, have always talked about, laughed about, gushed over, criticized the clothes women (and men) wear. We always will. I'm sure she does take her art seriously but it doesn't follow that we have to take everything about her seriously. She's a very attractive woman; I'll have to go to YouTube and hear her play.

readering said...

Where it all started: (where else, Hollywood)

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/08/yuja-wang-and-that-little-orange-dress.html

Earnest Prole said...

We navigate the world using old, worn-out tools. You thought you were reading a description through the lens of the icky male gaze, and dutifully felt awful. Recently we acknowledged that women view other women with a gaze just as powerfully sexual as the male gaze. Of course that's okay because it's women who are doing it.

fivewheels said...

I think the reason there is a reaction against sexing things up in classical music is that the old-timers (like me) don't want it to become popular music, full of hot chicks (and to some extent, himbos as well) who can't do anything but look good.

Not only can you be sexy while being elegant instead of trashy, people who legitimately care about the music probably don't give a shit if you're sexy or not. I'm perfectly happy to watch Hilary Hahn in sweats and a hoodie.

tim maguire said...

At 29, it's too late for her to be a prodigy. Far too late.

I'm sure the outfits she's freely chosen to wear reflect her oppression by men everywhere.

Oso Negro said...

Of course it was written by a woman! A man would have simply enjoyed the view. Only a woman would be so harsh about another woman's choice of clothing.

Bill Peschel said...

It's hilarious to watch people react amid the remains of a culture that's been destroyed and where there are no gatekeepers to enforce rules.

I will bet that there are a hundred violinists just as good as Wang, but we don't bother with them because they don't provide the eye candy.

How do I know this? I don't. But I do know that orchestras started hiring a more diverse range of musicians when they auditioned from behind a curtain.

It's no surprised that Wang would turn to slutwear to make herself stand out and be noticed.

Paul Snively said...

fivewheels: I think the reason there is a reaction against sexing things up in classical music is that the old-timers (like me) don't want it to become popular music, full of hot chicks (and to some extent, himbos as well) who can't do anything but look good.

Someone had better notify Diana Krall and Renée Fleming, then.

Joe said...

Seems to me that the article was about her clothing. Could tolerate reading that dribble, so was their a mention of her smoking? Want to kill a woman's sex appeal? Show her with a cigarette.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

HoodlumDoodlum, they were universally known a couple decades back as the "Erotica Trio."

fivewheels, I wouldn't care for Hilary Hahn in sweats and a hoodie, but then I've kind of soured on her altogether. I mean, she plays the pants off the Schoenberg Concerto, and absolutely owns the Stravinsky, but her technique is positively inhuman. I mean, her bow moves at one single speed, all the time. As a mortal achievement, it's extremely impressive; as technique, it's drawing everything from a small subset of options. Give me, oh, Tetzlaff. Or Dumay. Or Marwood. Or Hadelich.

richardsson said...

When I was teaching, I noticed that Chinese women liked to dress hot and only the Chinese students went out for a smoke at the break. So, for me living in an Asian majority neighborhood and teaching mostly Asian college students, none of that is news to me.

Yuja Wang is incredibly talented. There was a You Tube (since pulled) of her playing "Art Tatum's arrangement of Tea For Two." Arrangement might be misleading, Tatum never played anything the same way twice, and he reportedly once played Tea For Two for an hour without playing the same riff twice. Yuja Wang played a version Tatum recorded in the 1940's. And, it was a dead ringer for the original 1940's version. If she can play piano like Art Tatum, she can do anything. Vladimir Horowitz went to see Art Tatum at a cocktail lounge in New York and later said, "If he ever takes up classical piano, I'll retire."

She's very talented and very sexy.