Sex sells: In this case, classical music
“I don’t know how I came upon this. I hope I didn’t buy it.” Those were my thoughts when I was browsing Tchaikovsky symphonies and happened upon a quaint little album entitled “Erotic Sex Classical Music.” My instant reflex was to navigate away from that page quicker than a szforzando. My next thought after that was, “what the hell?”
The quote was not mine, but came from the sole reviewer of the 2001 album, whose cover features an outstretched, unclothed back interposed with a violin. Brave Sole Reviewer and potential owner of the album gave it one out of five stars, lamenting that “the music is fine, but the effects just sound too contrived.” For “Pachelbel’s Canon,” the third track on the album, I can see how that’s the case. For overall effect, I was pretty intrigued. Aforementioned reviewer continued: “Sex, I like. Classical music, I like.” Well, there you go. Shocking as it may seem, the two aren’t that far apart.
Classical music has long held an elitist image. With record sales dwindling and concert audiences diminishing, classical music can no longer pride itself solely on virtuosity and genius in this generation, especially when this generation has the attention span of a 140-character Tweet, or when this generation produces Miley Cyrus. Either way, the common consumer finds classical music too abstruse, too stuffy, too “above-the-average-Joe.” A theory is that perhaps classical music has so few patrons because it only caters to an audience of “elitists.” The logical step for the survival of classical music was to distribute the art form to the masses, and in doing so, appeal to the most basic instinct of human nature: sex.
Using sex to sell music is hardly a new idea. Wikipedia tells me that Italian opera composers such as Verdi and Donizetti scored their works for the allowance of exotic, probably very bare dancers. I also learned from the classic tome Classical Music for Dummies that the ladies would swoon when the handsome pianist Franz Liszt strode onstage. The Harvard Dictionary of Music or the NPR Curious Listener’s Guide won’t tell you that the guy that wrote those ballads your sister pounds out at home was a total pimp. Maybe that’s the problem — that’s what pushed people over the edge to try to start making “Pachelbel’s Canon” erotic.
I did a little more research into the apparently not mutually exclusive arenas of classical music and sex, and by research I mean more than your standard American Pie band camp joke. When I investigated further into using sex to sell classical music, I found the strapless gown fashions of German violinist Anne Sophie Mutter (look it up), the deliciously tight jeans of violinist Joshua Bell (really, look this one up), and the wet T-shirts of British violinist Vanessa Mae (now you’re really intrigued to look these up).
Throwing you off a bit? Shocking that not all classical musicians are unattractive drones? You mean you didn’t find your high school band concerts a prime location for spotting hotties?
“Just think of those orchestral musicians perspiring in their tight funeral black,” joked Ivan Hewett in the UK Telegraph.
So what about the great debate of producing music accessible to the masses versus preserving its artistic integrity? Is there a way for classical music to remain true to its highly-educated culture and appeal to the average Joe? On the one hand, you could build up your CD collection with the snootiest, highest-quality Deutsche Grammophon or Sony Classical records (with fully tuxedo-ed maestros on the cover, mind you). Or you could not be too aware of where you click on the “related searches” button and end up on the sketchiest Amazon.com product page I have ever seen. Classical music can throw you a curveball like that.