Fake news

18th May 2019 | Concerts, Daily Life, Musings, Teaching | 2 comments

There’s so much talk about ‘fake news’ at the moment. Most of us are gradually getting better at spotting it.

Fake news often seems to be accompanied by a certain style of presentation, which we often see in public speaking. Smiles that don’t arise from the inside. An over-developed sense of confidence and authority, a self-centred deafness to other views. There’s a lot of it in public life and the UK has its own brand.

As a musician I’m also aware of a certain intonation – rise and fall of pitch, use and variation of tone – which alerts me to the possibility that I am being manipulated. How does one know when tonal variation is fake? Well, our experience of listening to people speak all the time, in everyday life, seems to equip us with good antennae.

As everything is connected, I find myself on the look-out for fake news in the world of the performing arts as well. I suppose it’s always been an element of my response, but now my search for ‘real news’ seems to have risen to the top of the pile.

It’s not straightforward, because the relationship between the surface and the content is complicated. Just because someone is a good showman does not mean that they are not a fine musician. On the other hand, just because someone is modest, sweet and prone to mistakes does not mean their interpretation is ‘truer’ than that of someone confident. It’s perfectly possible to be sincere and incompetent. But it’s also possible, and one sees it all the time, to be masterful and play perfectly in tune with no heart. Ideally one would be sincere, technically superb and wonderfully communicative; sometimes it does happen!

How to align style and message in the best way? That’s a task which musicians have always grappled with, but it feels particularly important in a world of fake news.

2 Comments

  1. Dr John Berry

    Nothing fake in the praise for Susan’s part in the Florestan Trio on BBC3 record review
    recently
    Well played and well said !

    Reply
    • Susan Tomes

      Thank you, Dr Berry! I didn’t hear the broadcast myself at the time, but a few folk alerted me to it afterwards. I listened on iPlayer and admit I basked in the praise!

      Reply

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