Friday, March 02, 2007


Even before the orchestra tour to New York, and especially while we were there, people have been asking me what kind of "recognition" I've been getting from the Times article. I'm not quite sure how to respond - possibly they have imagined swarms of tourists, crowding around with their copies of the February 18th Arts section, asking for my autograph - or big tour buses pulling over, parking illegally on 5th Ave so everyone could get a picture with me. I don't want to disappoint anyone, but all this attention still hasn't transformed me into a tourist attraction.

I guess one of the odd features of modern celebrity, though, is how people's curiosity is mostly not so much about the celebrity himself - we all know more than we want to about most celebrities already - but about other people's curiosity about the celebrity. Most of the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death, which I tried carefully to avoid but heard anyway, was about all the other coverage of her death. So it becomes this self-perpetuating cycle - similar to a hurricane or some other extreme weather pattern - which only subsides once we find something else to talk about.

Not to liken myself to Anna Nicole Smith, or any other celebrity/cataclysmic event. It was more of a short turbulence, temporarily lifting my blog hits into 3 figures (I installed a StatCounter on Sunday, so I could check) and then gradually returning to the normal handful. Still, I found myself wondering, with all those hundreds of people visiting my site for a few days - there must be some way to leverage all of this attention! Could I use it to promote some noble cause, or maybe to broadcast some thought-provoking idea or opinion - maybe, like Al Gore, I could use my temporary fame to promote some social cause? Or find some way to get people to at least stay more than 5 seconds?

In the end, I think I did enjoy some recognition, but not the kinds you might expect. The story itself really determined the form the recognition would take - Dan Wakin described me as "shy, serious, sober, solid, conscientious", so obviously no one was going to visit my website looking for hot gossip or nude pics. They visited because they connected to a certain character, which Dan Wakin portrayed in the article, and wanted to see whether the real-life version matched. And while I don't think the article completely encapsulates my personality, it was recognizably me.

I actually saw Dan Wakin at the concert on Tuesday. It was a strange encounter, since I wanted to thank him and acknowledge what he had written, but I wasn't sure how. He told me that my story served a certain purpose for the article - maybe that purpose was a bit of drama, or structure, or just plain sympathy, for a person struggling in artistic and career limbo... I'm honestly not quite sure what made my particular story work so well for what he wanted, and I might have asked.

Still, it's a certain reassurance just to find one's story can serve a purpose! There were things in the article that most of my friends, and even my family didn't know about - but having read them, everyone seems to understand me a little better. And maybe, now that I've seen my character sketched out on the pages of the New York Times, I can find ways to extend it, loosen and open it up. After all, there's no point being shy and reserved when everyone knows so much about you already, and likes you despite it all! That's the best sort of recognition, I think.


Lydia Si-Ngaw Lui said...

Matt- I think the last two sentences of this post are the most lovely phrases you have written on your blog. Certainly this new experience must have opened more windows into your own perception of yourself, and how you are perceived by others.

By the way, did you mean the death of Anna Nicole Smith, rather than P. Anderson?

Matt Heller said...

Thank you so much - you're very right, both in your observation and of course in your correction. I probably shouldn't even to attempt social commentary, when I can't keep all the names of actresses and lingerie models straight!

It is wonderful to be understood so well despite all my absurdities, though. I suppose that was what I was trying to point out here!

Lydia Si-Ngaw Lui said...

I'm not sure if you've checked Think Denk recently, but Jeremy seems to be nursing a strange social interest in the late Ms. Smith. . .

Additionally, one reason I was aware of Ms. Smith's situation was the extent of the bizarre litigation and lawsuits pending at the time of her death; I am sure these stresses had something to do with her premature passing. And it makes me relieved NOT to be her attorney!

Bill said...

I saw the article in the Times, and sent it out to about 50 people on my "music" distribution list. It was a fascinating look at the world of the up and coming classical musician. I have been a regular subscriber to symphony and opera for over 30 years and have known some professional orchestra members in top-rate orchestras; this was a really fine article.

I found your blog while googling "Andrew Grams" ... he was the (excellent) guest conductor tonight here at the Dallas Symphony. I am looking forward to continuing to read you.... good luck on the future auditions.

Manola Blablablanik said...

Aw ... what's not to like, Matt? :-) Where is this article? I missed it.

Your observations are well-put and spot-on. But setting celebrity aside, we can never live in a vacuum anyway. The world is there to teach us about ourselves.

urn said...

Well that puts an end to my readership! I've been coming here for the last year looking for hot gossip and nude pics, and I just figured you were warming up to them. With confirmation that's not going to be happening, there's just nothing left for me here.

I loved the article, and though I might not know you well from this incarnation of Matt, I have at least a little more understanding of what makes you tick these days.

Gabrielle said...

I really enjoyed reading the New World article, particularly since I was about to embark on my first audition adventure, ironically also in Buffalo but for English horn (I just got back yesterday). I found it comforting to read about someone going though the same process, complete with listening to excerpts on ipods and awkward encounters with friends. Plus, I went to Northwestern and was pleased to see Naomi, Jerome, and Chris Davis all mentioned in addition to you. (You are all a few years older than I, but like Naomi, I did the five-year program, so I was around for a while). Oh, and you can still read the article in the press section of the New World website for free.