Do we have the right to comment on the clothes of the musicians?

Can we talk about Yuja Wang’s outfits during her recitals? Is it appropriate to comment on the African dress of the pianist Samantha Ege? British musicologist Leah Broad throws a stone into the pond by replying that “yes, we have to talk about the clothes of classical musicians”without giving in to criticism or the sexualization of bodies.

Clothing is an important part of the artist’s performance.

Talking about the clothing of classical musicians, and especially women, is taboo, according to Oxford-certified musicologist Leah Broad. in the columns of guardian, this April 19, he delivers his analysis of the musicians’ outfits. He assures us that we can, and even should, speak of the artists’ costumes on stage, as a visual extension of the works they perform. She explains that it is an important element of the artist’s performance. Today, China’s Yuja Wang, one of China’s most renowned pianists, regularly appears in tight dresses, sometimes brightly colored and sequined.

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Short outfits that for her are a way to affirm her young age (35 years) and highlight her 158 cm. In 2013, the New York Times noted that Yuja Wang’s stage power is enhanced by the liveliness and mobility of her body. Therefore, it seems natural for the pianist to choose clothes that allow her to fully express herself. the article of guardian He also quotes Jocelyn Lightfoot, director of the London Chamber Orchestra: “Most musicians feel they can’t talk about their clothes.” However, the visual understanding of an outfit can enhance the viewer’s experience. Thus, during a recital of works by the African-American composer Florence Price, the pianist Samantha Ege chose a wax fabric dress, “influenced by West African styles.

Critics find it difficult to talk about women’s outfits in an uncomfortable way.

Samantha Ege later regretted not being able to explain the choice of an outfit that strongly evokes the themes of her repertoire. It must be said that historically, the body of the musicians has been rather erased so as not to distract the public. In 1944, director Ruth Gipps was accused “self-advertising” for wearing a dress that is too colorful. According to Leah Broad, this taboo around the appearance of dress for classical musicians can be explained by critics’ inability to discuss women’s dress in a sensitive way. In fact, the treatment reserved for Yuja Wang is not the same as her male colleagues. When the Chinese pianist’s dresses are the subject of comments, the style of the violinists Nemanja Radulovic or Nigel Kennedy are acclaimed for their modernity.

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However, it should be noted that the Orchester de Paris and the London Chamber Orchestra have removed the tie from their suits. Both orchestras want to be more inclusive and have therefore decided to remove this masculine symbol from their ensembles. Its goal is to create “a mirror between the public and the orchestra”. The Paris Orchestra has even gone further by collaborating with the clothing brand Fursac, whose artistic director is a former cellist. The ensemble’s stage wear was created specifically for orchestral players, with fabric-covered buttons to prevent them from banging against instruments. Is this the sign that this is becoming a subject in its own right in the classical medium? In any case, this is what Leah Broad wants to promote, who encourages us to consider clothing as an integral part of the musical creative process.

jeremy merzisen

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