The Internet Fake

Pandora Selfridge

concert pianist

 


discovered

by Corentin Boissier

March 2015, Paris

http://www.corentinboissier.net                                                                                                                                                     
    



       









      

    My name is Corentin Boissier. I’m a young French post-romantic classical composer. I’m the one who discovered the Internet fake "Pandora Selfridge concert pianist" that deceived thousands of music lovers, journalists and young composers. As I was going to be involved in this fake ("Pandora Selfridge", with whom I was in correspondence for two years, was going to perform one of my compositions for piano), on  November 27, 2014 I asked "Pandora Selfridge" to end this fraud. The creator immediately destroyed his creation…

    Here’s all I know about this strange and elaborate hoax.



              1- The fake


In the beginning of 2013, a channel appeared on YouTube : « Pandora Selfridge ». In less than two years, "Pandora Selfridge" uploaded on her channel more than 30 of her piano performances. Nearly all her uploads were videos, except for two or three that showed only static photos of her (close to a white piano, cf. below) in addition to the music :



"Pandora Selfridge concert pianist"


        One of her videos showed her, at age 14, performing her own Romantic Poem :










Pandora Selfridge’s Romantic Poem (2009, date given by "Pandora Selfridge")



        Other videos showed her at around 20 :


    
 

         Leoš Janáček’s Piano Sonata             Ernesto Lecuona’s Malagueña



    A website titled « Pandora Selfridge concert pianist » appeared :



Home page of "Pandora Selfridge’s" website


        "Pandora Selfridge", born on May 1, 1994 in Alabama (USA), was a young concert pianist who, in addition to having a passion for the piano, had also been a model during her school years. "Pandora Selfridge" was a pretty young woman and excellent pianist, whose accomplishments were impressive :



    On YouTube, each of her thirty videos reached between 5,000 and 35,000 views. So more than 300,000 persons had listened to "Pandora Selfridge’s" performances, not to mention the other websites that hosted her videos. All the numerous comments on her videos were laudatory, especially on the video of her own composition Three Dramatic Études, for piano (2014). Because "Pandora Selfridge" was not only a concert pianist who performed Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Khachaturian (among other ones)… she was also, with her four original works, a good – in my opinion – composer in a post-romantic idiom. She premiered her largest work, Three Dramatic Études, for piano (16’), during a recital at the Mobile Concert Hall in 2013 :





    "Pandora Selfridge concert pianist" became rather famous : some people were writing about her on the web. In particular Richard Waterman, of the website  RealPianoMusic.com, posted the following (this page is now deleted) :





    On April 18, 2013 "Pandora Selfridge" subscribed to my channel « Corentin Boissier composer ». I wrote a letter to thank her, as I do to everyone who subscribes to my channel. The same day, she answered by YouTube mail she liked the works I composed, especially my Glamour Concerto, for solo piano (2012) :


« Wow !!! Great work and great performance too... This concerto has a consistently high quality from the first to the last bar, which is rather rare in contemporary concertos, and even in all works of a certain scale, generally speaking. Personally, my favorite parts are from 5:08 and from 14:06 (...ah ! when my starry-eyed young girl heart speaks :-)

Furthermore the virtuoso passages obviously show an expert craftsmanship. Bravo ! » (18 April 2013)


    After that, we exchanged a friendly and regular correspondence. She also commented on YouTube on several of my principal works. She had a very sensitive perception of my music. So I had the idea that she might like to perform one of my compositions, in particular Passionately Yours, three pieces for piano (2012), which she liked a lot :


« Just reading the title of the work and the titles of the movements brings up at the same time a program, an expectation, a dream... and your music doesn’t disappoint, quite the contrary ! We are irresistibly carried away by a wonderful whirlwind as soon as pressing "play", and for eleven minutes of pure emotional intensity till the very end.

As a matter of fact, the first thing I did then is to click on "replay" ! » (18 April 2013)


    At the same time, I discovered that "Pandora Selfridge" was very present on the web : in addition to her website and her YouTube channel, she had a very popular Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, a Flickr page, a Topface page, a Skill Slam page, a Musopen page, and at least two other web pages…

"Pandora Selfridge" invited me on Google+, then on Facebook, then on LinkedIn…


    I lead on YouTube the classical musical channels collectionCB (533 videos), collectionCB2 (570 videos), collectionCB3 (512 videos) and collectionCB4 (one new video each day), which make available recordings of little-known post-romantic masterworks. So on August 5, 2014 I proposed to her that I upload on my channel collectionCB3 her Three Dramatic Études, for piano… She answered :


« Hello dear Corentin,

Glad to hear you ! Yes, I know your collectionCBs for a long time ; these are wonderful channels to discover rare repertoire, although I’m grieved to observe that works for solo piano are very seldom presented... :-)

Of course I gladly accept your very nice proposal. I’m very pleased you find my music good enough to be included in your channels ; and I see you do things very well concerning the presentation, judging by the links you kindly pointed out to me. […]

Best regards,

Pandora »


    Then I proposed that she perform my Passionately Yours, three pieces for piano. On August 13th, she answered :


« Concerning your Passionately Yours, I consider it’s really a masterwork, and indeed it’s no doubt one of the most romantic contemporary works I know. More generally speaking, I find you’re one of the rare "contemporary" classical composers who compose a music intended to speak directly to the heart of the listener... which is proper to the "true" great music, in my view. I would really like to perform your Passionately Yours.

The only problem is that I’m really busy (I have more than 20 recitals scheduled before the end of this year !) – I might nonetheless find some free time, but this composition really requires its performer to be fully invested in it, I think. Perhaps a work as the first movement of your wonderful Glamour Concerto would also "match" my style while being a little more feasible given the time and opportunities I’ll have...

Please send me both scores, if you want – I’ll give them a quick read and tell you more shortly afterwards. I can’t promise you a performance soon, but I sincerely promise you to try my utmost to realize it as soon as possible... »


    I sent her both scores. On August 15th she wrote me :


« I can already confirm that the first movement of the Glamour Concerto is really more feasible given the (little) time I’ll have to study it. Additionally, as it’s a stand-alone one-movement work, it should also be more easy to program it during a concert than a multi-movement work. I’ll give you a more detailed feedback about both your works within some days/weeks, but I have to tell you before all that I really LOVE your rich, generous, sultry and passionate piano writing – the exact opposite of all these thin, dry, astringent and dissonant "contemporary" pieces !
Yes, I hope I’ll be able – sooner or later – to perform your Passionately Yours and maybe other of your works as well... And no matter if other pianists play Passionately Yours meanwhile : I want to play your works because I like them, not because I would be "the first one". »


    Meanwhile, on August 13th, she also had sent me the score of her Romantic Poem for piano. I learnt later, during my investigation, that she had sent this score to at least three other young composers. Here’s the first page of the 5-page score :




   

    On September 15, 2014, I uploaded on my channel collectionCB3 her Three Dramatic Études, for piano (none of the young composers that I contacted during my investigation seems to have received the score from her) :


Page 1 :

Page 2 :

Three Dramatic Études, for piano uploaded by myself on collectionCB3

(pages 1 & 2 on a total of 3)


    Immediately, numerous and dithyrambic comments (from an exclusively male audience) appeared. Two examples :


- « It doesn't happen very often that a piece of music is able to really move me. These Three Dramatic Études by Pandora Selfridge certainly accomplish just that. This is music I can feel. Music which affects me. Truly romantic music that in this case explores the darker side of romanticism. This composition conveys beauty in the midst of longing and yearning, even sadness and turmoil. I would like to call it a winter masterpiece, crafted in the season in which we as human beings often tend to become more open to the deeper levels of our inner life and also to express the darker side of our life experience, mirroring what is happening in nature. I'm looking forward to listen to more of Pandora’s own compositions in the future. She is really unique. »


- « Excellent, fluent pianism, and this composer knows how to make the most of Romantic sonorities. "Dramatic" indeed ! Well named as I felt rather lucky to have escape a terrible, un-named, looming and menacing fate with all those piled-on minor chord progressions. Even the third étude (a good crowd-pleasing encore surely), with all its liveliness, can’t free itself from a sense of panicked pursuit. Bernard Herrmann/Kurt Weill meet Rachmaninoff ! What a pity the applause was cut out ; I'm sure the audience appreciated this fine playing. »


    There have been so many comments, and all of them were so laudative, that it surprised me. I told my surprise to "Pandora Selfridge". On October the 23rd she answered :


« Yes, indeed, I noticed all these comments on your video of the Etudes ; I have to admit it’s a little odd. There are some people I personally know among them, but many other ones I didn’t know before. Anyway, all of them seem to enjoy the work, but I agree with you that such extensive comments are normally seldom seen on Youtube. »


    Before that, on October 4th, "Pandora Selfridge" wrote to me :


« Hello Corentin,

Firstly, I have to tell you that I began deciphering your wonderful Glamour Concerto. This work is really, really pleasing to play and is very richly and efficiently written without being overly virtuosic. A perfect balance. And your melodies and harmonies are just ravishing. In particular your deep pedal of E decrescendo leading to the second theme is worthy of the best Rachmaninoff in my view. Of course I’m sure you’ll understand I’m rather busy these times and so I’ll need several months to fully learn it and be able to play it correctly before performing it in concert/video...

I also listened to your new uploads, and I really enjoyed them. Btw I’m myself composing an extended "nocturnal" work for clarinet and piano to be premiered in February 2015 by a rather famous clarinetist if everything goes smoothly. So your delicate ballade for saxophone and piano can really be a source of inspiration :-) And it’s really fine to see that your works begin to attract more and more talented performers – your compositions are worthy of being world renowned... »


    And on October 23rd :


« […] Concerning my work for clarinet and piano, yes, it’s in good progress... Actually it’s even almost finished, as the "official" premiere in concert is intended to take place in February 2015, but a last minute upheaval makes an opportunity happen to schedule a private performance as soon as late november (sunday 23rd november to be precise, in just one month !), an ideal opportunity to test the work and make a few alterations if necessary before the public concert. So you realize I spent all this last ten days to finalize the work so that the rehearsals can begin within one week or so. I can already tell you that the work is in three movements, each one lasting about five minutes. Be sure I’ll send you a recording as soon as I have one.

As you can guess, these last few days have been very busy. Generally speaking, I think I’ll probably have a little more time to seriously study your Glamour Concerto after the rehearsals of the clarinet-piano work...

[…]

Keep in contact !

Pandora

PS : You didn’t tell me your "observations" about my new website :-) Of course I understand you must be very busy as well... »


    So we had both private and professional correspondence. On October 27th, as she had just created her new website and as she asked me, I suggested some ameliorations to her ; she accepted all of them.


    Now I have to explain what was the brand image of "Pandora Selfridge" : she always wore extravagant high-heeled shoes.


    A set of photos showed her as a glamour model :


    



    

     

    Nearly all of "Pandora Selfridge’s" other photos never showed her face.


    Her head was sometimes shown, but only her hair in this case :


    

            (seems to be an Asian woman)                            (seems to be an Asian woman)


    Her YouTube videos never showed the face (some of these videos must have been intentionally cropped at the neck) :


    
        

  Alexander Scriabin’s « Prelude » op. 11 n°14              Claude Debussy’s « L’Isle joyeuse »




    

                   Bach/Busoni’s « Chaconne »                  Franz Schubert’s « Piano Sonata No. 16 »


    

    A great part of the glamour of "Pandora Selfridge concert pianist" was based on her high-heeled shoes (stilettos). Her shoes were always highlighted :



Cover of "Pandora Selfridge’s" website


    On August 13, 2014 she explained to me this omnipresence of high-heeled shoes :


« I decided to wear "attractive" outfits while playing the piano and to focus my videos mainly on my legs and high heels as it gives me a special "look" that most people seems to enjoy. It’s a way to be noticed among the numerous young pianists whose videos are available on YouTube. At the beginning, my first videos classically showed my hands, my head and full views ; and at one point I made a "fun" video focused on my legs and high heels... and this video got many, many more views than any other... You understand what I then did for my following videos ! »


    And this « marketing » strategy was efficient for an essentially male audience. One of her male commentators commented on her video titled « Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse in very high heels » :


« 1) Your performance of this Debussy masterpiece is awesome, I like your piano 2) You give to this performance an erotic dimension... by showing your wonderful legs and high heels. This is really original and when we like beauty, it’s a pleasure... 3) If only we could make a "four legs" interpretation one day... I’ll be so happy !! »


    On October 16, 2014 Susanne Kübler, a German journalist of the Tages-Anzeiger and the Berner Zeitung, titled her article about "Pandora Selfridge" :

    Pianistin auf Stelzen : Die höchsten High Heels in der Klavierwelt ? Die hat Pandora Selfridge

    (which means : « Pianist on stilts : The highest high heels in the piano world ? She is Pandora Selfridge ») :



    A commentator on Susanne Kübler’s article wrote :


« Ein Genuss in jeder Beziehung : Tolle Musik, herrlich gespielt, schöne Beine, elegante Schuhe. Was will man mehr ? »

(which means : « A delight in every respect : Great music, played wonderfully, beautiful legs, elegant shoes. What more could you want ? »)


    All this made me think that my Glamour Concerto, for solo piano had found the perfect performer.



PART II : The investigation