Dress for performance and publicity

Processing material for the last set of CD offers — of chamber music — I was struck by the way the musicians present themselves in performance and publicity, especially through their clothing.

The classic chamber music group is all-male and dresses in dark suits (with white shirts, dark ties, dark shoes and stockings), or even formal attire. Women in such groups, or in all-women groups, tend to dress more fashionably and individually, but not flashily. Groups specializing in new music, experimental music, and genre-bending music are inclined to dress more informally, especially in publicity shots. And some groups are deliberately showy.

On to a few examples.

A classic string quartet, the Guarneri, in performance on an album cover:


The suits are very dark brown rather than black, but otherwise…

On to Anonymous 4, seen here in a publicity photo for their final concert tour before disbandment:


It’s a publicity photo, so they’re smiling.

Some female groups have, in contrast, taken a calculatedly flashy approasch to dress and demeanor — maybe most famously the Ahn Trio, “three Korean sisters who constitute a piano trio and are famous for their sexy dress and sometimes outrageous presentations of themselves” (from a 10/7/15 posting). Photo from that posting:


Then to Stanford’s ensemble-in-residence, the St. Lawrence String Quartet. In performance, they’re not flashy, though violist Lesley Robertson usually provides a flash of color. The three men often perform without ties (or with a flashy tie for first violinist Geoff Nuttall, who in general is more informally attired than the other two). Their publicity shots are decidedly informal:


Robertson, Nuttall, Christopher Costanza (cello), Scott St. John (second violin)

SLSQ is a serious exponent and sponsor of new music, and their presentation of themselves fits with that.

Finally, the string quartet most famous for its advocacy of new and experimental music (and another local treasure), the Kronos Quartet. From Wikipedia:

The Kronos Quartet is an American string quartet based in San Francisco. They have been in existence with a rotating membership of musicians for over forty years. The quartet specializes in contemporary and new music, with more than 750 works having been written for them.

Their dress has never been ordinary, but at some points it’s been pretty extravagant, especially in publicity shots. Here’s the group ca. 1990, on the covers of their album Pieces of Africa. The back cover, with all four members at the time looking intense, in a rock-musician kind of way:


Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, cello; David Harrington, violin; John Sherba, violin

And on the front cover, still intense, but merely informal rather than outrageous:


Hey, it was the 80s/90s.

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