OK, it’s no secret, I’m no fan of Ayn Rand, but that’s not the point. This image is the first rank on Google; perhaps because it is the lead photo for their bio on pbs.org. But click here to see what I see when I look at it.
I kill me. The point is that the copy is actually pretty bland. I’m sure her fans will find it vastly over-simplified, but it’s about as non-controversial as is possible with someone who lived to change the world.
But that photo? Oy. They could’ve chosen any number of more flattering pictures. And I think that was intentional. As Jung might say, I think you have to assume that their are no coincidences and that everything is, at some level, intentional. The editor of that article is saying something.
Now it’s true that some people just don’t photograph well. Hitler being one. But on the other hand, I’ve never seen a picture of Stalin that says, ‘Hey guys, I murdered umpteen million people, what’ve you done lately?’ You have to admit, he (mostly) looks like a friendly geezer.
But who’s zooming who? Surely Ms. Rand (now that would surely piss her off, now wouldn’t it?) was quite aware of her persona and in fact cultivated the image she wanted the world to see. The best self-promoters are surely those who act most like they don’t give a shit what the world thinks, right?
Promotion is such a part of life. Stravinsky went on at every opportunity about how ‘music intrinsically conveys nothing.’ And I not only tend to agree, I think it’s a worthy goal. Personally, I’ve spent a lot of effort trying to let the art speak for itself. And yet, the guy has one of the most memorable faces of the twentieth century. Even if you don’t think you know his music, you have undoubtedly seen the iconic sketch done by Picasso. So I think he was either hypocritical about trying to separate art from image, or he had an astounding lack of self-awareness. Or more likely? A lot of naive guys like me bought into the bullshit and screwed themselves in the process.
At the other end of the promotional spectrum, consider Andy Warhol. Enough time has passed to where we see the value of his work apart from the image. His style was one of those, ‘if He did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him’ deals. I think he was aware that the trends he pioneered were inevitable and so he made sure he was the guy who got the credit. The truth is, he was a great artist and he was an even greater self-promoter.
But because I bought into Stravinsky’s ideas about the purity of art, if I listen to some singer-songwriter, I really don’t care how touching the guy’s story is. In fact, I’d rather not know. If I hear some world music and it doesn’t appeal? I won’t bother to learn about how it perfectly expresses their gratitude for their beloved harvest god Blornax. Similarly, that’s why I can dig Charlie Parker and Wagner without having to think about their various moral failings.
One irony for me is that of the hundreds of performances of Stravinsky’s music I’ve heard over the years, pretty much my least favourite are those he himself conducted. They have almost no soul. His ‘let the notes speak for themselves’ approach sounds so ‘correct’ to me. And yet the results are not satisfying.
Those That Can’t Do, Teach
Have you noticed how a lot of prog guys are really articulate? Steve Wilson, Robert Fripp, the guys in Dream Theater? They really can talk up a storm. Their articles are all over the media landscape and have given them attention often far above the numbers their audiences might merit.
And yet, much of their work (Fripp’s solo work) doesn’t move me. And what I’ve noticed is that the guys I really dig in almost every art form are usually among the least eloquent about their work.
At the end of the day, promotion matters a whole bunch. I’ve dreaded the process, not out of any ‘shyness’ but rather because I just never believed in it. And yet now, when I sure could use it, I’m beginning to feel like maybe I’ve been had a bit by ol’ Igor. Or maybe I was just confused about what he was trying to say. When I was young, I thought that I should actively avoid self-promotion; rather it was only necessary to let the music ‘do the talking’… and the world would beat a path to my mousetrap.
Having given it a bit more thought, it occurs that, if Stravinsky was correct, no art can do that talking for me. As he so famously wrote, ‘music can communicate nothing.’ Right.
So now, thirty years later it finally hits me that this puts the onus on me to come up with a self-promotional gimmick one tenth as effective as any of the above-mentioned. I used to resent the Andy Warhols of the world. Now? I occasionally find myself wishing I had been taking notes.