davidbeem

Classical Musicians Eat their Young

In Arts and Education on April 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Ugh.  Me hungry.  Me want meat.

Oh, sorry.  Just practicing my dialect for the New Era.  You know, the one without Symphony Orchestras.  But more on that in a minute.

“In the most general sense of progressive thought, the Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty. Yet the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant.”  — Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment.

We’re all familiar with the notion that Art holds a mirror to the societies which birthed it.  Michelangelo’s David, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait or Beethoven’s 9th symphony all paint indelible hues in our minds of the world in which these artists lived.  Theodor Adorno might seem today as much prophet as philosopher for his general critiquing of society, which he posited had suffered a mortal injury in the early 19th century — we’ve just been living through the death throes.  Adorno fixated on the concept of aesthetic truth as a repository for social truth, and with the condition of the modern symphony orchestra, it is easy to believe that he was on to something.

Detroit, Philadelphia, Honolulu, Louisville, New Mexico, Syracuse, (plenty of others) the list is as long as it is diverse and with the addition of the Philadelphia Orchestra, one would imagine that the cancer of our nation’s cultural epidemic might warrant national discussion.  (My home town, South Bend, used to sport 7 classics concerts annually, and next season they’re offering 4 — but, hey, they’re not bankrupt.  Yet.)  Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a fan of pop culture and while I’d probably not put Ludacris’ music at quite the same level as Beethoven, I’d agree that the rapper is talented and well deserves his fame and fortune.  But Ludacris, if you’re reading, I know that I don’t have to tell you that you’ve got the same problems as the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Here’s a sampling of some replies I’ve taken at random from various news articles reporting orchestra’s financial troubles.  Maybe you can share more inflammatory ones than these by using the ‘reply’ button below.

“Terry” replied to this article (about the Philadelphia Orchestra’s financial problems) with the following suggestion:

“Yes let’s cut money to the arts. Let’s give more to social programs. Let’s cut money to the state parks toom [sic] who needs them. Let’s give more money to the lazy, non producing members of society. People need to seriously wake up.”

In Louisville, “71 and Done” issued this sage warning:

“…you couldn’t pay me enough to support this nasty musician’s union organization. Volunteers beware! They publically eat their young! And if you are so inclined to give freely of your time, there are so many other worthy and deserving organizations in this town to support! [Personally, I’m 71 and DONE with this organization.]”

In Syracuse, “Orangepeel42” bravely declared:

“Big deal. If the SSO is world-class and not enough people support, so what. Why should I pay to listen to classic music, when I can buy it off the internet? Seems like a foolish statement to imply all the good trickle down benefits, like Restaurants, etc. Let the restaurants buy the tickets then. Let it fold, for all I care.”

Summary: [Classical] musicians are lazy, non-producing members of society who publically eat their young and are superfluous next to free music downloaded from the internet.  (Brackets for Ludacris’ benefit, since he, too, is superfluous next to the free music downloaded from the internet — no offense, Mr. Cris.)

This is a good spot for me to redirect any who are still with me to Mr. Jeremy Mastrangelo’s 2010 article, Making Music: The work of a Syracuse Symphony Orchestra musician isn’t as effortless as it sometimes seems.  In it, he correctly states that cultural perceptions of orchestral musicians aren’t quite “in tune” with reality, and compares it to professional football players.  Here’s a snippet:

“I can’t imagine anyone looking at an NFL player and saying, ‘You know, that must be the easiest job ever. Those guys work for 16 weeks out of the year (19 if they have a great year), and on those work weeks they are only playing on one day, and on that one day there’s only one hour of actual game time, and then they’re only on the field for half of the game. They only work for a half-hour a week … playing a game! There you go, easiest job ever.’”

So here’s the deal-e-o, peeps.  The Arts are the veggies in our cultural diet.  You gotta eat ur veggies if you want to keep things moving, so to speak.  If not, not.  There’s a reason arguments against the Arts always sound constipated: they are.  But if we listen to these thuggish arguments, then obviously those of us who’ve made our lives in music are clearly not getting with the social program.  Welcome to the New World Order.  So, practice it with me.

“Ugh,” pronounced, “Uhhhhhhgh.”  “Me hungry,” pronounced, “HAOHN-gree”

Me want meat….(that one is just as it sounds.)

Advertisements
  1. […] EDIT:  David Beem writes a humorous take on the Orchestra and funding issue in his recent post, Classical Musicians Eat their Young. […]

  2. I just resigned from a small symphony orchestra board and it was the best thing I ever did. Their finances are a disaster (running a deficit) while the executive director says “at least we are in the black, we don’t have debt”. That is just plain stupid. The future of great orchestral music to smaller communities is LA Phil Live. The best quality musicians and conducting at reasonable prices. As I reminded my fellow board members (and was “shamed out of the room” being negative), our organization’s mission statement did not include anything about supporting local musicians.

    • The “best” thing you ever did? As a former musician, I have a foot on both sides of this issue. I appreciate the supply and demand principle, but also support the notion of supporting your local musicians.To read your comment, it sounds like your orchestra could really use you. It sounds as if you have an appreciation for the business side of their operation; maybe you could help them find some creative solutions. Perhaps the issue is less about economics and more about retaining the aesthetic/social values that brought you to serve on the board in the first place. We have enough depressing politics in our country these days that when we find an opportunity to build and/or sustain things that are of genuine cultural value, why not embrace those things? Our country is still what we make of it. I fear that supply and demand arguments come up short in human values when it comes to sustaining your local orchestra, the jobs it creates and the souls it nourishes within your community. Is that idealistic? Yep. But why not? What greater principle is served at the expense of striving to accomplish this goal?

      Thanks for your comment.

      David

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: