July 21, 2010

A needed change of perspective

Most of our staff will be attending the Association of California Symphony Orchestras 42nd Annual Conference this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Much like the League of American Orchestras earlier this summer, ACSO is sounding notes of a minor key: "Orchestras and choruses are struggling. Slashed funding, declining attendance, and increased costs are just a few of the problems we have to wrestle with as a community. Join your colleagues... to learn new techniques and acquire new tools that are necessary to remain competitive and viable in this ever-changing world."

We recently read two articles that suggest that we need to shift our perspective a bit to realize just how vital classical music is to our world today.

Heather MacDonald argues in a great article in the conservative quarterly City Journal (published by the Manhattan Institute) that the jaws of even Romantic era composers would be on the floor to see the sheer quantity, let alone quality, of modern professional musicians; to see many of them live a comfortable middle class life on salaries from their musical careers; and to know that there are literally hundreds of high caliber orchestras and thousands of smaller ensembles in the U.S. alone. They would also be astonished at our modern concert culture and the impact of recording technology - especially at the desire of modern audiences to listen with concentration and in silence to the same pieces, in their entirety, without interruption, played over and over again. MacDonald highlights the early music movement (hey, that's us!) as a revitalizing force in classical music, particularly in the rediscovery of lost works that are "new" to us but also accessible as opposed to much of the new music being composed today, often in academic isolation.

Scott Fogelsong, our new Scholar in Residence, posted on his blog Free Composition a similar sentiment. "So there is a great deal to be happy about, to be thankful for, and to celebrate. Classical music—whatever the heck that really means—is not ailing, dying, or even coughing to speak of. Stop listening to the critics and the doomsayers and the writers of alarmist screeds. Just look around. Better yet, just go listen."

You know what, Scott, we think that's great advice.

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