View From The East: Critics and the Crisis
By Greg Sandow
© 2003 NewMusicBox
Classical music may be in trouble. Details below. But if this is true, what should music critics do about it? This month seemed like a good time to ask this question, because it's the month when the Music Critics Association of North America holds its annual meeting (in San Francisco this year, from June 18 to 21). In my view, they should be asking the question themselves, and in fact might scrap all their other business, because if something isn't done, they—or rather we (since I'm a critic, too)—might all be out of jobs. To say nothing of the harm to music itself.
So why is classical music in trouble? I used to think things weren't so bad; I used to think classical music needed to change, but that it wasn't in any immediate danger, even if change didn't come quickly. Now I'm not so sure. Over the past decade or so, classical music—or, more precisely, the position of classical music in current American culture—has sagged in three notable ways:
- The classical record business has all but collapsed.
Or at least the major labels have. One of them (BMG) is all but gone. Sony and EMI don't do very well. The three Universal labels—Decca, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon—remain reasonably strong, but they're owned by Vivendi, a failed, unstable conglomerate, which might sell them at any time, maybe to a new owner who won't be happy unless they make more money, which they could only do by concentrating more on crossover CDs. (See my piece on Vivendi, which appeared last August in The Wall Street Journal.) But then none of these companies could survive without crossover, not even Universal, even though Sony gets thought of as the crossover king. But in fact it's Universal that rules crossover, by miles, selling millions of AndrÈ Rieu and Andrea Bocelli discs (while Sony gets the bad reputation, largely because its president, Peter Gelb, has talked more honestly in public than any other label head). A few independent classical record companies still can be frisky, but some are hedging their bets, by moving into pop and world music. Even Nonesuch, for years one of the classiest classical labels, has moved away from classical music, recasting itself in the last decade as a more general (and, in purely musical terms, more interesting) art music label—with a notion of "art music" that now includes Emmylou Harris and Buena Vista Social Club.
- Classical radio is shrinking, and there aren't many classical shows on public TV.
We've read lots of complaints about this, which got loudest in New York after WNYC-FM, our public radio station, cut back on classical music last year. Often lost in the outrage, though, are some hard, sad facts: Public radio listeners don't want classical music. WNYC's statistics were devastating: When "Morning Edition" ended each day, and classical broadcasts began, 80% of everyone listening tuned out. Of course there's a hardcore loyal minority, but here's the biggest blow. This tiny group, vocal as it was, didn't donate money in proportion to its numbers. That's right—the 20% or so of listeners who tuned in to classical music programs gave less than 20% of the listener donations the station depends on. And these numbers were typical of public radio stations all over the country. Why should public radio broadcast classical music when most people don't listen to it, and when those who do listen don't support the stations? (See my piece on WNYC, again from The Wall Street Journal. And, even more important, see "Public Radio's Private Guru," by Samuel G. Freedman, from The New York Times, November 11, 2001.) As for public TV, a recent article in Opera News said, very simply, that PBS doesn't show opera much any more because people didn't watch it. Or, as John Goberman, the executive producer of Live from Lincoln Center, was quoted as saying: "There have been some broadcasts over the years where we'd have been better served to have made videocassettes and just sent them to the people who actually wound up watching." (See "Blackout," by Barry Singer, Opera News, February 2003.) (And let's not cry that public broadcasting ought to be noncommercial. No one disputes that. But what kind of noncommercial programs can they afford to broadcast? The number of classical listeners, or classical TV-watchers, may now be so low that many stations can't survive with programming aimed for them.)
- There's much less classical media coverage than there used to be.
I don't know any formal studies of this, but I made one myself, informally, in the Time magazine library, early in the '90s. I went through every issue of Time from 1980 to 1990, counting the pieces on music. In 1980, they were mostly about classical music. In 1990, they were mostly about pop. In the mid-'90s, I wrote a piece for Opera News (never published), for which I interviewed the publicists of opera companies around the country. All said it was harder to place stories than it used to be. One reason, ironically, was the success of all the arts—there are more theatre companies, dance companies, and museums than there used to be, all competing for space in the same part of the newspaper. But it's also true that popular culture gets a lot of space, and that a new generation of editors just doesn't have as much use for classical music as the old one did. Nor does a new generation of readers, whose views the editors reflect. In the '80s, you could read about classical music in Saturday Review, High Fidelity, Stereo Review, and even Vanity Fair (plus, I'm sure, other magazines, which I can't bring to mind right now). Where can you read about it now?
So these are some big, ominous, overt signs of classical-music trouble. What hasn't been hurt up to now, or at least not much, are live performances. Orchestras and opera companies still have their audience. It's true that arts centers now don't book as many touring classical music acts as they used to, because there's too large an audience for other kinds of music. And it's true that some orchestras (though not all) have seen weakness in ticket sales during the past two years, and that all orchestras have to work harder to sell tickets than they used to. They can't depend on subscription sales, and have to hustle, instead, to sell single tickets. But you can't point to any great, long-term, and apparently irreversible decline in the live classical audience.
Still, orchestras face huge economic problems, as we've been hearing. I used to think that this wasn't true, that all nonprofit groups were suffering from the bad economy, and that of course some orchestras would be in trouble, simply because in any business we'll find companies that don't function well. And it's true that much of the writing I've seen on this subject doesn't make a crucial distinction—which orchestras are in trouble because they're badly run and which are trouble because of problems afflicting the orchestra world as a whole? (And, for that matter, what percentage of orchestras are badly run? Is it higher than the percentage of badly run museums or badly run businesses?)
Now, though, I think there may really be a problem—I'm hearing rumbles of major structural deficits, afflicting even the most successful orchestras. Is there an ongoing gap between income and expenses, hidden by the '90s economic boom, but now getting painfully visible?
And can we assume, for that matter, that the classical live-performance audience won't start to decline? Why shouldn't the problems with classical recording, classical radio, and classical media coverage not spread into live performances? All the other problems come about, in the end, because fewer people care about classical music. And if that's true, why, in the future, won't fewer people buy tickets to concerts?
So if all this is true—if classical music really might be in trouble—what should critics do about it?
The answer, I think, is pretty simple. They—we—have to go on the offensive. We have to get people interested in classical music; we should, in fact, make that our first priority.
But how do we do that? Well, we can't be scholars. We can't only write about things that hard-core classical music fans care about. We can't simply say (for instance) that somebody played Brahms, and that her tempi were a bit too fast, and her articulation of the inner structure too lax. Or, to put it differently, we can't afford to take the view of a pop critic I worked with late in the '80s at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner who'd say he wrote only for the fans of whatever band he reviewed. For him, that was possible; the bands he reviewed really did have fans. For us, it's not possible, or at least not helpful, because our "bands" (so to speak)—our orchestras, our opera companies, our new music groups—need more attention. (Well, some pop groups do, too, maybe most of them, if you leave out the few with chart-topping hits, but the bands likely to be reviewed—and, of course, pop music as a whole—are doing fine.)
So when we write about Brahms (or Ingram Marshall), we have to ask who we're writing for. And the answer, if you ask me, is that we're not writing just for the hardcore. We're writing for anyone who might be interested, which from one point of view means millions of people—fully one-fourth of the population, according to one study I've seen—who like classical music, but mostly don't buy concert tickets (or, presumably, many classical CDs). Or maybe we're writing for people a little more sharply defined than that, people who, perhaps, are curious, intelligent, and musical, whether they like classical music or not. Or for anyone with serious tastes in art of any kind (including alternative bands and other forms of non-chart-topping pop). If we take the first approach, maybe we'll talk about how music feels, trying to lure the Three Tenors crowd into more serious concerts. If we do it the second way, maybe we'll find connections between classical music and the things our readers already like. (All of which could be tricky, since the Three Tenors fans might find an orchestra concert too highbrow, while serious pop types would—believe it or not—find it too lowbrow, because there's no sign of any serious engagement with what the music means. But this is another story, for another time. Since no group of people can ever be monolithic, we're sure to find people of both kinds who'll pay attention to what we have to say.)
But—no matter who we're addressing—how do we do this? For a start, we have to be lively. Which doesn't mean being dumb, phony, absurdly pumped-up, or full of hype. We just have to meet the same standards as everything else in the publications we write for. Read any newspaper, read any magazine, and you'll see writers trying to be interesting, starting their pieces (to cite just one standard journalistic technique) with something meant to draw their readers in. Do classical critics do that, in their reviews or their features? Not often enough. Sometimes you'd think we simply were exempt from editing, that we're so lofty and removed—just as classical music is often thought to be—that editors don't even bother to hold us to the standards applied everywhere else. This, in the present climate, sounds like a recipe for doom. We ought to write in a way that most people can understand, and that—potentially, at least—might interest more people than are interested right now.
And what then happens to all the serious musical points we want to make? We still make them. But we have to put them in a context non-specialists can understand. We still can praise, for instance, musicians in a Baroque music concert for double-dotting their rhythms. But we have to say why that matters, why we think it makes the music sound so much better—so much more natural, more lively, or more forceful, or more likely to entertain us. (Let's not forget that, before the 19th century, much of what we now call classical music really was written as entertainment.) We might say that the musicians pushed the music into orbit by playing all the dotted rhythms the same way. Or that they did it by playing them differently, each musician giving the rhythm his or her own spin. This shouldn't be hard to do, and in fact would make our criticism more vivid even for hardcore readers. (Memo to self: Take your own advice!)
Can we use specialized language? Hey, why not? The fishing columnist does; the sportswriters do; the movie critic does. The only difference, of course, is that the fishing columnist doesn't have to get people to fish, and the sportswriters don't care who goes to ballgames (they might even happily urge people not to go, if the team is really bad). We, on the other hand, need to get people interested, so we should, as much as possible, define our specialized terms as we go ("the plucked strings in pizzicato passages," we might write, with "pizzicato" carefully italicized, to mark it as specialized, so that readers will understand why they might not know what it means).
We shouldn't be boosters. We shouldn't pretend that everything's wonderful and glorious, because, first of all, it isn't, and, even more important, nothing in the world is. I'll grant that some people idolize classical music, or at least the idea of it, and honestly believe that all classical concerts are wonderful and that there's no ego or careerism in the classical music world. (Let's have a moment of silence for that last idea, which I first heard from the bass player in a long-ago metal band, Kingdom Come.) But most of us are more realistic than that, even about things we don't know much about.
So it's crucial, at least in my view, that classical critics pull no punches when they talk about bad concerts. I know critics, some of them very prominent, who at least sometimes take the opposite path, blunting their criticism, because they want to support the field as a whole, or to support some unusual programming, even if the music-making reeks. But this makes classical music unreal to many people. (And may also make them feel betrayed, if they go to the concerts we've told white lies about, and hear for themselves how bad they are.) In the real world, people disagree, sometimes violently. Some people are frauds; some aren't good at what they do; some, on the other hand, are marvelous. If we talk as if everything in classical music is good—or if we praise far more than we find fault—readers, even those who don't know a thing about classical music, will sense that we're not describing the real world.
So if there are disagreements within classical music, as of course there are, critics should celebrate them, and take sides. If some people are frauds (some conductors, for instance), critics should say so. If people are marvelous, critics should say that, too, in a way that stands out from the routine praise of people who are only routinely good. If we show the world that something's actually at stake in classical music, that it matters how things are done, that we're inspired by many concerts, but—like anyone else—variously bored, distracted, or offended when things aren't as good as they ought to be, we'll be taking a big step toward showing the rest of the world that there's something to care about.
(But there's much more to say on this subject. I'd be curious to hear from readers. What else can critics—and anybody else—do to get people interested in classical music? Feel free to post to the forum below this or to e-mail me directly, at email@example.com. One thing, though—I'd rather not get involved in discussions about music education. Music education is important; I'm not saying it isn't. But it's a well-worn subject, and also isn't really a solution. If we depend on music education to create our audience, we'll first of all have to wait a generation, which we don't have time for. And we're also asking other people—in this case the schools, and by extension the government, since government controls the schools—to solve our problems for us. I'd rather talk about things we ourselves can do, and do right now, to get people interested before it's too late.)
Articles and commentary posted on NewMusicBox reflect the viewpoint of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply official endorsement by the American Music Center.
|The never-ending death of classical music||Kyle Gann|
|Hi, Greg, and happy birthday.
As much as I'm in basic sympathy with what you're saying, let me play devil's advocate.
As you know, I'm chair of the music department at a liberal arts college. I spend my day teaching young people to analyze Beethoven's sonatas and Chopin's Nocturnes and Le Sacre du Printemps. And even I don't listen to classical radio. Why not? Because I turn on NPR, and what do I hear? Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor overture. Von Suppe's Light Cavalry overture. The overture to Schwanda the Bagpiper. If I'm real lucky, maybe an isolated movement from a Mahler symphony. Except for Mahler, which makes me mad when it's excerpted, that's not classical music, in the sense that those pieces are "classics." It's just European pop music for orchestra, and bad pop music at that. It's crap. And I switch it off. If I could turn on the radio and hear the late Beethoven sonatas, or an entire Brahms string quintet, I'd be pleased, but that's pretty rare. Likewise, I don't read classical music reviews, because, as you say, I don't give a damn if some pianist played the Brahms Second Concerto a little faster than some other pianist. I glance through the headlines in the Times Music section, and maybe once in five or six weeks I see an article intriguing enough to read.
I don't think classical music is dying, but I think Romantic music is, and it's about damn time. Styles die, and lose their audiences. Around 1600, figured bass music was invented, and the old, polyphonic music of the Renaissance was consigned to antiquity. For the next 300 years, only scholars were interested in it. Baroque music was current, relevant. Then, between 1720 and 1740, Baroque music was replaced by the lighter, Italianate classical style. Except for the rare group of specialists, like London's Academy of Ancient Music, Telemann and Vivaldi went out of style. No one played them anymore. Mozart was the hot thing. And during the 20th century, the big orchestral music of the Romantic era went out of style. The fact that it continued being played was a historical anomaly. But it's kind of perverse for a culture to continue taking an interest in music hundreds of years old, made on a distant continent and expressing a foreign worldview, no matter how great music it is. I consider Josquin and Monteverdi composers as great as Beethoven, and how often do we hear their music these days? The time is bound to come when we hear Beethoven no more often than that.
On the other hand, if I could turn on the radio and hear Terry Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes, or Ashley's Improvement: Don Leaves Linda, or Nancarrow's Player Piano Studies, or John Luther Adams In the White Silence, I'd be glued to the radio. I realize that's not going to happen, the way things are going. But the death of "classical" music is not the death of music, and it's not even the death of "serious" music. "Classical" is a commercial marketing term, a section at Tower Records. It's been sold to us by massive corporations as a closed category, and it doesn't include any of the relevant "classical" music that's being made today. Most of the composers I know are insulted if you call them "classical." We do, desperately, need a category of music for longer, deeper, more thought-provoking works, works that are being made today and that are relevant to what's going on in our culture. I love John Schaefer's and David Garland's programs on WNYC. Those to me are "classical radio" as it should be. And I'm not convinced that those are going to disappear if conventional classical radio and classical newspaper coverage disappear.
To a point, I'm agreeing with you that classical music culture has become trivial and self-indulgent, a game for a tiny group of insiders. (And I share your panic about the drastic cutbacks for arts coverage in general, which is an argument for another day.) But I'm not convinced that, as composers, it's in our best interest to go to heroic lengths to revive it or save it. I'll always teach Josquin and Beethoven and Brahms because I think young musicians should have a thorough grounding in musical technique of the past - the way Mozart and Beethoven studied the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier during the decades when audiences weren't listening to Bach. But I feel that what's needed is radical advocacy for the serious, thoughtful music of our day. We need new music radio, new music reviewing. And I strongly suspect that the "classical" music aficionados are not our allies in that fight - they may be our worst enemies, in fact. And I've long felt that we're going to need to wipe the slate clean of 19th-century European music before 21st-century American music of an ambitious and thoughful character is going to be allowed to have any cultural presence. As I've written before, classical music is a grand ocean liner that's sinking - but they sent us composers off in a tiny lifeboat several decades ago, and I find it counterproductive for the people in the lifeboat to run back and try to get the ocean liner to float. We need to save the lifeboat.
I know all the counter-arguments. I realize that there's a continuity between Brahms and Stravinsky and today's new music, and that knowing the continuity enriches one's listening - but there was a continuity between Bach and Beethoven too, and Beethoven was enjoyed by people who had never heard Bach. I own many thousands of recordings of old classical music, and I'm deeply attached to a lot of it, but I don't believe that nurturing an appreciation for Bach among the general public helps people appreciate my own music more, or makes it easier for me to get a hearing - perhaps just the opposite. I realize perfectly well that getting a widespread cultural hearing for new music, especially in the current atmosphere of ignorance and rabid conformity, is going to be a massive uphill fight. But I don't think saving "classical" music is going to make it an easier fight - and it may even make it more difficult.
I'm very sad about what's happened to classical music, but I feel the tragedy happened decades ago and we're just seeing the dragged-out tail end of it. Perhaps, insofar as "classical music" means "European orchestral repertoire of the 18th and 19th centuries" - and can we make it mean anything other than that? - it's just the natural order of things. As Cage said, when asked about the tradition that the Buddha died from eating mushrooms, "The purpose of mushrooms is to rid the world of old rubbish. The Buddha died a natural death." Maybe the Merry Wives of Windsor overture is finally dying a natural death.
Of course, it's easy for me to say - I'm not out of a job.
|The forgotten compliment||Kyle Gann|
|P.S. My compliments, by the way, for having stated the crisis in such exquisitely clear terms. |
|I think Mr. Gann nailed several issues. It comes down to what in the heck "classical" means, and--except as a radio or music-store format--it is pretty much meaningless in the way it's being used here. Mr. Sandow implies that the problems of operatic and orchestral music are equivalent, but in my experience the audiences for orchestral music, chamber music, and opera are quite distinct. That is, if both symphony orchestras and opera companies are in trouble, it isn't necessarily the same trouble. "Classical" also surely includes a large body of church music, which--following last month's discussion--doesn't seem to be in trouble.|
True classicism is based on principles of form and thus classical works are ready to be rediscovered and reinterpreted by succeeding generations to whom such forms appeal. Romanticism, though, is a movement intimately connected with the society that produced the particular work. Thus it is no surprise that, say, the wedding march from Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or lacks resonance to a modern audience. After WWI, martial music became hard to perform with a straight face. And so on.
As for "classical" radio, well, a lot of good pieces just aren't suited for radio. But aficionados shouldn't feel bad; most rock 'n' roll songs, including many great ones, aren't suited for radio either. Thus the single released to the Top 40 is often, perhaps usually, not the best song from an album. Radio requires certain parameters of music; for example, large differences in dynamics don't sound good on radio.
The classical record business has collapsed? Of course. The entire industry has collapsed. Classical, being a small niche market, doesn't have much fat to cut. But the ease and cheapness with which digital recording can be carried out--and the symphony orchestra, with its wide swings in dynamics, particularly benefits from the digital revolution--means that orchestras can (if they wish) manufacture and release their own recordings. Stay tuned, because the entire industry will be unrecognizable in 5 years.
The music that has been accepted in the Western canon was not viewed, in its time, with the same reverence with which we treat it nowadays. What we today call "classical," in the loose sense, is simply those pieces which were recognized as the greatest productions of their era. Others (such as the NPR selections dissed by Mr. Gann) simply never made it into the canon. Those composers who remain revered today had to have a certain popularity--not just mathematical excellence but a way of touching people deeply--in their own time. Liszt was the 19th-century equivalent of a rock star and Brahms fought his way up from the same sort of German port-area sailor bars where the Beatles got their start. Often on these message boards I get the feeling that some of the participating composers are writing with the hopes of having their plaster bust next to those of Beethoven and Brahms, and they hope to do so based on the cognitive or cultural importance of their music. But Beethoven and Brahms were not only technically superior, they engaged with audiences. The road to Parnassus includes a detour through the ha'penny section. And, apropos of that, we might ask why Yanni is able to pack people in to hear his version of orchestral music. If your answer is, "today's audience hates everything that doesn't suck," then you probably shouldn't be writing music, since you will not be able to connect with such an audience.
So I think Mr. Sandow's article, while raising excellent points, falls down when it conflates the problems of, say, performances of new orchestral or operatic music with the issue of people no longer appreciating Mozart. Mr. Gann is right; these are different issues.
|As someone perpetually exasperated with the state of American classical-music journalistic criticism, I have only two pieces of advice for critics:|
Write about meanings!
Talk about what you hear!
While I don't think disagreements within the classical-music or new-music world should be hushed up, too much of what I read seems preoccupied with hashing out disagreements over internal ideological issues, and making sure everything gets classed in the proper ideological category. To those people outside the immediate critical community we're presumably trying to reach, it risks looking like just so much boring pseudo-punditry. Why anyone should care about the music being discussed gets pretty much left out.
You don't get nearly so much of that in, say, the better reviews of novels or movies. Reviewers are more willing to talk about what the novel or movie is, as well as what stylistic or ideological category it represents; and are willing to make judgments on other grounds than the stylistic or ideological category they've placed it in. Why is it that American classical-music criticism seems to be taking George F. Will or Ann Coulter as its model rather than, say, Pauline Kael or Anthony Lane?
|Great post, BN, but comparing the likes of Mssrs. Sandow and Gann (and me, 'cause I write reviews at times) to Ann Coulter? Now that's harsh!
|Make it new||Kyle Gann|
|Ha! If you think about it, Brian Newhouse is saying the same thing I said. Pauline Kael is a great model. But what if Kael has been forced to talk about the same 50 old films year in and year out, by only eight or ten different directors? She would never have become Pauline Kael. You can only write about "what you hear" if you're dealing with new pieces every week - you can't re-explicate the Brahms Second Symphony every year for the rest of your life. The problem with classical criticism is, it looks the same every year. How many articles can we read on Wagner's anti-semitism? How many Kurt Weill revivals can we get excited about in a lifetime? And so when the NYPhil merges with Carnegie Hall they'll jump on that - FINALLY, something meaningful to write about, but it's not, really. Not by Pauline Kael standards.
So the short answer I could have given to Greg's question about what critics should do is, Write about new music every week, the way Pauline Kael wrote about new films every week.
|The Customer is Always Wrong||Barry Drogin|
|I just want to pick out one little thought from amongst Mr. Gann's cogent response, the one relating to music being understandable to an audience without the audience understanding what came before. At the time of The Great Divide, you know, Babbitt's article that someone else titled, "Who Cares If You Listen?", the prevalent understanding amongst composers, which I assume the audiences then took as a kind of f*** you to them, was that you had to understand the entire history of music, up to the decade before, in order to appreciate and understand the music being written at the moment. I found, in the early 80's (for me personally), that it was in fact the exact opposite: that audiences were grooving immediately to the music of Glass and Reich, but that trained musicians (of all ages) couldn't understand how to listen to this music - it took me three years of trying to finally learn how to do it. Similarly, when I perform "Alamo!" in front of an audience of sophisticated musicians, I get almost no response, but when I perform it in front of an audience with no background in new music, they go wild for the piece!|
So, in this context, I would suggest that it is the gatekeepers - the performers, artistic directors, conductors, radio programmers, maybe even the critics - who need some "music education", but I don't know that that will "work" - their investment in their education is too precious to them.
not Nice Music
|Recent Reviews of Orchestral and Chamber Works of Takemitsu, Dutilleux, Penderecki, and Boulez|
|You can only write about "what you hear" if you're dealing with new pieces every week - you can't re-explicate the Brahms Second Symphony every year for the rest of your life
Over the past two weeks, music critics from the New York Times have reviewed contemporary orchestral and chamber pieces by Takemitsu, Dutilleux, Penderecki, and Boulez. How important do you feel it is that music critics, and audiences, have repeated exposure to contemporary works -- as opposed to writing about, and hearing, only new works? Some classical music critics, such as Tim Page, have suggested that reviewing contemporary, and new, music is less than one-fifth of the job responsibility of today's classical music critic.
While waiting for music critics to review more contemporary American orchestral and chamber music, would it be worthwhile for the participants of this forum to be discussing contemporary music by Takemitsu, Dutilleux, Penderecki, and Boulez? [And Berio.] Or is that un-American?
|American Composers Orchestra and Lincoln Center|
|The New York Philharmonic's plan leaves Lincoln Center with "no long-term occupant for Avery Fisher Hall, where the orchestra has been based since 1962. But it also affords them opportunities to reshape the performing arts scene for decades to come."
New York Times, June 2, 2003
Let's talk money. How much would it cost to endow the American Composers' Orchestra so that it could perform a greatly expanded season at Avery Fisher Hall? Can we forego the reconstruction of the auditorium for a generation, and raise $250 million for such an endowment (about 70 per cent of the combined endowment of the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall)? Can we seek some allies with the leaders of Lincoln Center, the Juilliard School, the MET, the New York City Opera, and others?
|Inner Exile||Daniel d'Quincy|
|I’ve been reading through various forums on New Music Box with great interest. (Didn’t realize this was happening here until I became a member of AMC last month.) This subject seems to me particularly interesting.
I would certainly endorse Kyle’s idea that critics should be writing about new music every week, if we expand the category of new music at least enough to include “classics” of the last century.
But my entry into the discussion here is mainly motivated by what Barry had to say. It seems to me that the values served by the most significant composers of the past had very little to do with pleasing or entertaining the broad public. Composers have everywhere and always had to live, and so various compromises have been necessary. I would never judge any composer for making compromises when necessary. But it was their overall opposition to compromise that for me makes certain composers especially exemplary. It was, for example, Beethoven’s devotion, and even belligerent defense of, purely aesthetic values that makes him, for me, a model of all that is worthy in a great musician. Moreover, this point has a historical significance for me, because the musical art of the “classical” tradition was the product of people who left a lot of blood on the tracks, so to speak. I don’t like to think that all of that was for naught, and I don’t personally want to be the one to betray the ideals that it reflects.
Kyle’s remark about constantly hearing Nicolai and Von Suppe on classical radio is worth thinking about as a measure of the sensibilities of the audience. And so is Barry’s reference to the audience’s appreciation of Glass and Reich. I mean, face it folk’s, can we really ignore the obvious decadence, degradation and brutalization of culture across the board in advanced industrial (or post-industrial?) society? How can the sensibilities of high art be maintained, except as a monkish kind of survival at some remove from the mainstream? The artist today is, in the very nature of things as they are, living in what some have called “inner exile.” That’s what it feels like to me, at least.
Barry, I don’t mean to dispute what you say about appreciation for works like “Alamo.” I don’t even mean to say that I wouldn’t appreciate it myself. I wasn’t always in inner exile. I spent a good number of years playing in the pop world, backing up the likes of Aretha, Gladys Knight (whom I still love passionately) and Donna Summer. Pop has a way of getting certain juices flowing. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and it seems to me that, especially when it comes to things like disco, some of those juices are distinctly fascist in content. My own appreciation for their taste only leads me to reflect even longer and harder on what it means to grow up fascist, just as my inaction at the present moment gives me a wholly different perspective on what were once called “good Germans.” Nader calls it “growing up corporate,” and I suppose that’s a less extreme way of saying what I’m trying to say. The point is that I can’t help being a product of my time any more than anybody else, but I don’t therefore use my own reflexes and emotions as the measure of all that’s good, true, and beautiful.
But “classical” art IS that measure. This is its claim on our respect and devotion, n’est-ce pas? In any case, maybe the success of Glass and Reich is just a more up-to-date expression of the success of Nicolai and Von Suppe. Can the children of people who were and are equipped for little more than the bonbons of the latter be expected to get much further than the fripperies of the former? Anyway, I’m glad for the fact that a few stations can still survive playing both ancient and modern orchestral “crap” as Kyle terms it. It’s far less demeaning of human nature than what most of the other stations are playing. Thank Heaven for small favors.
As for what I’m trying to do as a composer, I’m inclined to believe Schoenberg’s idea that, if it’s art, people won’t understand it. Maybe Marx had it right after all, that bourgeois society was once a progressive cultural force, but that it has outlived that function. But I don’t want to bring the idea of progress into this. As I often like to say, there’s no such thing as progress, and plenty of it!
|20th Century "Classics"|
|...if we expand the category of new music at least enough to include “classics” of the last century.
If you mean by "classics" the works of the last century of Ives, Ruggles, Crawford, Sessions, Partch, Nancarrow, Babbitt, Feldman, Carter inter alia, I'm with you. If you mean by "classics" works of the last century by Satie, Debussy, R. Strauss, Ravel, Stravinsky, de Falla, Sibelius, Janacek inter alia, I'm not. Works by these composers are becoming overperformed by American orchestras and public radio stations afraid of the intensity of American contemporary classical music.
Better, I think, to advocate the performance by American orchestras and the broadcasting on public radio of "classics" of the past quarter century; rather than the past century.
|Simply great||Barry Drogin|
|Welcome to the Forum, Mr. d'Quincy, and into my gun sights. Because you are a new member, I will be kind and inform you that your use of terms like "high art" and "great" are alarm words for me. I find it particularly interesting that you find music that gives you pleasure to be "fascist", but don't recognize that the other music you are jealous of can easily be called "elitist." The 21st century is moving towards more "democratic" forms of music, and although democracy is a horrible political system, it is better than all of the others (snuck that citation in without you realizing it, eh?).|
Here's a truism for you: anything that is popular, or that makes a lot of money, can't be art. Do you believe that to be so? If so, check your pleasure center at the door and enter the tortured world of "high art" to your displeasure. My, that came out convoluted!
But thanks, anyway, for actually responding to my posting. Seems there are some here who have decided never to acknowledge the content of anything I post, I suppose in defense of "civilization" (which creates nuclear weapons), "high art" (which serves the rich), and the preservation of "greatness" (which turns the enjoyment of music into a lottery system). Ah, Beethoven! How romantic of you!
Not Nice Music
|Barry Drogin Truisms|
|My, that came out convoluted!|
|Mr. Tinkle chases in real-time||Barry Drogin|
|Wait until he returns to the Forum homepage!|
|crap circles||Seth Gordon|
|Oy, where to start? I don't like responding to those who post anonymously, let alone those who use nerdy sci-fi silliness for screen names. But this is something that comes up again and again and again here... twice in the last day: high art vs. low art, pop vs. "art music", all that business. I'll respond to the sentiment in a more complete way over on
the other page where it came up, because I just don't know if there's any point debating someone who equates pop music to "darkness" - especially when it's been scientifically proven that Britney Spears is a source of both light and nourishment.|
Suffice to say: Milton Babbit could never write "Wouldn't It Be Nice" in a million freakin' years. He has neither the technique nor the conciousness for for it. I think you'd be surprised how many "serious" composers are actually quite jealous of those who can knock out a good, concise, three-minute pop song. There's an art to it that is beyond most academics. Obviously it's beyond you.
Strange how you blanketly dismiss all pop music yet claim to be the one who is "open to human possibility"
As usual, reprazentin' tha darkness,
|Posted that on the wrong page. My bad. supposed to be over here... |
Cripes, I'm gone for a month and the first thing I do on my return is screw up. I don't imagine anyone's surprised by that. Sigh.
Since there seems to be a lot of calling out the webmaster this month, maybe, kind sir, you can fix this one for me?
|Milton Babbit [sic] could never write "Wouldn't It Be Nice" in a million [...] years. He has neither the technique nor the conciousness [sic] for it.
As a highly experienced popular song writer (in his early career), it is highly likely that Milton Babbitt would indeed have the technique to write a popular song comparable to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" given the renewed inclination and time.
As for Milton Babbitt's "conciousness", Babbitt's knowledge of both American popular song and the American structural "long-line" [ pace Roger Sessions] was of huge importance to one of his most talented and distinguished students --Stephen Sondheim.
("Mentions" of three great - and related through teaching - American composers; and "corrections" of two spelling errors. A good morning for American civilization.)
|instrumental, not classical?||dcmeckler|
|Perhaps the difference is more in text-centered music vs. instrumental music, rather than popular vs. classical. It is simply difficult to write about the nuances that distinguish a great performance of Brahms from a mediocre one. Although Greg has ruled music education out-of-bounds for this discussion, it is at least a matter of music-making experience. If a brain is not trained to perform/perceive basic (scales & their functions, harmony, melodic contour etc.) musical structures, they are less likely to be meaningful to that brain. Most criticism of popular music at least uses the text as an entry point into discussions of meaning. It is much easier to write about words than music. The less experience the non-linguistic, musical parts of the brain has, the more likely meaning is going to come from words and visual information. Note how jazz is as marginalized in terms of record sales.|
|Music as political system?||Brian Newhouse|
|What does it really mean for music to be "fascist" or "democratic"--or "communist" or "libertarian" or "democratic socialist" or "constitutional monarchist" or "mercantilist" or "feudalist" or whatever? Is it possible to enjoy pieces of music that can be said to be described by different political systems? Why should equation of musical to political systems--generally purely metaphorical, without any historical correlation to real-world politics--be a major factor in our aesthetic judgments? Just because Adorno did it doesn't make it any more true.|
And is this really the best we can do these days when we try to talk about musical meanings? If so, what does this say about us here, now, and in America?
|Re: instrumental, not classical?||Brian Newhouse|
|"Most criticism of popular music at least uses the text as an entry point into discussions of meaning. It is much easier to write about words than music."
You could say the same, of course, about opera, or art-song, or--really--any kind of vocal classical music, Robert Ashley as much as Henry Purcell.|
The older I get, the more sympathy I have with the whole notion of "program music"--especially when I consider the notion, suggested by among others Carl Dahlhaus, that program music arose at the same time as program notes, in both cases to explain what was going on in pieces that didn't follow standard sonata-form strategies. It's all metaphor. The problem came when people started taking the metaphors literally...
The current mania for describing music, especially new/contemporary music, in terms of political systems, which I grumbled about above, is I suppose our own way of using metaphors to describe music. But political systems make such incredibly boring & limited metaphors...can't we please get some new ones?
|Brian, you raise an interesting question, "why should. . . ," but I only have time to respond to what Barry said about my post.
Well, yes, Barry, I am obviously an elitist. Now, I wonder, on the other hand, if we really have to make a polarity between democracy and elitism. I know that Thomas Jefferson was a great democrat, in practical terms, when he penned the Declaration of Independence – of course, in the context of his time, being a democrat didn’t prevent Jefferson from believing in a “natural aristocracy.” (Being a slave-owner also makes him appear a bit odd to real democrats like us.) I know that Ralph Waldo Emerson was a great democrat, and of course, Henry David Thoreau. They, of course, are celebrated for the power of the extravagant praise that they gave to the spiritual capacity of the human being, daring to imagine a transcendence of the human spirit into a more expansive level of consciousness. Necessarily, therefore, they also deplored and proclaimed the degradation of their peers in some of the most searing terms ever uttered. Not with rudeness, mind you, no - but with prophetic intensity.
My own approach to the matter results from a childhood under the tutelage of democratic socialists. To use that term, “democratic socialist,” really begs a definition, because most people imagine that it applies to a group of people who are not very well defined. Actually, the word originated in the partisan debates of a specific intellectual movement founded by various middle-class (technically, bourgeois) men and women, including, of course, Karl Marx. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, I saw the very end of the life-span of that intellectual movement, at least in that particular mold. Therefore, I know these were people who took the word democratic very seriously. And maybe they misunderstood it. In any case, they made a significant miscalculation.
They assumed that the revolution would result in free concert halls, where classical music, even “new” classical music, would be the daily fare. This is why some, probably most, of the great artists of that time were democratic socialists. Success meant a longer season. It’s terrible to be a great artist out of work. Or, it’s very good. We can’t decide.
In that society, the leading figures in all the professions and arts aspired to enjoy in their own lives the same décor that they saw in the palaces of the aristocracy. And also the upwardly mobile middle-class man. He actually did aspire to having Mozart’s music in his living room. One of the most amusing curiosities of that time is that, in so far as that society used to be functional, it usually elected men of high integrity and significant knowledge and wisdom to the Presidency. If one is not too exclusively partisan, one has to admit that earlier generations very nearly made a practice of doing so. Believe me, our quaint ancestors actually believed that just anybody couldn’t be President. It’s hard to believe, but true.
So, Barry, I think you can see where I’m coming from.
|Politics in criticism||Kyle Gann|
|I was interested in d'Quincy's comment that the "juices" of some disco and dance music are fascist - harks back to Cage's identical comment about Branca's Third Symphony at New Music America 1982. I've always had that feeling about a lot of pop music myself, that it's intended to make the listener/dancer relinquish control and lose him- or herself to the physical beat, in such a way that the pitch/harmonic content doesn't matter - much like military music and political rallies which can work a crowd into a lather and then sell them anything. It's why I'm instinctively allergic to rhythmic grooves in my music, unless they're in 41/16 meter. And it's especially interesting that d'Quincy admits that about music he likes.
But that aside, I don't quite get why Brian Newhouse thinks political metaphors dominate the music criticism discourse. A couple times in 20 years I've drawn an analogy between 12-tone music and communism (Richard Teitelbaum teaches a whole course on 20th-century music and political systems), but I can't recall having read anyone else ever having referred to music as feudalist, democratic, etc. Especially if what we're talking about is conventional criticism of the standard rep.
I do think the democratic/elitist dichotomy is kind of an eternal red herring. At least in these pages, I think we can all agree that we are all elitist enough to prefer good music (say for argument's sake, The Rite of Spring) to bad (Merry Wives of Windsor overture), and that we would be condescending to a musical taste that would make the opposite evaluation. And we are probably all democratic enough to feel that the least sophisticated person here has a right to his/her opinion, and may well even come up with an insight the rest of us missed. Barry's experience with unsophisticated audiences is one I've seen duplicated often.
|Re: Politics in criticism||Brian Newhouse|
|I was exaggerating, of course, when I asked why music might be feudalist or democratic socialist or whatever. But really, if we're going to describe music as fascist or communist--and I assure Kyle Gann that the likening of serialism to communism has become a positive commonplace in current anti-serialist polemics--then why not liken music to all the other sociopolitical systems out there, particularly those we actively prefer to fascism or communism?|
More seriously, though:
"I've always had that feeling about a lot of pop music myself, that it's intended to make the listener/dancer relinquish control and lose him- or herself to the physical beat, in such a way that the pitch/harmonic content doesn't matter - much like military music and political rallies which can work a crowd into a lather and then sell them anything."
If that sort of musical experience is to be equated with fascism--and there is a parallel with fascist glorification of the Fearless Leader--what does it say about us that so many of us enjoy that kind of musical experience, even though we decry its political equivalent?
|Discussing Contemporary Music|
|And is this really the best we can do these days when we try to talk about musical meanings?
Brian, I know how you feel. Sometimes I feel deeply sad and embarrassed by the low quality of some of the comments here in NewMusicBox. If you find a more intellectually probing site, I hope that you might mention it here for others with similar interests in musical meaning.
A couple times in 20 years I've drawn an analogy between 12-tone music and communism
Yes, Mr Gann, many of us remember how you and Mr Sandow treat participants here, and other American composers, who do not share your faith in the new tonality.
|Fascism, Communism||Kyle Gann|
|To Mr. Newhouse:
"...what does it say about us that so many of us enjoy that kind of [fascist] musical experience, even though we decry its political equivalent?
Who decries fascism? It looks to me like, these days, the American public is shoveling fascism down its gluttonous maw with both hands. It's no perplexing conundrum that a public that thrills when their President holds up a "Wanted: dead or alive" poster also loved disco.
As for communist/12-tone analogies, I am not one to use "communist" as a kneejerk disparaging term. Nancarrow considered himself a communist to the end, just not a Stalinist. For me the word's conntations are morally neutral.
|Mr. Copland: I am afraid I don't know how you define a Communist meeting|
|Testimony of Aaron Copland (accompanied by his counsel, Charles Glover) before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, Tuesday, May 26, 1953:
(Editor's note: The composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990), whose works included Billy the Kid, Lincoln Portrait, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944 and an Academy Award in 1950. Because he had gone to Italy on a Fulbright scholarship in 1951, the subcommittee questioned him about his past political associations. His oral history, published as Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland, 1900 through 1942 (New York: St. Martin's, 1984), and Copland Since 1943 (New York: St. Martin's, 1989) acknowledged that he had been a "fellow traveler" in the 1930s because "it seemed the thing to do at the time," but stated that he had never joined a political party.
Following the closed hearing, Copland issued a public statement: "On late Friday afternoon, I received a telegram from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to appear as a witness. I did. I answered to the best of my ability all of the questions which were asked me. I testified under oath that I have never supported, and am now opposed to, the limitations put on freedom by the Soviet Union... My relationships with the United States Government were originally with the Music Advisory Committee to the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs and later as a lecturer in music in South America and as a Fulbright Professor. In these capacities my work was limited to the technical aspects of music." The subcommittee never called him to testify in public. Aaron Copland received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1986.)
The Chairman. Will you stand and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. Copland. I do.
The Chairman. And your counsel's name?
Mr. Copland. Charles Glover. G-l-o-v-e-r.
The Chairman. Mr. Glover, I think this is the first time you have appeared as counsel before this committee, so I will tell you the rules of the committee. You can advise as freely as you care to with your client. You can discuss any matter he cares to during the testimony. If at any time you feel you want a private conference, we will arrange a room. Counsel is not allowed to take any part in the proceedings other than to consult with his client.
Mr. Copland, you are residing at----
Mr. Copland. Shady Lane Farm, Ossining, New York.
The Chairman. And you are a musician, composer and lecturer?
Mr. Copland. Yes.
The Chairman. Have you ever had any connection with the exchange program?
Mr. Copland. Yes, I have.
The Chairman. Would you tell us what that connection has been?
Mr. Copland. I was connected with the program on three different occasions, I believe. The first occasion I was a member of the Music Advisory Board of the State Department, and on the second occasion I was sent by Grant-in-Aid to Latin America to give lectures and concerts about American music, and on the third occasion I was a Fulbright professor in Italy for the same purpose.
The Chairman. When were you a lecturer in Italy?
Mr. Copland. 1951.
The Chairman. Now, Mr. Copland, have you ever been a Communist?
Mr. Copland. No, I have not been a Communist in the past and I am not now a Communist.
The Chairman. Have you ever been a Communist sympathizer?
Mr. Copland. I am not sure that I would be able to say what you mean by the word "sympathizer." From my impression of it I have never thought of myself as a Communist sympathizer.
The Chairman. You did not.
Mr. Copland. I did not.
The Chairman. Did you ever attend any Communist meetings?
Mr. Copland. I never attended any specific Communist party function of any kind.
The Chairman. Did you ever attend a Communist meeting?
Mr. Copland. I am afraid I don't know how you define a Communist meeting.
The Chairman. A meeting you knew then or now had been called by the Communist party and sponsored by the Communist party.
Mr. Copland. Not that I would know of. No.
The Chairman. Did you ever attend a meeting of which a major or sizable number of those in attendance were Communists?
Mr. Copland. Not to my knowledge.
The Chairman. Were you ever solicited to join the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Did anyone ever discuss with you the possibility of your joining the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. Not that I recall.
The Chairman. I know that every man has a different type of memory, so we can't ask you to evaluate your memory. Would it seem logical that were you asked to join the Communist party, you would remember?
Mr. Copland. If I had been asked to? Not unless it had some significance in my mind.
The Chairman. So your answer at this time is that you can't say definitely whether you have been asked to join the Communist party or not?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Are any of your close friends Communists?
Mr. Copland. Not to my knowledge.
The Chairman. Do you know any members of the Communist party who are Communists?
Mr. Copland. I don't know any member of the Communist party, as far as I know.
The Chairman. I may say one of the reasons you are here today is because of the part you played in the exchange program lecturing, etc., and you have a public record of association with organizations officially listed by the attorney general. As the Communist party record is extremely long, I think counsel will want to ask you some questions on that.
May I give you some advice. You have a lawyer here. There are witnesses who come before this committee and often indulge in the assumption that they can avoid giving us the facts. Those who underestimate the work the staff has done in the past end up occasionally before a grand jury for perjury, so I suggest when counsel questions you about these matters that you tell the truth or take advantage of the Fifth Amendment.
Mr. Copland. Senator McCarthy, I would like to say now, I received a telegram to be here Friday. The telegram gave me no hint as to why I was coming. If I am to be questioned on affiliations over a period of many years it is practically impossible without some kind of preparation to be able to answer definitely one way or another when I was and what I was connected with. This comes as a complete surprise.
The Chairman. May I say that during the hearing if you feel you need more time for preparation, we will adjourn and give you that time. We have no desire whatsoever to have the witness commit perjury because of lack of preparation. If you feel you can't answer these questions concerning your Communist affiliations, Communist connections, if you need more time, we will give you more time.
Mr. Copland. May I say one more word. I came here with the intention of answering honestly all the questions put to me. If I am unable to do that, it is the fact that memory slips in different ways over a long period of time.
Mr. Cohn. The record states that you signed a letter to the president urging the United States declare war on Finland. This statement was sponsored by the Council of American-Soviet Relations.
Mr. Copland. Is that a fact. Do you know when that was?
Mr. Cohn. Do you know if you signed such a statement?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of that. I can't say positively.
Mr. Cohn. This was during the trouble between the Soviet Union and Finland. That would be in the late 30s.
Mr. Copland. I am sorry but I couldn't say positively. It seems highly unlikely.
Mr. Cohn. What was your view on the trouble between the Soviet Union and Finland?
The Chairman. May I rephrase that, Roy. Did you feel at that time we should declare war on Finland?
Mr. Copland. Senator McCarthy, I am in no position--I spend my days writing symphonies, concertos, ballads, and I am not a political thinker. My relation has been extremely tangent.
The Chairman. We want to know whether you signed this letter to the president urging that we declare war on Finland-- whether you are a musician or not. We now find that you are lecturing with the stamp of approval of the United States government and we would like to check on these things. This is one small item. There is a long record of apparent Communist activities. Now you say you don't remember signing the letter.
Just to refresh your memory, may I ask, did you feel at the time the letter was signed by you that we should declare war on Finland?
Mr. Copland. I would say the thought would be extremely uncharacteristic of me. I have never thought that the declaration of war would solve, in my opinion, serious problems. I would say I was a man of hope for a peaceful solution.
The Chairman. Do you think someone forged your name?
Mr. Copland. I wouldn't know.
The Chairman. Have you heard before that you signed such a letter?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. This is the first time it has been brought to your attention?
Mr. Copland. As far as I know.
The Chairman. You have no recollection of such a letter to the president?
Mr. Copland. I have no recollection of it.
The Chairman. Did you ever attend any meetings at which this matter was the subject of conversation?
Mr. Copland. Not that I remember.
Mr. Cohn. What was your view of the Hitler-Stalin Pact -- 1939 to 1941?
Mr. Copland. I don't remember any specific view of it.
Mr. Cohn. You are listed as a sponsor of the Schappes Defense Committee. Morris Schappes, as you might recall, is a teacher at City College, New York, and has been a witness before this committee in the last couple of months. He denied Communist party membership, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to jail. The Schappes committee was organized to secure his release from jail. You are listed as a sponsor of that committee. Do you recall that?
Mr. Copland. No, I do not recall that. I know they use the names of well-known men to support their cause without authorization.
Mr. Cohn. Do you recall the Schappes case?
Mr. Copland. Vaguely.
Mr. Cohn. Have you ever met Professor Schappes?
Mr. Copland. Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Cohn. Do you think they used your name without your authorization?
Mr. Copland. I think it very possible.
The Chairman. Did you authorize the use of your name by any organization that has been listed by the attorney general or the House Un-American Activities Committee?
Mr. Copland. As far as I know, I lent my name to organizations which were subsequently listed. I don't know now that I lent it in any cases after it was listed.
Mr. Cohn. Of course, a listing of the date does not signify the date it became subversive. A listing is made on the basis of past activities of the organization. If the attorney general lists an organization in September 1948, it doesn't mean that was when it was found subversive. It means that on that date a review of the activities of the organization was completed and found to be subversive.
Mr. Copland. I didn't necessarily know about that.
Mr. Cohn. What organization did you sponsor, allow to use your name, contribute to or help in any way who were then or were subsequently listed by the attorney general as Communist fronts?
Mr. Copland. I would have to refer to my papers. May I say that I have never been shown by any official committee of any sort or questioned about this list. I heard about it through an inadvertent source. I haven't had the time or possibility of knowing whether it is complete. I did it rather hastily since Friday. I can't say positively.
The Chairman. Give us what you have and you can complete it later on.
I may say that I can understand a man who has got to depend upon the government for part of his income to have accepted a job with the government, perhaps knowing he had joined these front organizations, but it seems you have none of these qualifications and have been rather active in a number of these fronts.
Do you care to give us the list?
Mr. Copland. I think, Senator McCarthy, in fairness to me and my activity in relation to the Department of State, it was not primarily a financial relationship. I think that I was chosen because I had a unique position in American symphonic and serious music and I had a reputation as a lecturer on that subject. I, at any rate, was under the impression that I was chosen for that purpose. The payment was not the primary consideration. I was trying to help spread in other countries what we American composers were doing.
Senator McClellan. Were you employed by the federal government -- by the State Department?
Mr. Copland. I believe it was in the program of interchange of persons. I don't know if that is an employee----
Senator McClellan. Were you paid by the government?
Mr. Copland. I was paid by the Department of State interchange of persons.
Senator McClellan. Over what period of time?
Mr. Copland. Are you referring now to the non-paid advisory capacity?
Senator McClellan. Give us both. I want to get both in the record.
Mr. Copland. I was a member of the Advisory Committee on Music, Department of State between July 1, 1950 and June 30, 1951.
Senator McClellan. Did you receive any pay for that?
Mr. Copland. No. Except the per diem expenses.
Senator McClellan. How much was the per diem?
Mr. Copland. My memory may not be right. I think it was about $10.00 a day.
I was also a member of the same advisory committee from September 8, 1941 to June 30, 1942. I was also a music advisor to Nelson Rockefeller's committee when he was coordinator of Inter-American Affairs and that music advisory post was renewed to June 1943. As far as I know, that was the end of the music advisory capacity.
Senator McClellan. Did you receive a salary?
Mr. Copland. No. That was not a government job.
I was appointed visiting lecturer on music in Brazil, Argentina, etc., by the Grant-In-Aid at a salary of $500.00 a month over a period of three months around August or September of 1947.
Senator McClellan. Was that plus expenses?
Mr. Copland. I can't quite remember. It may have been per diem expenses when traveling.
Senator Mundt. You did secure traveling expenses for that?
Mr. Copland. Yes, sir.
Senator Mundt. And per diem also?
Mr. Copland. Yes.
Senator Mundt. What was the per diem?
Mr. Copland. It may have been eight or ten dollars a day. My compensation was $500.00 a month.
I was given a Fulbright professorship for six months to Italy from January to June of 1951 at a salary of $3,000 for six months, plus transportation to and from.
Senator Mundt. Did you get $3,000 from the State Department or the difference between what the Italian University paid you and what you received over here.
Mr. Copland. I was paid by the embassy in Rome. I wasn't attached to the university. I was attached to the American Academy in Rome and they housed me, but I was paid at the embassy itself.
Mr. Cohn. Did you have a security clearance before you undertook this?
Mr. Copland. One that I knew about, no.
Mr. Cohn. Did you have to fill out a form prior to receiving this appointment?
Mr. Copland. No.
Mr. Cohn. None at all.
Mr. Copland. I am not sure there were none at all.
Mr. Cohn. Did you go under Public Law 402, the Smith-Mundt Bill?
Mr. Copland. No. I knew of the bill, of course.
The Chairman. Could I ask you now about some of your activities. As I said, according to the records, you have what appears to be one of the longest Communist-front records of any one we have had here.
Is it correct that you signed some statement to President Roosevelt defending the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of that but I may have.
The Chairman. Was that your feeling at that time? Did you feel the Communist party should be defended?
Mr. Copland. Well, it would certainly depend on what basis. For example, if someone wanted to have them outlawed to go underground, I might have. I don't think they should be outlawed to go underground, but left above board.
The Chairman. This is not outlawing the Communist party. This is a statement defending the Communist party.
Mr. Copland. I would certainly have to have further time to study the letter, the nature of the letter and what I remember about it.
May I say the list I got from the Congressional Record, almost all of these affiliations have to do with sponsoring of something, the signing of protests, or the signing of a statement in favor or against something, and that in this connection, if I had them or didn't have them, I say in my mind they are very superficial things. They consisted of my receiving in the mail in the morning a request of some kind or a list of names, which I judged solely on its merits quite aside from my being able to judge whether that was a Communist front. I must say that when I first saw this list I was amazed that I was connected with this many things. I consider this list gives a false idea of my activities as a musician. It was a very small part of my existence. It consisted of my signing my name to a protest or statement, which I thought I had a right to do as an American citizen.
The Chairman. You have a right to defend communism or the Communist party -- Hanns Eisler or anything else. You have a perfect right to do it, but the question is why were you selected as a lecturer when you exercised that right so often.
Let me ask you this question. Before you were hired as a lecturer to tour South America, did anyone ask you to explain your membership in or sponsorship of these various Communist front movements?
Mr. Copland. No, and I think the reason was that they were too superficial. No one took them seriously, and I think they were justified in not taking them seriously. In view of my position in the musical world and a teacher in the musical world, most people would think they would know whether or not I was a Communist. The question never came up.
The Chairman. Would you give us that list?
Mr. Copland. May I first, Senator, amend a prior answer I gave in regard to a petition to declare war on Finland. It occurred to me that I did have knowledge of that. I read it in the Congressional Record. It had no date as to when it was signed or any particular information as to what went into the petition, therefore, I am afraid I just ignored that I had seen it.
The Chairman. Now, give us that list.
Mr. Copland. In order to help matters, could I have the list read from there so I could give you my list.
The Chairman. You give us your list first.
Mr. Copland. This is only a summary.
The Chairman. You won't be cut off. You can take all the time you want.
Mr. Copland. I can only definitely say that I was a member of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship during the years that the Soviet Union was an ally in the war and for some years thereafter, I don't have the precise date. I joined the Music Committee of that Council of American-Soviet Friendship in order to help an understanding between the two countries through musical interchange. It was in no way, as far as I was concerned, a political move. At that time I had no knowledge that the National Council of American Soviet Friendship was a Communist front. I do know that subsequently it was solicited by the attorney general, and on the basis of that I formally resigned.
The Chairman. How did you resign?
Mr. Copland. By letter.
The Chairman. Do you have a copy?
Mr. Copland. I may have.
The Chairman. You don't have a copy with you?
Mr. Copland. No.
Senator Mundt. What date was that?
Mr. Copland. That was, I believe, June 1950.
The Chairman. It was cited long before that.
Mr. Copland. Was it? I don't know.
The Chairman. Do you know when it was cited? I gather you resigned because you found it was cited. Is that correct?
Mr. Copland. That is my recollection of events, yes.
The Chairman. Did you resign as soon as you heard it was cited?
Mr. Copland. Well, there was some question in my mind as to whether or not I was still a member because the Music Committee resigned as a body -- at any rate they left and set up their own organization -- the American-Soviet Music Society.
The Chairman. When was this set up?
Mr. Copland. The exact date escapes me. It was probably 1945 or 1946.
The Chairman. Can you give us the next front?
Mr. Copland. May I emphasize again----
The Chairman. Will you read them and then you can explain your participation in each one, the source also and the date. Give us the names of the organizations and then you can give us any explanations you care to. If you care to have me read them, I will. Hand me the list of fronts. (reading:)
1. The American League of War and Fascism
2. Advisory Board of Frontier Films
3. Entertainer at the American Music Alliance of Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
4. Entertainer of New Masses Benefit
5. Sponsor New York Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born
6. Signer, Petition American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom
7. Signed Statement to FDR Defending the Communist party
8. Signer of appeal for Sam Darcy, National Federation for Constitutional Liberties
9. Sponsor, Citizens Committee for Harry Bridges
10. Sponsor, Artists Front to Win the War
11. Sponsor, letter for Harry Bridges by the National Federation of Constitutional Liberties
12. Dinner Sponsor of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee
13. Sponsor, Called Conference of American-Soviet Friendship, National Council American Soviet Friendship
14. Signer, Reichstag Fire Trial Anniversary Committee
15. Signed petition for Hanns Eisler
16. Eisler Concert sponsor
17. Member, National Committee, National Defense of Political Prisoners
18. Member, Committee of Professional Group for Browder Fund
19. Member, National Committee of People's Rights
20. Vice-Chairman and Member of the Music Committee, Council of American-Soviet Friendship
21. Peoples Songs
22. Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, Professions
23. Win the Peace Conference
24. American-Soviet Music Society
25. New Masses contributor
26. National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions
27. Supporter, Communist Bookstore
Senator Mundt. Was that list prepared by you?
Mr. Copland. No, I did not prepare that list. I copied that list from Red Channels and the Congressional Record in an attempt to have some kind of preparation in coming to this committee so as to know what possible organizations my name had been connected with.
Senator Mundt. It is not your testimony that this list is your list of fronts which you belonged to----
Mr. Copland. Definitely not.
The Chairman. It is not?
Mr. Copland. No. Any secretary could have done it for me.
Mr. Cohn. I would like to state, Mr. Copland, we have checked the guide for subversive organizations and found that the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship was cited as subversive December 4, 1947.
Mr. Copland. May I say, December 4, 1947, to the best of my knowledge I was in Latin America on a lecture tour. It would be very unlikely that I would know.
Mr. Cohn. When did you return?
Mr. Copland. I returned in December 1947.
Mr. Cohn. You say it took you these three years to discover----
Mr. Copland. Well, Mr. Cohn, I don't keep track of all political points like that.
Mr. Cohn. If I label your testimony correctly, you were trying to give the committee the impression that when you found this was cited as a subversive organization you resigned.
Mr. Copland. No. I was about to explain that the American Music Society was an off-shoot, so to speak, of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, and I was not sure whether I was still a member.
The Chairman. Will you go through this list now and tell us which Communist front organizations you were a member of or in whose activities you took any part?
Mr. Copland. Senator McCarthy, to my knowledge I have never knowingly sponsored any Communist front organization.
The Chairman. You have a list before you, which list you say was copied from other sources. Will you go down that list and first give us the name of the organizations to which you had some affiliation and then you can come back and make any explanations you care to to your own knowledge.
Mr. Copland. To my own knowledge the only organization to which I, as a member, belonged was the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship and the American-Soviet Music Society.
The Chairman. You used the word "belonged.''
Mr. Copland. As far as I know at this time, taking the briefness of time -- I may have to amend that later.
The Chairman. You say organizations to which you belonged. Let's broaden that a bit and say organizations in which you were in any way affiliated, either a sponsor of their activities or in any other fashion.
Mr. Copland. There is a great distinction in my mind in being a member and signing a paper.
The Chairman. There might be a distinction. I want you to answer the question. I have asked you to list the organizations -- those named as Communist fronts -- with which you were in any way affiliated. Then you can explain your affiliations as much as you want to.
I just want to know the names now.
Mr. Copland. I could not under oath with any certainty say that I was a member.
The Chairman. That is not what I asked you.
Mr. Copland. Then I haven't understood the question.
The Chairman. I think it is very simple. I said any organizations in which you were in any way affiliated.
Mr. Copland. As far as I can remember, without further study, I am not prepared to say that I was affiliated with any but the ones mentioned.
The Chairman. You said with certainty. Do you have any reason to believe that you were affiliated with any of the others?
Mr. Copland. I have reason to believe that I was a sponsor of a concert devoted to Hanns Eisler's music in 1948.
The Chairman. In 1948.
Mr. Copland. 1948.
The Chairman. Anything else?
Mr. Copland. Nothing else that I with certainty can----
The Chairman. Not certainty now -- that you have any reason to believe you were affiliated with any of these other organizations?
Mr. Copland. No. In view of the shortness of time and the seriousness of this question I am afraid I would have to ask for further time to study and investigate and refresh my mind.
The Chairman. Then at this time you have no recollection of any affiliation with any of the other organizations listed upon the two sheets which I just read into the record.
Mr. Copland. No recollection other than the fact that some of these organizations are names that I have seen on occasion.
The Chairman. Did you sign a petition to the attorney general in behalf of Hanns Eisler?
Mr. Copland. I may have.
The Chairman. Do you recall whether you did or not?
Mr. Copland. Not positively, no.
The Chairman. Did you know Hanns Eisler had been named as a Communist agent at that time?
Mr. Copland. No, I didn't.
The Chairman. When did you first learn that Hanns Eisler had been named as a Communist agent?
Mr. Copland. I never heard that he had been named as a Communist agent. I never heard that he had been named. I knew that he had a reputation in Germany in the twenties of having been a Communist, but I understood that was in the past and since his arrival in America and the Rockefeller grant of $20,000, it was my impression that the Communist element in him was in the past.
The Chairman. Did you feel that you knew enough about the Hanns Eisler case to petition the attorney general in his behalf?
Mr. Copland. I would have to study what the petition was and think about the problem.
The Chairman. Were you well-acquainted with Hanns Eisler?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Who asked you to sign the petition?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory if I did sign it.
The Chairman. This was not too long ago. It was reported in the Daily Worker, December 17, 1947. You say you can't remember whether you signed it or not or who asked you to sign it in 1947?
Mr. Copland. Well, that was six years ago. I might have been asked to sign it. I can't be certain.
The Chairman. In any event, your testimony is that you did not know enough about the case to advise the attorney general as to what he should do?
Mr. Copland. That is my impression at this time.
The Chairman. So that if you signed it you were either signing it out of sympathy for Eisler, the Communist, or you were duped into doing it?
Mr. Copland. I don't think that is a fair summary of my feeling. I have never sympathized with Communists as such. My interest in Eisler was purely as a musician. I think he is, in spite of his political ideas, a great musician and my signing of the concert sponsorship was in relation to that feeling.
The Chairman. Concert sponsorship? It is the petition I am talking about. Do you use the same term so many witnesses use? Do you refer to political beliefs--do you consider the Communist party as a political party in the American sense?
Mr. Copland. In the American sense? Not since the designation of the Supreme Court.
The Chairman. Was this a benefit for Eisler at which you appeared on February 28th, 1948?
Mr. Copland. I don't remember.
Pardon me. Will you repeat the question?
The Chairman. Did you appear at an Eisler program at Town Hall, New York, on February 28, 1948?
Mr. Copland. No, I did not. That was purely sponsorship.
The Chairman. Did you sponsor that?
Mr. Copland. I was one of the sponsors.
The Chairman. Did you know at that time he was in difficulty with the law enforcement agencies of this country for underground or espionage activities?
Mr. Copland. I may have known that, but my sponsorship was in terms of music only and him as a musician.
The Chairman. Would you feel today if you knew an outstanding musician who was also a member of the Communist espionage ring would you sponsor a benefit for him? Mr. Copland. Certainly not.
The Chairman. Then do you think it was improper to do it in 1948?
Mr. Copland. 1948? I had no such knowledge in 1948.
The Chairman. Well, if you signed a petition to the attorney general in 1947----
Mr. Copland. Senator McCarthy, I didn't say I signed it. Mr. Cohn. Do you think your signature was forged on all these things?
Mr. Copland. I don't know.
The Chairman. Do you feel a man using common sense, Mr. Copland, apparently signing the petition to the attorney general advising him what he should do in the Eisler case--who was accused of espionage then--do you think the following February--this was in December that the petition was signed and this was about two months later that you sponsored a benefit for this man--you certainly knew of his alleged espionage activities.
Mr. Copland. The concert was not a benefit as far as I know, and I took no part in the concert other than just sponsor it. I didn't deny or affirm signing the petition. I said that in relation to all these organizations I must have more time to give consideration to them. I have had three days since receiving the telegram and finding myself here. I am trying to do my best to remember things. I am under oath and want to be cautious.
The Chairman. We will give you a chance to refresh your recollection.
Do you know whether you were affiliated with the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom?
Mr. Copland. No, I don't.
The Chairman. Did you ever take part in any organization activities concerning the defense of Communist teachers?
Mr. Copland. Not that I remember.
Mr. Cohn. Were you in sympathy with Communist teachers?
Mr. Copland. No, I was never in sympathy with Communist teachers.
Mr. Cohn. Do you feel Communists should be allowed to teach in our schools?
Mr. Copland. I haven't given the matter such thought as to come up with an answer.
Mr. Cohn. In other words, as of today you don't have any firm thought?
Mr. Copland. I would be inclined to allow the faculty of the university to decide that.
The Chairman. Let's say you are on the faculty and are making a designation, would you feel Communists should be allowed to teach?
Mr. Copland. I couldn't give you a blanket decision on that without knowing the case.
The Chairman. Let's say the teacher is a Communist, period. Would you feel that is sufficient to bar that teacher from a job as a teacher?
Mr. Copland. I certainly think it would be sufficient if he were using his Communist membership to angle his teaching to further the purposes of the Communist party.
The Chairman. You have been a lecturer representing the United States in other nations. One of the reasons why we appropriate the money to pay lecturers is to enlighten people as to the American way of life and do something towards combating communism. Is it your testimony that you know nothing about the Communist movement or are you fairly well acquainted with the Communist movement?
Mr. Copland. It was my understanding that my lectureship was purely a musical assignment.
The Chairman. Answer my question. Do you know anything about the Communist movement?
Mr. Copland. I know what I read in the newspapers.
The Chairman. Are you a sponsor of the National Conference of the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born?
Mr. Copland. Not that I know of.
The Chairman. Did you have any connection with the Fifth National Conference of the American Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in March 1941?
Mr. Copland. Not at this time, I don't recall that.
The Chairman. Do you recall any connection with that conference?
Mr. Copland. Not at this time I don't.
The Chairman. As far as you know you had no connection with it at all?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Just for your information, the record shows that as far back as 1941 the program of the Fifth National Conference of the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born named you as a sponsor. Later, a letterhead of the New York Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born on January 2, 1941 showed you as a sponsor, and later in 1943 you were again listed as a sponsor.
I might say that this organization has been cited by the Attorney General and by the House Un-American Activities Committee as one of the oldest auxiliaries of the Communist party in the United States. Does that refresh your recollection?
Mr. Copland. May I point out that there is a notation here that it was cited in 1948, which is, I believe, seven years after the dates you just quoted.
The Chairman. Mr. Copland, the date of citation is not important. It is no more important than the date a man was convicted of robbing a bank. The question that is important is whether or not you participated in robbing the bank, not whether another man participated in robbing the bank and was convicted. Any man with normal intelligence knows it is wrong to rob a bank. Even before the citations it is sometimes known that the organization is a Communist front--a front for the Communist party.
Mr. Copland. As far as I know----
The Chairman. I am not criticizing you for joining these organizations. You may have been so naive that you didn't know they were Communist controlled or you may have done it purposely, but I can't believe that this very long list used your name time after time as a sponsor of all these outstanding fronts. I can't believe that they forged your name to these petitions, borrowed your name unlawfully time after time. However, I am only interested in knowing why they selected you as a lecturer when we have many other people available as lecturers.
May I say to you there is nothing illegal, as far as I know, about belonging to Communist fronts and there is nothing illegal about accepting employment no matter how sympathetic you were--I am not saying you were--There is nothing illegal about accepting employment in the information program, but we must find out why a man of this tremendous activity in Communist fronts would be selected.
Mr. Copland. May I reply on two points? I think I was selected because of the fact that my employment as a lecturer had nothing to do with anything but music.
The Chairman. If you were a member of the Communist party, let's assume you were, and you were selected to lecture you would be bound to try wherever you could to sell the Communist idea, wouldn't you?
Mr. Copland. No doubt.
Mr. Chairman. So that, I believe you and I would agree that in selecting a lecturer, even though they are an outstanding musician, before we put our stamp of approval on them we should find out whether they are a Communist or sympathetic to the Communist cause. Is that right?
Mr. Copland. Well, I would certainly hesitate to send abroad a man who is a Communist sympathizer or a Communist in order to lecture. My impression was that my political opinions, no matter how vague they may have been, were not in question as far as the Department of State was concerned. I assume if they had been in question I would have had some kind of going over. The reason I am so vague about these various organizations is because my relationship, if any, was so vague. It was not a question of my going to meetings or being active in any way. I am active in many ways--music organizations. They are things which my whole life has been devoted to and these organizations, such as they are, when I see the word sponsor, entertainer, supporter or protestor, to me that means that I got a penny postcard and sent it in, and that is why my memory of it is so vague. That is why I think this list, even if I were what this list said I was connected with as a sponsor, it would give a false impression of the situation--of myself as a man and as a citizen, and that is why I think the State Department wasn't worried.
The Chairman. You were never asked about any of these Communist-front activities?
Mr. Copland. Not to my memory.
The Chairman. I may say, for your information, you did get security clearance.
Mr. Copland. Did I really? How does one get security clearance?
The Chairman. You knew the New Masses was a Communist paper, I suppose.
Mr. Copland. I knew Communists wrote for it.
The Chairman. And Communist controlled?
Mr. Copland. I didn't know it was Communist controlled.
The Chairman. Did you know there were a lot of Communists in it?
Mr. Copland. I knew there was a considerable number.
The Chairman. Do you know now that it is Communist controlled?
Mr. Copland. I would suspect it.
The Chairman. Did you judge contests for the New Masses?
Mr. Copland. Well, I don't know.
The Chairman. Do you recall judging any contest for the New Masses?
Mr. Copland. I may have.
The Chairman. You don't remember?
Mr. Copland. Not precisely. I have a vague recollection. I see here the date is 1937. That is sixteen years ago.
The Chairman. Did you ever belong to the American League for Peace and Democracy?
Mr. Copland. Not to my memory.
The Chairman. Were you a committee member or sponsor of the Citizens Committee for Harry Bridges?
Mr. Copland. I may have been.
The Chairman. Do you recall whether you were or not?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. You have no recollection whatsoever of such a committee?
Mr. Copland. I may have seen the name before, yes.
Mr. Cohn. You say you may have been. What do you base that on? You must have some recollection.
Were you on that committee? Do you know?
Mr. Copland. I don't know.
Mr. Cohn. Do you recall the Bridges case?
Mr. Copland. Yes, I recall it.
Mr. Cohn. Were you in sympathy with Bridges at the time?
Mr. Copland. I may have thought he was being pushed around. I would have to do some heavy thinking to go back to 1941 and remember what I think about Harry Bridges. He played no more part in my life than over the breakfast table----
The Chairman. Did you belong to a committee for Browder and Ford?
Mr. Copland. It is possible.
The Chairman. If you were a member of such a committee, you, of course, knew at the time that Browder was one of the leading Communists?
Mr. Copland. Yes, I knew that.
The Chairman. Did you say it was possible that you belonged to that committee?
Mr. Copland. I would say it is in the realm of possibility since it was 1936. I can't recall what the committee was about -- what it was for-- or what connection it had with Browder.
The Chairman. Did you have anything to do with the Coordinating Committee to Lift the Embargo in Spain?
Mr. Copland. Not that I remember.
The Chairman. You don't recall that?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Did you take any part in any activities having to do with the Spanish Civil War?
Mr. Copland. Not that I recall now.
The Chairman. Do you belong to the American Music Alliance of the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade?
Mr. Copland. The fact that it is a musical committee puts it into the realm of possibility, but I have no definite memory of it.
The Chairman. Do you know whether you entertained the American Music Alliance of the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade?
Mr. Copland. In what capacity?
The Chairman. You will have to tell me that.
Mr. Copland. I don't know exactly how I could entertain them, but I have no memory of entertaining them.
The Chairman. Were you a member of the advisory board of Frontier Films?
Mr. Copland. I can't remember it.
The Chairman. Do you recall any connection with Frontier Films?
Mr. Copland. I believe it is the organization that produced documentaries. What date was that?
The Chairman. You will have to tell me. I don't know.
Mr. Copland. I don't know either -- unless it is in the Congressional Record.
The Chairman. If you were on the advisory board of a film company, wouldn't you remember it unless you read it in the Congressional Record?
Mr. Copland. I am on the advisory committee of many organizations where my name is simply listed and no use made of advice. As far as I know I never met with Frontier Films in order to advise them about anything.
The Chairman. It might be of some benefit if you supply us the anti-Communist organizations that you were affiliated with.
Mr. Copland. I can't off-hand give you the name of such things without further study, but I can tell you that since the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, I have not been associated with any organization which has been cited in any way. I have deliberately taken the stand that in the present situation I do not wish to be associated in any way with an organization that would leave people to think that I had Communist sympathies, which I do not have.
The Chairman. Do you know Edward K. Barsky?
Mr. Copland. No, I did not to my knowledge.
The Chairman. You never met him?
Mr. Copland. Not that I remember.
The Chairman. I think you testified that you have never been a member of the Communist party.
Mr. Copland. That is right.
The Chairman. And you testified that you have never engaged in espionage or sabotage--let me ask you. Have you ever engaged in espionage?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Sabotage?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Were you a member of the National Committee for People's Rights?
Mr. Copland. I couldn't say. I have no recollection of that. May I say again, in relation to specific questions, I must have more time. It is extremely short time.
The Chairman. Unless I ask the questions you won't know what to think about. You will have an opportunity to go over the record and supply memory gaps if you find any.
Were you a member or sponsor of the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of that.
The Chairman. You don't remember that at all?
Mr. Copland. No. May I say also in fairness to myself, my interest in connection with any organizations was in no way my interest in their political slant, except that I never knowingly signed my name to anything which I thought was controlled by Communists. I had no fear of sitting down at a table with a known Communist because I was so sure of my position as a loyal American.
The Chairman. With what known Communists have you sat down at a table?
Mr. Copland. That question is absolutely impossible to answer because as far as I know no one has told me that they are a Communist. I may have suspected it.
The Chairman. In other words, you don't recall sitting down at a table with any known Communists?
Mr. Copland. Yes, aside from Russian Communists. I assume they are Communists.
The Chairman. Have you ever sat down at a table with Earl Browder?
Mr. Copland. Not to my knowledge.
The Chairman. Did you sign an open letter to the mayor of Stalingrad?
Mr. Copland. I can't remember that.
The Chairman. Did you sign a statement in support of Henry Wallace, which statement was issued by the National Council of Arts, Sciences and Professions?
Mr. Copland. What would be the date?
The Chairman. 1948.
Mr. Copland. It is possible I did.
The Chairman. Were you active in the Progressive movement?
Mr. Copland. No. The Chairman. Are you connected with the National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions?
Mr. Copland. I may have been on their music committee.
The Chairman. Do you have any recollection?
Mr. Copland. No precise recollection.
The Chairman. Does it mean anything to you? You say you may have been.
Mr. Copland. Well, I know that I probably received some of their literature and was aware of some of their musical activities.
The Chairman. Were you a sponsor and speaker at the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace?
Mr. Copland. Yes, I was.
The Chairman. That was held at the Waldorf-Astoria?
Mr. Copland. Yes, sir.
The Chairman. Counsel should not coach the witness unless he asks for coaching.
What year was this?
Mr. Copland. March 1949.
Mr. Cohn. Now, Mr. Copland, that conference was widely publicized in advance as a completely Communist dominated thing, but nevertheless you sponsored and attended it.
Mr. Copland. I sponsored it and attended it because I was very anxious to give the impression that by sitting down with Russian composers one could encourage the thought that since cultural relations were possible that perhaps diplomatic relations were possible. I did not go there to advance the Communist line or in any way encourage their operations. I went there in order to take part in a cultural panel, which included----
The Chairman. You knew that it had been widely labeled as a completely Communist movement, didn't you?
Mr. Copland. No, I didn't know it was a complete Communist movement at that time. I became convinced of it subsequently. I am very glad I went to that conference because it gave me first-hand knowledge in what ways the Communists were able to use such movements for their own ends. After that I refused to sign the sponsorship of any further peace conference.
The Chairman. Did you meet any Communists at that meeting other than Russian Communists?
Mr. Copland. Not that I know of.
The Chairman. Has the FBI or any other government intelligence agency ever interviewed you as to who you met at that conference?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Will you prepare a list of the people who attended the conference for us?
Mr. Copland. You mean present on the panel?
The Chairman. Those who you recognized. I am not speaking of the Russians. I am speaking of Americans.
Will you prepare a list of those Americans who were present at that conference?
Mr. Copland. That I remember having personally seen there?
The Chairman. Yes.
Mr. Copland. As far as I can, I will, sir.
The Chairman. We will appreciate that. It may not be of any benefit to the committee but I assume it might be of interest to the FBI.
Mr. Cohn. And you still did not resign from the Council of American-Soviet Friendship?
Mr. Copland. No, I didn't.
Mr. Cohn. In spite of the listing two years prior to that?
Mr. Copland. I am not certain I knew about the listing.
Mr. Cohn. You said after this conference in 1949 you signed no more petitions -- had nothing to do with any Communist fronts after that?
Mr. Copland. To the best of my memory.
The Chairman. To refresh your recollection, in December of 1949 did you not sign a petition or an appeal sponsored by the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties, which appeal asked for the immediate dismissal of charges against Sam Adams Darcy, well-known Communist leader?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of that at all.
The Chairman. If your name is on the petition, would you say it was forged?
Mr. Copland. You mean a hand-written signature on the petition?
The Chairman. Well, you couldn't sign it except by hand.
Mr. Copland. I would have to see it. I would certainly suspect it was forged.
The Chairman. You tell the committee today that you have no knowledge of signing a petition having to do with Sam Adams Darcy?
Mr. Copland. As far as I know.
The Chairman. You knew nothing about Sam Darcy?
Mr. Copland. Nothing that I know of now.
The Chairman. And you had no reason to sign a petition for Sam Darcy?
Mr. Copland. Not that I know of.
The Chairman. You don't remember anyone discussing the Darcy case with you?
Mr. Copland. Not that I know of.
The Chairman. I think I questioned you about this. Did you sponsor an open letter to the president of the United States asking him to reconsider the order for the deportation of Harry Bridges?
Mr. Copland. When was that?
The Chairman. At any time.
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of it.
The Chairman. Were you interested in the Bridges case?
Mr. Copland. In the way that one is interested in any case he reads about in the papers.
The Chairman. Did you sign a letter to the president in which it stated: "it is equally essential that the attorney general's ill-advised, arbitrary, and unwarranted findings relative to the Communist party be rescinded.''
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of such.
Mr. Cohn. I wonder if we could ask Mr. Copland to sign his name for comparative reasons as all these signatures look the same.
The Chairman. Mr. Copland, you referred to signing penny postcards. You don't think that all of these alleged Communist connections or use of your name, forged or otherwise signed by you on petitions, was the result of signing penny postcards, do you?
Mr. Copland. It is my impression that that was the principal way in which sponsorship and such signing of petitions was furthered, and since I did not attend meetings of these organizations, it is my impression that this is the only way I might have sponsored them--through signature of some petition they sent me through the mail, either on a penny postcard saying, "Will you sign this petition'' or a letter itself.
The Chairman. You don't recall having signed any of these petitions?
Mr. Copland. I wouldn't say that. I would say this at this time having been given three days notice, I would ask for an adjournment to refresh my memory.
Mr. Cohn. Have you ever given money to any of these organizations we have been talking about?
Mr. Copland. Certainly no money of any substantial amount.
Mr. Cohn. Have you ever given any?
Mr. Copland. I couldn't say.
Mr. Cohn. Did you ever give any money to the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. Not that I know of.
Mr. Cohn. That is an unusual answer. I imagine if you gave money to the Communist party you would know it.
Mr. Copland. I am trying to be extra careful, so to speak.
That is why I am making it so tentatively.
The Chairman. I recognize that and we don't blame you for being careful.
Mr. Copland. Thank you.
The Chairman. Were you an entertainer at a New Masses benefit?
Mr. Copland. I seem to have some memory of that. What date was that?
The Chairman. February 1, 1936 or 1939. I don't know which.
Mr. Copland. That, I believe, was an anti-Fascist drive of some sort. I may be wrong about that.
The Chairman. Do you know that Vito Marcantonio was a member of the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. No, I don't.
The Chairman. Did you belong to a committee supporting Marcantonio?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of belonging to it.
The Chairman. Were you active in supporting Marcantonio?
Mr. Copland. No, I certainly wasn't.
The Chairman. Do you know him?
Mr. Copland. No, I don't.
The Chairman. You stated, I believe, that you don't recall having signed a letter in defense of Harry Bridges.
Mr. Copland. At this time I don't recall it.
The Chairman. Did you know Georgi Dimitrov?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. Did you ever hear about the Reichstag Fire Trial Anniversary Committee?
Mr. Copland. I can't at this time remember whether I have or not.
The Chairman. You don't recall?
Mr. Copland. No.
The Chairman. You don't recall ever having been affiliated with it?
Mr. Copeland. No, not at this time I don't.
The Chairman. Were you a sponsor of the Schappes Defense Committee?
Mr. Copland. As far as I know I was not.
The Chairman. Did you ever hear of Schappes?
Mr. Copland. I may have vaguely heard of him.
Mr. Cohn. You said before you had?
Mr. Copland. You see, I am uncertain whether I do or vaguely do. Without further opportunity to refresh my memory-- --
The Chairman. May I interrupt. I may say, going through all of these and where you feel that your memory is not sufficiently sharp so you can adequately answer, you will have opportunity to go over the record and supply the material which you were able to supply after your memory is refreshed.
Mr. Copland. Could I ask you to tell me again what you said about my having been connected with Sam Adams Darcy after the peace conference?
The Chairman. What date was that?
Mr. Copland. I believe the peace conference was March 1949 and you quoted the Darcy connection, if there was one, at a later date. I gather that your thought is that the Darcy petition may have been signed before that.
The Chairman. Here we are. We have it here. It appears from the report we have that you were a sponsor and speaker at the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace which was held March 25-27, 1945 inclusive.
Mr. Copland. The other matter was considerably before that, the petition.
The Chairman. I beg your pardon.
May I amplify the record. I had previously indicated in the questioning that the Sam Darcy petition had been signed after the New York conference. I misread it. I thought it was December 1949. Actually it was December 1940. You are correct.
Mr. Copland. I was going to explain why I didn't resign until 1950. The music committee was organized to further relations on a musical plane with the Soviet Union. It was an off-shoot of a committee, I believe, that had to do with the State Department. At any rate, that committee itself left the National Council and set itself up as the National Soviet Music Society and since I went with the music committee, I was under the impression that I was no longer a member of the National Council. In order to be sure I had severed connections I wrote a letter in 1950.
Mr. Cohn. By the way, Mr. Copland, you are awfully well prepared. I am just wondering. Let me ask you this: Prior to the phone call Friday, you had never known of any reference to you in the Congressional Record concerning your Communist fronts?
Mr. Copland. That is not my testimony.
Mr. Cohn. Then, Mr. Copland, you stated this had not just come to your attention on Friday?
Mr. Copland. May I say that I heard through a letter that there had been a printing in the Congressional Record of remarks of the Honorable Fred E. Busby concerning myself.
Mr. Cohn. When was that?
Mr. Copland. When was the Congressional Record of Busby's statement? It is in here for Friday, January 16, 1953, and my memory of that is that happened sometime in March or April. Subsequently a friend supplied me with a copy.
Mr. Cohn. When was that?
Mr. Copland. I would say sometime in April.
I will also add that I was absolutely amazed at the number of entries in connection with my name.
Mr. Cohn. So were we.
The Chairman. Do you feel now that your name was misused by various organizations or do you want further time to check into it?
Mr. Copland. I would like further time to check into it.
It is also well known that if they got your name in connection with one thing, they didn't hesitate to use it in connection with another. I would also like to say that my connection, insofar as it would show, was the direct outcome of the feelings of a musician. I was not moved by the Communist element, whatever it may have been. I was moved by specific causes to which I lent my name.
Musicians make music out of feelings aroused out of public events.
Senator Mundt. I can't follow this line of argument. I don't see how that line of reasoning makes sense with a hatchet man like Bridges.
Mr. Copland. A musician, when he writes his notes he makes his music out of emotions and you can't make your music unless you are moved by events. If I sponsored a committee in relation to Bridges, I may have been misled, not through Communist leanings. If I had them, there was something about his situation that moved me.
Senator Mundt. That would be true of anybody--any human beings, I think, not only musicians. Emotions are part of everyone's personality. That certainly stretches a point. We are all governed by the same rules of caution. When you get to Browder and Bridges, I think musicians have to go by the same code as governs other citizens.
Mr. Copland. We are assuming -- I would like to see what it was I was supposed to have signed. I would have to know the circumstances to make any kind of sensible case.
The Chairman. Do you say now that your activities as a musician had to do with your connection with Bridges and Browder?
Mr. Copland. I would say that anything I signed was because of the human cause behind it that interested me----
The Chairman. Were you a good friend of Hanns Eisler?
Mr. Copland. No, I knew him slightly. I was not a good friend of his.
The Chairman. Did you meet him socially?
Mr. Copland. Yes.
The Chairman. Roughly, how many times?
Mr. Copland. Roughly, this is a guess, two or three times.
The Chairman. When did you last see him?
Mr. Copland. My impression is I last saw him in California.
The Chairman. Did you agree with the statement by Eisler that "Revolutionary music is now more powerful than ever. Its political and artistic importance is growing daily.''
Mr. Copland. That is a vague statement. I don't know what he means by "revolutionary music.''
The Chairman. Do you agree with him that there is a political importance in music?
Mr. Copland. I certainly would not. What the Soviet government has been trying to do in forcing their composers to write along lines favorable to themselves is absolutely wrong. It is one of the basic reasons why I could have no sympathy with such an attitude.
The Chairman. Would you say a good musician who is a Communist could be important in influencing people in favor of the Communist cause?
Mr. Copland. Perhaps in some indirect way.
The Chairman. One final question.
Quoting Hanns Eisler, is this a correct description of you by Eisler:
"I am extremely pleased to report a considerable shift to the left among the American artistic intelligentsia. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to state that the best people in the musical world of America (with very few exceptions) share at present extremely progressive ideas.
Their names? They are Aaron Copland.
Would you say that is a correct description of you?
Mr. Copland. No, I would not. I would say he is using knowledge of my liberal feelings in the arts and in general to typify me as a help to his own cause.
The Chairman. Just for the record, this quotation from Eisler appears in the House Un-American Activities Committee Hearing, September 24, 25, 26, 1947, pages 36, 38, 39.
I have no further questions. How about you Mr. Cohn?
Mr. Cohn. No, sir.
The Chairman. Senator Mundt?
Senator Mundt. No.
Mr. Cohn. You are reminded that you are still under subpoena and will be called again within the next week, I would assume.
(Whereupon the hearing adjourned.)
|Copland on Musical Meaning|
|Aaron Copland: Musicians make music out of feelings aroused out of public events.
Senator Mundt: I can't follow this line of argument. ...
Mr. Copland: A musician, when he writes his notes he makes his music out of emotions and you can't make your music unless you are moved by events. ...
Senator Mundt: That would be true of anybody--any human beings, I think, not only musicians. Emotions are part of everyone's personality.
|fascism etc.||Lindsey Eck|
|Well, I can't believe I'm lifting a finger, let alone all ten, to say anything good about disco. But equating it with fascism is a bit extreme, don't you think?|
The sorts of people who liked disco were generally white, working-class, urban folks, a class of people mostly confined to the Northeast and North Central regions. Politically, this echelon is conformist, certainly, undoubtedly conservative, but fascist? Generally they are associated with unionism and the Democratic Party; for social mores they follow the party line of the Roman Catholic Church. Spike Lee's Summer of Sam did a good job of depicting folks of this type. Sure, they found punk scary and foreign but their politics were inchoate; in the movie several of them beat up a guy from Boston for preferring the Red Sox over the Yankees, but that's about as political as they get.
At the time it seemed that white kids' dancing to black beats was a way for them to identify with a hip urbanism of which suburban kids were unaware, a way of claiming a knowing urbanity and thus upstaging the assumed sophistication of wealthier kids from the suburbs. Since this group had heretofore been hostile to all aspects of black culture, learning to appreciate funky disco beats was more of a liberal gesture than a fascist trend.
True, jerking to the beat was mindless but, unlike the marching at Nuremberg to a military beat, the dancing was not followed up by any attempt to indoctrinate or exploit. There was no ideology at all except for "Shake Your Booty." As for disco aficionados not caring about tonality, I'd say they cared very much that it not deviate much from simple 1-4-5 structures. But that's just as true of leftist intellectual folkies of the early '60s. And (being a suburban kid) I agreed with the sentiment, "disco sucks," but let's give it some credit for advancing the technique of bass guitar.
Mr. Gordon's false assumptions about Milton Babbitt aside, there are elements of craft in popular music to which "serious" music often seems not to have caught up. Often on these boards people with, it seems, conservatory backgrounds act perplexed by issues that rock/pop/jazz musicians have been dealing with for years: issues of integrating electronic and conventional instruments, of managing improvisation without chaos, of notation for synthesizers, of sampling technology, and so on. I feel quite differently from Mr. Gann as to the value of a regular rhythm enforced by a percussion section that is coequal with the rest of the ensemble, rather than its ghetto dwellers. For example, the Latin style of percussion and horn music pioneered by Tito Puente and romanticized in the movie The Mambo Kings. Yes, there is a pedestrian beat going on but this is used as a foil for rich displays of polyrhythmic syncopation that are more intricate than any percussion I've seen in self-professed serious art music. If I'm wrong, please let me know; we don't get exposed to that much new "art" music down here (but these seemingly naive audiences eat it up, even when highly dissonant and challenging).
As for the supposed high vs. low art distinction: Sorry, but I think quality can be found in some very "low" places, and what is considered "high" and "low" is subject to much revision. In Shakespeare's day, play scripts were the equivalent of t.v. scripts in our day: throwaway stuff. The quality of his plays changed this estimation and led to other drama being published. Sure, Beethoven marked the peak, and also the culmination, of the Classical era. But the end of that era does not necessarily mark a decline of music as a whole; Classicism appealed to a particular ordering of society and coincided with the Enlightenment movement toward rationality. Following Beethoven, European society changed dramatically and Romanticism appealed more to an era of revolutions, class conflict, a growing bourgeoisie, abd nationalism. It too peaked and lapsed into decadence. (Rachmaninoff's work to me is that of a composer well aware that the era he celebrated was in his death throes, and he mocks that era even as he celebrates and mourns it.)
Speaking of Rachmaninoff, I would say that his music would be incomprehensible or even offensive to true Classicists such as Mozart and Haydn. Mozart might have had an easier time with, say, the Allman Brothers with their mathematical structure and predictable tonalities than the likes of Rachmaninoff. That's why it pains me so much to hear "classical" used to embrace the Romantics. I see absolutely nothing Classical in the late Romantics.
Anyway, "high art" or not, it would be extremely strange if contemporary Americans preferred Beethoven, whose music embraced the values and traditions of his time and place, to music that expresses the values and traditions of our own time and place. Yes, on a scale of quality (how that's defined need not concern us right now, but I think Mr. Gann nailed it: The Rites is undeniably the work of a master composer) Beethoven is among the highest if not the highest. But he was also quite a crowd pleaser, even writing a throwaway symphony not numbered among the nine to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. His real achievement was in writing music that should have been above the heads of his audiences, but wasn't.
I suppose Mr. d'Quincy might argue that today's society is so debased that only second-rate works are possible, that today no Beethoven can exist because we have entered a new Dark Age. If that's true, then those who aspire to "serious art music" might as well just quit right now. I really don't care, because my ambition is not to have my bust next to that of Brahms. I am trying to morph from "rock musician who writes" into a "composer" in the sense of Michel Legrand, Burt Bachrach, Henry Mancini, and Stephen Sondheim (who was profiled recently on this Web site). Is the work of Sondheim so debased, because it is aimed at a Broadway audience with contemporary sensibilities, that we must reject it as "low art"?
|98 Percent Perfect||Barry Drogin|
|Lindsey, thank you for another wonderful posting. It is probably a very simple and unintentional ignorance that led you to question Kyle Gann, an expert on the music of Conlon Nancarrow, to ask for proof of something more intricate than the polyrhythms of Tito Puente. I don't point this out to judge Tito Puente - music is not a competition. Kyle himself acknowledges the influence of Art Tatum and Earl Hines on Nancarrow, so I doubt he minds that much, and may be too modest to plug his own book (I'm not too modest to plus anything).|
Not Nice Music
|I admit to ignorance, but||Lindsey Eck|
|All I know of Nancarrow is his experimentation with player pianos. But he lived in Mexico so obviously he must be aware of Latin rhythms. I'll let Mr. Gann speak for himself, but I was specifically interested in his assessment of the use of percussion, not rhythm in the abstract. To me Puente would be a practioner of "rhythmic grooves" which Mr. Gann seems to dislike. And, yes, I have the highest respect for his criticism based on the articles posted at his site and his contributions here.|
The allusion to fascism troubled me. I've been spending the last few weeks putting together a recording that is grounded in a rhythmic groove, in my opinion a complex and interesting one, and politically I'm pretty far left. Were I unconsiously promoting fascism that would trouble me a great deal, but after some introspection I fail to see the political import. The radical Emma Goldman commented that she had no use for a revolution that wouldn't allow people to dance.
|Response to Lindsey Eck|
|[Beethoven's] real achievement was in writing music that should have been above the heads of his audiences, but wasn't.
Mr Eck, this isn't quite true. Starting perhaps with his String Quartet Opus 74 (and certainly by the time of his String Quartet Opus 95), Beethoven was composing post-"Classical" music beyond the comprehension of his audiences. It took the Romantic era extensions of classical era harmony -- by such composers as Weber, Lizst, and Wagner -- to prepare European audiences for Beethoven's later harmonic practices.
|Elective Affinities||Tom Myron|
|"...Beethoven was composing post-"Classical" music beyond the comprehension of his audiences."|
Ms/Mr Annonymous, this isn't quite true. In a letter to Goethe dated September 12, 1812 the composer Karl Friedrich Zelter writes about Beethoven:
I...regard him with terror. His own work seems to cause him secret horror: a feeling that is set aside far to frivolously in our recent culture. His works seem to me like children whose father is a woman or whose mother is a man. The last work of his that I encountered... seems to me like an indecency whose basis and purpose are eternal death. Music critcs, who seem to understand everything better than naturalness and propriety, have poured out praise and blame about this composer in the strangest fashion. I know musical people who once found themselves alarmed, even indignant, on hearing his works and are now gripped with by an enthusiasm for them like the partisans of Greek love. What a state one can get into over this can be imagined...
No document gives a clearer or more striking idea of what it was like to experience the music of Beethoven during his lifetime. This mixture of perception, misunderstanding, ignorance, shock and fascination is perhaps the greatest tribute written to his music. The view of Beethoven as a kind of sexual monstrosity is astonishing...If we are ever to comprehend what this music meant to those who heard it for the first time, the initial repulsion so explicitely expressed by Zelter must be taken into account.
From the essay How to Become Immortal by Charles Rosen
Nice, huh? Personally, I think that there's a lot more incomprehension around today.
|Beethoven, Improvisation, and Accessibility|
|Beethoven's ambiguity over his concern with immediate audience accessibility apparently began early in his compositional career, predating his hearing loss (The earlier comment is also based upon Lewis Lockwood):
After a year of tutoring young Ludwig van Beethoven, the Austrian composer Johann Georg Albrechtsberger infamously declared, "He has learned nothing, and will never do anything properly."
... much of Beethoven’s creative success stems from his refusal to do things according to the conventions of the time -- that is, "properly." At one point, early in his career, a progressive periodical called Allgemeine musicalische Zeitung, took Beethoven to task for his "daring harmonies and venturesome rhythms" -- apparently these were pejoratives in 1800. A lecture by Lewis Lockwood, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University and codirector of the festival , will treat Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, Opus 24, one of the rare works in which, Lockwood will contend, Beethoven purposefully made the music accessible to audiences of the day.
"The surface appeal of the work is very great, and he knows that," says Lockwood. "Many of his earlier works, including some of his earlier sonatas, were regarded as bizarre, difficult, and hard to understand, and this is one work that I feel certain he knew would be pleasing in the most immediate way to audiences. There are ways of making that happen that belong to certain traditions of composition. And when a composer spends a lot of his time improvising for audiences, and doing it with mastery, as Beethoven did, he knows exactly what impressions he can evoke."
Thank you, Mr Myron, for the very insightful point of clarification.
|America, America||Barry Drogin|
|Gosh, Luciano Berio dies and nobody mentions it in NewMusicBox because he's Italian and this is the American Music Center's publication, but Beethoven enjoys a long debate. What's wrong with this picture?|
|Luciano Berio and Ludwig van Beethoven|
|Luciano Berio was mentioned on this thread on June 3. Tom Myron also publically dedicated last Sunday's world premiere performance of his beautiful new Viola Concerto to the memory of Berio. His words were very eloquent.
Beethoven dies and we continue to talk about him. What's wrong with this?
|Re: Berio and Beethoven||cropcircle|
|Obviously, nothing is wrong with this. Good point. There is nothing neo-con about revering and respecting those that have gone before.
Re fascsm: the similarity between pulse/groove music and the totalitarian impulse is _structural_. Certainly individuals are free to dance to their own realtionships with the beat--how about some 7:13 moves?--but periodic pulses induce periodic responses, and there is seemingly no end to the exploitation and mass control available to those who would use them.
Also, cropcircles are pretty interesting, not H-Wood sci-fi stuff. Check out William Gazecki's _Crop circles:Quest for Truth_. |
|Re: politics and criticism||William Osborne|
|Those interested in possible relationships between art and politics, or artistic expression and political systems, might want to see my article "Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets: Cultural Isomorphism and the Allocation of Power In Music." It uses the Vienna Philharmonic as a case study. The article was originally published in Leonardo Muic Journal but is on the web at:
Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets
The sections include:
+ The Gender and Ethnic Ideologies of the Vienna Philharmonic
+ The Appropriation of the Vienna Philharmonic as a National Socialist Propaganda Instrument
+ Cultural Isomorphism and the Symphony Orchestra
+ Conductorial Autocracy and the Objectification of the Musician
+ The Ideological Appropriation of the Image of the Artist-Prophet
+ The Demise of the Artist-Prophet in the Post-Modern World
|Back to the original topic||Andy Cohen|
|Wow. So much discussion on so many topics. (Facism & Disco. Copland's McCarthy Hearings testimony. Boy, I do love random digressions.)
O.K., back to Mr. Sandow's article. I believe that his topic was about what critics should have to say in writing about music concerts. I now call upon the expertise of a NMB staffer to add to that discussion.
A few years ago, I remember reading an excellent classical music concert review in the New York Press. It was a review of a Lincoln Center concert of Brahms's chamber music: the writer (whose name I don't recall; maybe J.R. Taylor?) had prefaced the review by mentioning that he was not a trained musician and was attending his first ever classical music concert. He then wrote a wonderful article about what meanings he derived from the concert: how the music affected him, what he felt the performers were trying to communicate, etc.
Unfortunately, I lost the clipping, so I was wondering if Amanda MacBlane would be so kind as to pull some strings with whomever she's in contact with at the Press and repost the review (or maybe a few choice excerpts from it) here? It may not be as interesting as arguing over "low art" vs. whatnot but I thought it might address up some of the interesting points Mr. Sandow's article raised.
|dark ages||Daniel d'Quincy|
|Lindsey, you wrote: "I suppose Mr. d'Quincy might argue that today's society is so debased that only second-rate works are possible, that today no Beethoven can exist because we have entered a new Dark Age. If that's true, then those who aspire to "serious art music" might as well just quit right now.".|
Your supposition is entirely incorrect. That is not what I think. On the contrary, I think art is as possible today as ever. I addressed myself only to how art is received by the public.
|Art Speaks to your Soul||Art|
|This is Art here, and I'd like to report to all of you that I have long since retired. I was never really "serious," and lately I have become quite impossible. I rarely go out in public anymore, and when I do, it is just to discuss matters with professional music historians, to make sure to set the record straight, very private kind of stuff that I'd rather not talk about.|
I wish the members of the American Music Center membership (and those posting on NewMusicBox who are not members) would stop bandying my name around in public and show some respect for my privacy. Stop dedicated pieces to me, stop using me as an excuse to live a sheltered, poor, bohemian chic life, and please stop worshipping me. I do not hear your prayers or paeans, do not respond to the invocation of my name, and have long since stopped distinguishing my high brow from my low brow - I've been so worried lately, my brow frets into several folds, and I'm much calmer when, after an hour of Zen meditiation, I have no brow whatsoever.
I suggest yoo all stop using me as an excuse for self-glorification of your self-expression. After all, it is the 21st century, and, with a planet of several billion people, collaboration and cooperation are more important than little marketing ego trips. Please, please, forgive me for the excesses committed in my name years ago, and learn from my mistakes so they will not be repeated again.
During my brief time on this planet, I have discovered one thing - if making or creating music is not giving you pleasure, then re-evaluate your priorities and discover a new approach to life. I know I've subjected you to years of propaganda on my behalf, but now that I am retired, I'd rather not be reminded of the havoc and mystery I have caused in so, so many lives.
My deepest apologies for all who have been hurt by my work, and promise you that you will never go hungry again if you can just learn to not give a damn, as I have.
|Our Classical Heritage|
|Re Beethoven, classicism, and accessibility. Can anyone remember the wonderful quote by Papa Haydn to the effect that music must be a perfect combination of emotion, reason, art [skill], and humor? I heard the quote on public radio at 3 AM on Sunday, and can't recall, or find it now.|
|In ruhig Fliessender Bewegung||Craft|
Long time no see! Don't tell me you think that you're gonna get off that easy...Now get some sleep- you'll need it.
|how ya' doing, Art?||muse|
I read with sadness your recent post. These are trying times, indeed, enough to make many of us question our self worth and relevance. I hope you'll realize that this funk you're in is just a phase. Unfortunately, in the 21st century so far, collaboration and cooperation refer to relationships with those who would define and satisfy (at the right price) our every desire. Buck up, Art. As your Zen meditation has hope taught you all have the high and low within us. But don't just stop there. You have choice. The high underlies that which is life-affirming for humans.
See you around!|
|All my old buddies steppin' out||Art|
|Muse, welcome! Although I've retired, I hear that you and Craft have been having a wild time of it. Well, I can hear it in some of the pieces written today. But you've got to get with the times, babe, a piece can be written by two people or one hundred people or be a collaboration with the audience itself - why be stuck with this one-on-one stuff forever? I mean, you were around when Cage and Thomson and others were creating those joint party pieces, no?, or had you already gone to bed because it was too late at night? I thought I detected your influence there.|
Back to meet with them academics...
|Lost in the Grove(s)||Craft|
|Art, old girl- I'm shocked! "...get with the times..."? "...two people or one hundred..."? "...collaboration with the audience..."? Why be stuck with this 60's geezer stuff forever?|
Next thing you'll be advocating the formation of a Peoples Music Collective to search the great works and purge them of all traces of Individualistic Formalism.
It would seem academe
has knocked you off your beam.
Letting go of your rage
will unlock your Cage.
You've been hanging out with old Professor Mulcahy too long. Talk about a candidate for retirement!
|Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets: Cultural Isomorphism and the Allocation of Power In Music|
|Mr Osborne, thank you very much for posting the link to your article "Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets: Cultural Isomorphism and the Allocation of Power In Music." It is a highly appropriate article to submit to a NMBox issue with the lead subject of "Critics and the Crisis". I hope the delegates at the Music Critics Association of North American -- San Francisco Conference also get a chance to look at it, and reflect upon it.|
|The thread has been LOST||Marc Geelhoed|
|Back to the original topic before it devolved into the age-old debates betw. high vs. low art, new music presentation vs. boring old orchestra concerts, the definition of classical music as limiting, and byways into communism and disco.|
Sandow makes some excellent points, some of which are already being acted upon, such as trying to write for an audience outside classical music. Jim Oestreich did this awhile ago before Maazel took over the NY Phil. by comparing his podium antics to a rock musician. This would get people out to see this crazy man, I believe, and to see if his gyrations had an impact on the music. Great, talking about classical music and its performers the way we talk about everything else.
All of the talk in the discussions above abt. what constitutes "fascist" musical rhetoric or helps living composers get their worked performed is irrelevant to the topics Sandow raised, which is how we get people to attend concerts with composed, notated music. Audiences do not care whether it is called classical or romantic or a hootenanny, which is where critics come in. They make these distinctions for readers, AFTER the concert, or before it in a program note. We can sit here all day and debate Beethoven's status as the first Romantic or the last Classicist, but the audience does not care. Point out what's Classical and what's Romantic; point out what was revolutionary and made people sit up and listen. These sorts of things should help form something resembling an educated audience. And to rehash Sandow, do it in such a way as not to scare off everyone who isn't as smart as you. This is the situation that faces critics today: trying to figure out how to make people think about, support, and pay attention to this music.
Making connections between works is important work for critics, because it helps readers and listeners understand it better. This is not a retreat from my earlier statements about listeners not caring, because I'm tying it directly to the listeners, whereas most everybody else is involved in the same musical infighting, non-musicians be darned. Like it or not, contemporary classical music (an inexact term, but it seems to be the best we have, "organized sound" suggesting little) is part of a continuum, and it's critics' jobs to make that as clear as they can. And like it not, to use that phrase yet again, listeners think of everything on the Josquin-to-John Luther Adams timeline as classical music. So saying that some living composers aren't in the same ballpark or competing for the same listeners as their predecessors is an escape hatch, and a retreat from the larger issue. An issue (the decline of classical music listening) which, perceptively, Sandow raised.
Withdrawing from this struggle is not an option. Sandow's article should be read aloud, or at least distributed, at the upcoming MCANA meeting in San Francisco.
|Below is a short commentary about arts funding I wrote a couple years ago. Funding is an issue very relevant to the crises of classical music (never ending or not.) Perhaps debate about US arts funding models should be addressed more often by music critics. My perspectives come from an American who has lived in Europe for the last 24 years where arts funding is approached very differently.
This article is also on my website at:
Culture and Freedom of Choice
I recently forwarded a copy of an article to an Internet arts forum announcing that the popular singer Wayne Newtwon was being sent to entertain US troops overseas. When I joked that America's lack of culture seemed to be becoming a matter of national security, one person responded with the old adage, "To each their own taste."
The old saying is quite true, but as artists and scholars, it is also important to question how taste is formed and how it affects our consciousness. To what extent do people in the USA freely formulate their own tastes, and to what extent are they created by international corporations that spend trillions of dollars to shape the public's desires? Can we really say that people have chosen their own music? Can it be similar to saying most Americans can choose to take mass transit? What mass transit? The majority of Americans lack a viable mass transit system while a massive industry spends billions to encourage them to invest large sums in automobiles.
Can an appreciation for "classical" music be developed by simply listening to it on the radio, or does it also need to be a part of our education, and above all, a part of our communities? To what extent do people in the USA have a viable opportunity to choose classical music?
People do not pull their tastes out of the blue, but rather select among the options available to them. In the USA those options are overwhelmingly centered around a relatively narrow spectrum of commercial music that in many respects represents an aesthetic uniformity. Almost all of the music is three-minute songs accompanied by synths, guitars and drums while other forms of popular music are thought of as marginal. All of the forms, such as rock, country, techno, and hip-hop fit structural norms designed for the purposes of a monolithic, commercialized mass media controlled by a relatively small group of corporations.
Through what might be termed the processes of cultural isomorphism, most artistic expression is forced to conform to the social, economic and political structures of its surrounding environment. This means that in capitalistic societies, music that cannot conform to the commercialized structures of the mass media will struggle for mere existence. Classical music is thus marginalized, since it does not fit the three minute form for the commercial break; it is extremely expensive to perform, record and tour; the education required for its production and reception is long and expensive; and it is not well-adapted to marketing through sexual imagery, just to name a few examples. In its more progressive forms, classical music also leads to concepts of individuality and autonomy that are generally antithetic to a culture of mass marketing.
In a capitalistic society, classical music will thus not be available as a significant choice unless is it subsidized by the government as an alternative to commercialized culture. In -all- of the countries of Europe, this alternative is offered through state owned radio and television networks, communal orchestras, opera houses, ballet troupes, theaters and arts festivals. This is not the case in America, which advocates a form of laissez-faire capitalism that represents a political extreme not found in -any- other industrialized country. America's only exception to this laissez-faire politic is military spending.
This extremism, if it might be so labeled, has had a profound affect on American society and makes it very unique among the industrialized countries. What does it mean that the budget for the NEA is only 1/3920th of the military budget? If the Federal Government's funding for the arts equaled only 1% of its military budget, arts funding would increase 329 times. Is it any wonder that our society has become so militaristic when the yearly funding for the military is 3290 times greater than for the arts? What will this long-term disparity do to the fabric of our society and to our minds?
With these monolithic forces of commercialism and militarism surrounding us, how honestly can we say, "To each his own taste?" Who in the American government is advocating support for the arts that might even approach the norm all Europeans take for granted? For whom will you vote? What sort of intelligent cultural life does your community have? What good is freedom of choice when certain important, viable choices hardly exist?
|The NEA's Political Context||William Osborne|
|Below is another commentary about arts funding. I feel music journalists should write more about the politization of arts funding in America. This is part of the crisis classical music continually faces -- as Mr. Copland's adventures well illustrate. (In the comment I use opera as a case in point though my personal tastes would prefer more contempory forms.) I put this short essay on the web on January 18, 2001, and I think Mark Alburger published it in "21st Century Music." It is on my website at:
The NEA's Political Context
John Ashcroft recently made the populist remark that opera is for the Mercedes crowd and does not interest folks who drive pick-ups:
"Now, the opera gets a subsidy from the NEA, but by and large, Willie
Nelson and Garth Brooks don't. Those of us that drive our pickups to
those concerts don't get a subsidy; but the people who drive their
Mercedes to the opera get a subsidy."
Is there more behind this statement than meets the eye? Ashcroft has worked to completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, even though the funding it provides is already very small. The federal government spends about 100 million dollars annually on the NEA, which amounts to only 36 cents a year for every American citizen. No other government of an industrialized country spends so little on the arts. (Vienna's three State Theaters, for example, receive one third more funding than the entire NEA.)
Mr. Ashcroft has attempted to justify his stance through rhetoric which portrays the working class as uninterested in opera and other forms of "high culture." Such polemic is not only divisive, it is partially misleading. The Santa Fe Opera provides a case in point. New Mexico is the 49th poorest state in the nation, and yet many of its people, including the working class, recognize the value of the Santa Fe Opera (a high quality regional house that is something of an anomaly in America.) Even if they can't attend, the state's citizens know the opera lends the state prestige, that it brings the region many economic advantages, and that its presentations are valuable in themselves. Many working class families in New Mexico would jump at the chance to take their children to the opera if they could afford it (which most can't.) Like people everywhere, they want their children to have the better things in life, and they see the arts as part of those opportunities.
In reality, Mr. Ashcroft's "Mercedes crowd" frequents opera because they are often the only ones that can afford it, and even more, because there are hardly any significant opera houses at all in America outside of a few major metropolitan areas. Astoundingly, the Met is the only full season, opera in America (well, it offers seven months.) Even San Francisco, which is presumably one of the world's most cultured cities, only has a half time opera. In the heartland of America, the usual fare consists of occasional slap-dash, semi-professional productions performed in and with improvised, rental facilities.
International comparisons provide troubling perspectives. In most European countries, public access to the performing arts is considered essential, something like public schools and libraries. In Germany, many cities with only 100,000 people have a full time, year round opera house and symphony orchestra. Due to state funding, the average price of an opera ticket in Germany is about thirty dollars. That's not cheap, but families can afford it on occasion. I examined the price list and seating plan of the Met and roughly estimated that the average price of a ticket is about 150 dollars, or five times higher than the average opera ticket in Germany. Due to America's plutocratic system of "private" funding for the arts, the Met and many other cultural institutions have the character and ethos of exclusive cultural country clubs. By denying funding for the arts, politicians like Ashcroft create a form of cultural plutocracy, and then turn around and criticize the arts for being elitist.
Normally, America's policy of arts funding is thought of as a particular aspect of its highly libertarian ideology of free enterprise. But this might only detract from a more problematic issue. The Federal Government does not hesitate to allocate trillions for scientific research. In many respects, the science departments of research universities are merely extensions of uncountable billions of government funding. In the case of science, there is little talk of "free enterprise" or "governmental interference" -- something that apparently applies only to the arts.
So why the seemingly arbitrary double standard?
Many politicians, such as Jessie Helms or John Ashcroft, do not even attempt to disguise that they reject public funding for the arts because they do not like the art world's "Leftist" and "immoral" tendencies. Seen as such, the US government's paltry funding for the arts is not only an economic philosophy, but also a somewhat less than subtle form of political censorship. If artists do not present what these politicians like, funding is reduced or even eliminated. (These same politicians have directed similar forms of intimidation toward NPR and PBS, and even demanded they "reform" their programming.)
Many feel that America's policy for the arts has had a devastating effect on it's cultural and social identity that extends well beyond silencing "Leftist" or progressive views. What is 36 cents a year compared to the sums people spend on mindless Hollywood movies and videos? How does 36 cents compare to the billions spent on advertisements supporting commercial television's endless banalities?
Over the long term, America's policies for funding the arts effect a form a cultural repression that degrades and demeans the identity of people and their society.
The way Helms and Ashcroft castigate and economically confine artistic expression, suggests that the American government's negligible funding for the arts is not merely based on conservative economic philosophy, but also represents an ethos that functions something like a subtle, anti-Leftist extension of McCarthyistic repression.
|How it was in early 2001||Barry Drogin|
|Your postings move me to release a study I did of the NEA allocations two years ago but never published. Re-reading it, I found a logical reversal and corrected it. Otherwise, I have not done a full and final verification of the text, which transferred spreadsheet calculations by typing into a word processing file. Since it is now the end of 2nd Quarter 2003, the absolute veracity of the figures has no political significance, and since I only did it once, no conclusions about trends since can be drawn. Still, re-reading it, I find some of its analysis and conclusions disturbing. I apologize if the text is sometimes confusing about distinguishing the number (quantity) of grants from the size (value) of grants, which was of particular interest to me. Since I have no intention of collecting the data for all of the NEA quarters since and performing a similar analysis, or of checking what is printed here, I am releasing what is printed here to the public domain. If anyone in interested in the methodology of the report and using it to perform a current analysis or a more extensive analysis of trends within the NEA, they are welcome to my files. The egotism of the title, and its usefulness to me as a marketing tool, is typical for me, as readers of this Forum are, I am sure, aware.|
NEA 1st Quarter 2001: The Drogin Report
The following is an analysis of the recent NEA announcement of quarterly funding for so-called “Creativity” grants. The NEA announced $20.5 million of its $105 million 2001 budget allocation, of which $2.2 million were for 60 “organization capacity” grants, $1 million for 7 “leadership initiatives,” and $800,000 for 40 literature fellowships.
From 1,235 applications, $16,330,500 in 717 grants were awarded under the “Creativity” (formerly “Creation and Presentation”) category (1 grant for $5,000 was withdrawn by the requestor). These are matching grants that must be matched dollar for dollar by the institution. Except for the 34 poets and 6 translators receiving $20,000 literature fellowships, the NEA does not award grants to individuals anymore.
Listings of the grants were loaded into a spreadsheet and sorted by state, city, grant size, and category. The Microsoft Excel 2000 spreadsheet, with some illustrative pie charts, is available as a 200kb zipped file upon request.
To begin with regional data, it is clear that the NEA panels still understand that New York City is the cultural capital of the United States of America. Over $4.1 million of the $16.3 million in grants went to institutions based in one of the five boroughs of the city. By adding Buffalo, Syracuse and other regions in the state, New York State ended up with 29% of NEA funds. California, with $1 million for San Francisco and large sums for Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego, got only half as much, or 15%. Other leading states were Pennsylvania (6%, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh), Illinois (5%, Chicago), Texas (4%, Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio), Minnesota (4%, Minneapolis and St. Paul), Massachusetts (3%, Boston, Cambridge and Amherst), Washington (3%, Seattle), Washington, DC (3%), Ohio (2%, Cleveland and Columbus) and Missouri (2%, St. Louis and Kansas City). The cities listed are illustrative and not a complete list for each state.
It is quite possible that New York’s continued dominance of art activities is the main source of its political difficulties. It is important to note that, when the NEA performed its “American Canvas” study a few years back, it did not hold an open panel discussion in New York.
Looking at individual grants, the largest grant was to the Sundance Film Festival for $110,000. There were seven $100,000 grants: two dance companies (Alvin Ailey, the NYC Ballet), two museums (Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Phillips Collection), two orchestras (LA Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra), and the Metropolitan Opera. This is a pretty conservative bunch, all things considered.
21 more grants were between $75,000 and $95,000, 35 were between $55,000 and $70,000, 32 were for $50,000, 104 were between $26,000 and $45,000, 55 were for $25,000, 178 were between $10,500 and $24,000, 110 were for $10,000, and 174 were between $5,000 and $9,000. The average grant comes to about $23,000, and the median grant only $15,000.
The NEA uses 14 categories to allocate funding. Rather than list them alphabetically, let’s group them by form.
The opera, dance, theater, musical theater and music categories are clearly for performing arts. The NEA also has a “presenting” category, which seems to lean toward festivals with a strong performance element. Most of grants in the “multidisciplinary” category are for the performing arts as well. The NEA is open to forms in which creators are commissioned and the work is performed by others, as well as jazz and process pieces developed by the performers themselves.
Visual arts is used for fine arts and crafts, media arts is used primarily for film, and design is used for architectural competitions. Museums present all of the forms. Artist residencies, open studios and site-specific installations are supported, as well as specific projects.
The literature category is used to support publishing ventures and reading series involving literary criticism, prose and poetry. Writers typically are not commissioned, but submit completed work, which they hope to be compensated for. The exceptions are the literature fellowship grants mentioned previously.
Finally, the folk & traditional arts category and local arts agency category include work in any and all of the previous categories.
On average, the most expensive grants went to museums, at an average of $40,000 per grant, while the least expensive grants went for literature, at an average of $16,424. In between and in order, grants averaged $30,615 for opera, $30,105 for “presenting,” $30,000 for local arts agencies, $26,500 for design, $26,211 for media arts, $24,013 for visual arts, $22,308 for multidisciplinary, $21,440 for musical theater, $20,500 for folk and traditional arts, $20,462 for dance, $20,304 for theater, and $18,242 for music.
Three of the four with the smallest average grant got the most number of grants and greatest amount of money per category: 17% of the money and 19% of the grants went for theater, and 13% of the money and 17% of the grants went for music, and 13% of the money and 15% of the grants went for dance. Although museums got 13% of the money, their grants were double the size of those for the other three categories, so they did so with only 7% of the grants. The remaining categories, in order of decreasing total allocation, were media arts (9%, 8%), literature (6%, 8%), visual arts (6%, 6%), multidisciplinary (5%, 5%), opera (5%, 4%), presenting (4%, 3%), musical theater (3%, 3%), design (3%, 2%), folk and traditional arts (2%, 3%), and local arts agencies (1%, 0.4%).
I was interested in the extent that the NEA was funding the creation of new work, so I came up with a subjective rating system, giving an “A” to grants which were obviously for activities that would lead to the creation of a new work, “B” for grants where it was unclear whether the work was new, less than a decade old, or only a portion would go for new work, and “C” for grants that clearly went for revivals or retrospectives of work over 10 years old. I tended to include new translations of old pieces under “C”.
Not surprisingly, museums had the most conservative grants: 77% “C”, 13% “B”, and only 9% “A”. Opera grants were next: 69% “C”, 12% “B” and 19% “A”, ahead of even folk and traditional arts at 67% “C”, 22% “B” and 11% “A”. The multidisciplinary grants were clearly for the creation of new work: 90% “A”, 5% “B” and 5% “C”. Dance and musical theater, which are multidisciplinary in a way, were next, with 80% “A”, 12% “B”, 9% “C”, and 76% “A”, 4% “B” and 20% “C”, respectively. Two thirds of theater, local arts agency and literature grants were clearly for category “A” new work, and about half of visual arts, media arts and design grants could be designated so. The music and presenting categories were pretty conservative, with half of their grants clearly in category “C”.
In grand totals, 47% of the money and 52% of the grants were for category “A” work, 15% of the money and 18% of the grants were for category “B’ work, and 37% of the money and 29% of the grants were for category “C” work.
The conclusions are clear: at least a third of the “Creativity” grants are not for the creation of new work, and the largest grants are going to conservative work. This is hidden in the numbers, for it would certainly seem that there are a large number of grants going toward the creation of new work, but those grants are relatively small in size. You would think that the commissioning, creation, rehearsal and presentation of new work would cost more than the presentation of pre-existing work, but the NEA doesn’t want to spend its money that way.
Also, by giving only matching grants, the NEA perpetuates a not-for-profit institutional culture that must raise money from major donors or a large number of smaller donors as part of an artistic mission. The more conservative institutions attract the richest donors and largest donations.
Consider what the government is doing. For every dollar that a rich donor gives to a conservative institution receiving an NEA matching grant, the government gives back to that donor as a tax credit (and as reduced governmental income) nearly 50 cents. Meanwhile, the government matches that dollar with another dollar. Of the two dollars that the conservative institution is getting, only $0.50, or a fourth, is coming from the donor, and $1.50 is coming from subsidies from taxpayers other than the rich donors.
The deal for more experimental institutions is harder both for the institution and the donors. Assuming that a handful of rich donors cannot be found, the experimental institution must corral the support of a large number of donors that are not as rich. The institution is working harder to get more donors, the size of the donations is not as large, and the fact that the work is experimental and not conservative makes the prospects harder. Meanwhile, those donors may get back only a quarter for every dollar given, and the taxes of this larger mass of taxpayers goes to pay for the NEA grants. So, of the two dollars that the experimental institution is getting, $0.75, or over a third, is coming from the poorer donor, as well as much of the $1.25 in taxpayer funds.
The deal for artists is even worse. In order to receive governmental funds for their experimental work, they must spend precious time grant-writing, fundraising, and obtaining institutional support. Mozart, Shakespeare and Rembrandt, on the other hand, get larger grants obtained by institutional professional staff on their behalf without having to spend any time on non-artistic matters, which is convenient, since they are dead.
|The Crisis in Classical Music Culture|
|Thank you, Mr Osborne, for the additional essays on America's current musical and cultural crisis. They are very much food for thought.
I do question your comment in the first new essay above that "[classical music] is not well-adapted to marketing through sexual imagery."
You may want to reconsider this remark in light of multinational corporate marketing of younger emerging classical music talent --especially from the Anglo-American corporate capitalist music capitals of London and New York. The often bizarre facial, bodily, and scanty clothing expressions that young classical musicians often now must put themselves through to start their music careers in the Anglo-American capitalist world is certainly highly disturbing. Check out the OperaBabes and other younger classical, and cross-over, musicians marketed at the Virgin megastore on Mariahilferstrasse.
[The OperaBabes are probably far from the worst examples available.]
I also wanted to openly inquire as to whether the Santa Fe Opera affords no opportunities for workers in the State, and other lower, lower middle class, and middle class disabled, veteran, and pensioned persons, and their children, to attend an occasional special performance or rehearsal? I know that the Santa Fe Opera receives NEA and state and local public funding, and opportunities to attend a performance should be available to all. The San Francisco Opera, which receives subsidies through a Hotel Tax scheme, as well as NEA, state, and civic funding, performs a highly popular outdoor performance each season. Along with the taxpayer subsidized [through the corporate charitable contribution deduction] broadcasts of the MET Opera, these performances in the public parks are many citizens only returns on their taxpayer contributions to higher culture, and the only opportunity for their children to be introduced to higher culture.
Mr Drogin, I would be willing to resume spending precious time entering competitions, writing grant applications, fundraising, and obtaining institutional support if I could again be assured that those competitions were fairly and transparently administered; and public funding were available to individual artists
regardless of genre of artwork.
|re: The crisis in classical music culture||William Osborne|
|I must agree that sexual imagery is indeed a part of current marketing strategy in classical music. This raises many questions concerning the future of classical music which is our general topic here.
Sexuality is an element in many forms of music-making, including classical music, so how should this be approached? Will classical musicians who explicitly market their sexuality gain an advantage over those who refuse? Will this weaken musicians’ right to self-determination – especially for women? Will the the public lean toward younger musicians, since they are generally considered more sexually appealing than older ones? Will this affect male musicians differently than women musicians? (The expiration date for women in our culture is much earlier than for men.) Will this marketing strategy allow mediocre, but more attractice and less scrupulous musicians to become successful and lower the profession's artistic standards? If this marketing strategy makes money, will there be any chance the classical music industry will stop using it? Should the professional societies in music be involved in shaping and and influencing these trends, and if so, how? Is sexual imagery an example of how commericalizing classical music dumbs it down?
The “Indepdendent” (the British daily) recently listed a few more groups that are following these trends. I quote them below. This is another topic US journalists might tackle more often:
The string quartet, who were trained classically, perform in skimpy tops, tight trousers and stilettos. Sometimes they are accompanied on stage by nubile dancers and
a rock band, and play music with a dance beat. British chart compilers said their debut album was pop music and banned it from their classical chart but it went to the top of the American version.
The 23-year-old violinist can probably claim first rights on emerging from the sea in a suitably dripping outfit to promote her skills in performing a concerto. When still a teenager she used the wet look in one of her early promotional videos.
One critic said: "His ability is reliant on massive amplification, and I very much doubt whether he has the stamina (or the desire) to sing an entire role in an opera."
The 'Gregorian Babes' are viewed by some as a desperate attempt to manufacture a classical version of the Spice Girls. The group went to the top of the classical charts, but their medieval madrigals were described by one critic as "estuary Latin".
+ + +
Concerning the Santa Fe Opera, I do not think they have any performanaces designed for lower income people except for the standing room tickets. (But I am not completely certain.) Standing through opera at the back of the auditorium is not a very good way to create enthusiam for classical music. (Nor is it very pleasant to be singled out for "poor-folk" performances.) Outdoor performances of amplified opera are also pretty absurd and hardly further the genre. Opera on the radio can only capture a tiny fraction of what opera really is. In anycase, these gestures would not compare to Germany where the tickets are generally not even a third as expensive and the laws stipulate that a certain percentage of all performances must be set aside for young people. At 36 cents a year, the US tax payers aren’t losing much money on the arts.
Many thanks to Mr. Drogin for the interesting analysis of the NEA's funding.
|The German Arts Funding Model||William Osborne|
|[The brief description below is also from my website (as linked below) and was posted on January 4, 2002}
The German Arts Funding Model
In case anyone might be interested, I thought I would provide a brief overview of how arts funding is organized in Germany. It is a model similar to what many other European countries use.
Almost all arts funding is administered on the state and municipal levels. They reason that local arts administrators will best know the interests of the community, as well as the quality and needs of the artists who live there. Each city invariably takes great pride in its cultural offerings. They feel that a rich and locally autonomous cultural life not only contributes to the quality of their lives, but also adds prestige to their community.
Even if a small city is near a larger one, it invariably has its own, separate cultural institutions. A case in point is Augsburg which has about 250 thousand citizens and which is about 30 minutes by train from Munich. The State Opera in Munich is one of the most famous in the world (it was the resident house for Wagner and Richard Strauss), but Augsburg also has its own 52 week season opera house which performs Wagner's entire Ring every year. In the Ruhrgebiet (Germany's largest industrial and population center) most of the major communities have contiguous city limits, such as Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Essen, Bochum, Gelsenkirchen, and Duisburg, but each one has its own State Theater with an opera, symphony orchestra, and spoken theater, all with 52 week seasons, as well as a variety of city museums. All are less than a hour from Cologne. Some of the institutions in these smaller cities are world famous, such as the dance company of Pina Bausch in Wuppertal.
There is a strong belief in many smaller European cities, if not most, that meaningful culture has to be communal, and that going to a larger city to see something is just borrowing culture that is not your own.
The vast majority of the funding goes to the cultural institutions the cities own and operate -- their museums, galleries, operas, symphonies, theaters, ballet companies, etc. -- but a smaller fund is also reserved for independent artists. Munich, for example, has about 30 small, private theaters which offer cabaret and serious plays. About half of them have resident companies that perform local playwrights, though the artists can seldom live from their work. Most larger cities own a number of ateliers which they make available to visual artists on a permanent basis, and most cities own black box and studio theaters for smaller experimental and guest productions.
Each city government has an arts ministry that distributes the funding for the local institutions and artists. The cultural minister is often an elected official and usually has professional training in arts administration. They usually have a staff of specialists for each genre, such as music, theater, dance, film and photography. The independent artists make applications for funding and the decisions are made by the specialists, often with the advice of a jury of the artist's peers.
The funding on the state level is similar, though they usually do not spend as much on independent artists as the municipalities. They focus on large institutions such as State Theaters and their state owned radio and television stations which always have one or two 52 week season resident orchestras and a full time, professional choir. A specific function of the radio orchestras is to perform and record new music. Two State Radios in Germany also have full time, permanent big bands. The state also often helps fund municipal institutions.
Germany did not even have a federal arts minister until two years ago, and when he was appointed there was an uproar. The states and cities felt the federal government might try to compete with their own arts ministries. This contrasts with the USA where state and local funding is often even more paltry than federal funding. Europeans would find it strange for a federal government to fund the arts in any specific way because it is so difficult at that level to have direct contact with the lives and work of artists and the communities they will serve.
As I have pointed out before, Germany has 23 times more 52 weeks season orchestras than the USA. All of the musicians have full time, permanent contracts with full benefits and pensions as do the choirs and ballet dancers. Actors and the museum workers also have the same types of contracts. [Note: The US has about 20 full-time orchestras while Germany with one third the population has 144. All 144 orchestras are entirely supported by the government. Germany has 80 full-time opera houses while the US has only 1 (if one counts the Met's seven month season).]
Private sponsorship of the arts is rarely encouraged and is viewed with extreme mistrust. They feel this will lead to less funding based on the sporadic whims of patrons who often have superficial tastes. Embarrassingly, it is often referred to as the American model. Germany, for example, has one orchestra for about every 550 thousand people so the larger cities usually have several. Munich has seven full time orchestras and two full time opera houses (one with a resident ballet troupe) and two full time larger spoken theaters for a population of 1.2 million. Berlin has three full time opera houses though they may have to close one due to the costs of rebuilding the city after reunification. If New York City averaged the same number of 52 week season orchestras per capita as Germany, it would have 16. If New York City had the same number or orchestras per capita as Munich it would have about 45. If it had the same number of full times operas as Berlin it would have six. Areas such as Queens and the Bronx would not be wastelands, but nationally and internationally important cultural centers.
In the USA, many world class musicians never find a full time job, but in Germany there is almost a shortage of qualified musicians. The Munich Philharmonic had a first trumpet opening for 11 consecutive years. There was simply too much competition for obtaining good players and they didn't want to hire a foreigner. By contrast, universities and conservatories such as Juilliard, Indiana University, University of North Texas, and the University of Michigan produce hundreds of excellent musicians every year, but only a tiny fraction of them will ever have genuine careers. There is a newspaper styled publication in the USA titled _Overseas Musician_ devoted specifically to helping musicians leave the country in order to find work. It advertises in the Juilliard newsletter on a regular basis.
Political interference in the arts is a firmly established taboo in German government, similar to the way the American government takes a hands off approach to regulatory work of the Federal Reserve. It is almost never done, and when it is a scandal invariably ensues and the perpetrators generally have to back down. They know that over the long term, entering that labyrinth can only have catastrophic results.
There are problems with the German system, such as sexism and the kind of rigidity and lack of verve "civil servant" culture can have, but these are minuscule compared to the problems with arts funding in the USA.
|The Crisis in Classical Music Culture|
|Will this marketing strategy allow mediocre, but more attractive and less scrupulous musicians to become successful and lower the profession's artistic standards?
Is sexual imagery an example of how commericalizing classical music dumbs it down?
Opera on the radio can only capture a tiny fraction of what opera really is.
I strongly agree with each of these points. I wish I knew how professional musical societies could involve themselves in countering these disturbing trends. Does anyone -- including anyone on the Board, or executive staff, of the American Music Center --have any suggestions?
[I also agree that standing through operas should only have to be an option for the young and enthusiastic. The number of times, in America, in which I have stood for operas next to a disabled person or an elderly person (sometimes accompanied by a young person having her or his first exposure to American higher culture) has made me ashamed to be a participant in American higher culture.]
|La Vera Storia||Tom Myron|
|"...I would be willing to resume spending precious time entering competitions, writing grant applications, fundraising, and obtaining institutional support if I could again be assured that those competitions were fairly and transparently administered; and public funding were available to individual artists regardless of genre of artwork.|
Were they ever?
In order for federal arts funding and the NEA to be dismantled by the right it had to first be sold out by the left. Think of J. E. Hoover and J. Hoffa selling out the entire American labor movement behind the lethally toxic public smoke screen of J. McCarthy’s communist witch hunt. Perhaps somewhere in all this soul searching and beard pulling we might spare a thought for the people in today's culture who have made sensorship a marketing strategy and “satanic-dude-with-bullwhip-up-his-butt” synonymous with artistic production in the U.S.
Osborne writes with eloquence and envy about the German system of government funded arts patronage, but the fact that the vast majority of our federal spending goes into supporting a defense “culture” is intimately connected to the reason why this country will never see a system of federal support for the arts based on anything like the German model.
When I was a freelance news cameraman in Washington DC I got a call one day from German Television. Would I be available to go down to the Pentagon and shoot an interview with a U.S. undersecratary of defense? This was at the height of Reagan’s “Evil Empire” period and the president had just returned from a tour of U.S. military bases in West Germany.
The reporter asked the undersecratary if he thought that in such unstable times Reagan’s hardline rhetoric might not be a bit overly belicose and inflamatory. The undersecratary replied “I don’t think the United States needs to be lectured on foreign policy by a country that less than 50 years ago vouluntarily executed six million of its own people.”
The reporter thanked the undersecratary for his time and they shook hands. Everyone had what they came for.
Moral of the story: It’s never over. That’s culture.
|the loss of civil discourse||William Osborne|
|Perhaps Mr. Myron’s post is another example of what journalists might address if they want to help the arts in the US. We now have a firmly established, somewhat radicalized right that has developed relatively effective methods for attacking and derailing many forms of intellectual discourse with derisive (and often absurd) statements that more or less take the form of the Fox News sound bite. We thus hear through vague declaration or innuendo that:|
+ the foundations of McCarthyism were first created by the left,
+ J.E. Hoover was a leftist,
+ serious discussion about arts funding and the future of classical music is “soul searching and beard pulling,”
+ censorship of arts in the US is because of artists who made “sensorship” [sic] a marketing strategy,
+ people like Maplethorp have made art in the US synonymous with “satanic-dude-with-bullwhip-up-his-butt,”
+ US militarism is “defense” culture,
+ and a system of arts funding used throughout Europe is somehow to be equated with the Holocaust.
This is made even more complex since the statements are often made in a vague and seemingly psuedo-ironic tone that leaves their negative effect standing while their intent can be denied. We so often want to back away from this form of discourse (as I certainly am,) which unfortunately leaves the stage to reactionary and even repressive social forces. Some of these issues are worthy of discussion, but it is the method and tone that silences dialog.
Journalists working in the arts could serve us all very greatly if they could somehow move our society back toward more reasoned forms of dialog – if that is possible. I think this would involve considerable discussion about the general erosion of civil discourse that has evolved so that we can better understand what has happened. What does it mean when the Fox News sound bite becomes a norm even for discussions among artists and scholars? This is something the journalistic community needs to deal with, especially since it is a problem that has largely evolved within their own profession.
|funding, classicism, etc.||Lindsey Eck|
|I agree with most of what Mr. Osborne wrote. Here's where I disagree:|
"All of the forms, such as rock, coutnry, techno and hip-hop fit structural norms designed for the purposes of a monolithic, commercialized mass media controlled by a relatively small group of corporations."
... and ...
"Classical music is thus marginalized since it does not fit the three-minute form for the commercial break ... the education required for its production is long and expensive ..."
These generalizations are not totally wrong, but I would say there is plenty of music in any genre that does not fit radio formats or commercial formulae. There's a quite charming Austin brand of country that rarely gets signed in Nashville; lots of rock material from its "classic" period is unsuited for radio, especially because of length (side 2 of Abbey Road, Thick as a Brick, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"), Quincy Jones has made very sophisticated use of hip-hop in a jazz/soul context that is difficult to program on radio, and so on. And there are classical hits that fit radio perfectly, like "Ein Kleine Nachtmusik" and "Für Elise."
Of course, Garth Brooks doesn't need government support. He's a gazillionaire. Also, I would agree that Mr. Brooks' oeuvre is not of sufficient musical, historical, or educational importance that government support for a Garth Brooks retrospective will be appropriate in the year 2103. Then again, maybe his work will touch them in a way we cannot now foresee ...
Anyhow, your remarks seem to imply that only "classical" music deserves subsidy. Let's examine this European funding model. Sure, the German government ought to be subsidizing the traditional works of the past. Beethoven is a national treasure much as the Grand Canyon is our national treasure. But that's not an argument for Americans subsidizing Beethoven. I mean, I think Beethoven is basic to all of Western music and should be preserved on that ground. But, if we must have government subsidies (not really a recipe for great art, in my opinion, but much better than no funding), shouldn't they focus on America's composers? If we won't preserve the legacy of the likes of Copland, then I doubt the Germans or the French will either. And of course this is all aside from the issue of commissioning new works.
So, who are "the likes of Copland"? Must they all be "classical"? Was Copland really classical? For example, I might argue for subsidizing performances of the long-form works of Duke Ellington, which also are not played on radio. I don't think anyone would label Ellington as classical (but why not? why Schoenberg and not Ellington?), but isn't he a great U.S. composer whose works are worthy of preservation and study?
|Music Right and Left||Tom Myron|
|Perhaps my post is an example of what serious artists might want to think about when contemplating new strategies for regaining lost federal support for the arts in this country. I spent 11 years (possibly 10 years too many) working in the national media. During that time my peers and I were very aware of a gradual shift to the extremes of any given issue in a great deal of journalistic and political discourse. I think Mr. Osborne is absolutely correct when he says that this move away from "more reasoned forms of dialog" is a problem that has largely evolved within the profession of journalism. I think it's also interesting that it has coincided with the dawn of a new era of conservatism. Since it was never my intention to employ a "method and tone that silences dialog" I will herein attempt to clarify my patented "vague and seemingly psuedo-ironic tone".|
Of course I don't think that the European system of arts funding is somehow to be equated with the Holocaust, but top tier officials of our government don't spout personal opinions to members of the foreign press, they articulate policy. I told the story of the Undersecretary of Defense and the German television reporter to illustrate the type of reception that a European take on world affairs elicited from a highly placed official of our government. Although that incident took place almost 17 years ago, the present administration's family ties to that era, along with recently expressed official attitudes about "old Europe", make me think that suggesting to the legislative powers that be that a more European approach to arts funding in this country might be handing them, if not an actual club to beat you with, at least an excuse to dismiss you.
Obviously, Hoover wasn't a leftist or a rightist- he was a malevolently ambitious apolitical opportunist in league with gangsters. Had he been born in Baghdad he would have gone straight to the top.
What censorship of the arts in the US? I say “satanic-dude-with-bullwhip-up-his-butt” and Mr. Osborne knows exactly what and who I'm talking about. Censorship is when the police come to your house at night and put your printing press in one truck and you in another. The quintessential 80's spectacle of highly privileged "performance artists" using the free press to equate not receiving federal funding for their "work" with censorship was enough to get me thinking that a Garth Brooks concert might be worth checking out.
|re: funding classicism|
|Thank you for your comments, Lindsey. I didn't mean to imply that only classical music (whatever that might even be) should be funded. I am very much for musical pluralism. Some alternative, progressive rock, for example, is probably as marginalized as contemporary "classical" music and yet some of it has much to say.
And, of course, funding for the arts should also focus, in part, on the preservation of individual national hertitages. Europeans realize they have a valuable musical tradition to preserve, and I think Americans should too.
|how much, then, can a critic do?||Daniel d'Quincy|
|I’d like to express great appreciation to Mr. Osborne for his very informative and thoughtful posts to this thread.
Your remarks about the conservative fear and construal of the NEA as a supporter of a leftist cultural identity reminded me of Herbert Marcuse, when he said, and I am paraphrasing, that real education is by nature revolutionary. This then reminds me of Samuel Johnson, when he said, with ever so much relevance for the present moment, and again I am paraphrasing, that, Sir, the efficacy of ignorance has been tried: it’s time to give the alternative a turn.
In view of Mr. Osborne’s very cogent posts, I can’t help feeling that the initial proposition of this thread, with reference to the role of the critic, appears more and more beside the point. Perhaps this thread has served me, at least, to confirm the idea of my own initial post, which suggested that no real progress for art, in its social (i.e. public) dimension, can possibly be hoped for in the context of American culture. Artists will go on making great art, but fewer and fewer people will be able to comprehend it. As a consequence, artists’ lives will be made even more difficult. We might offer up prayers on this account, but with war and pillage rife across the globe, with the fish disappearing from our seas and the birds from our skies, I don’t doubt that the Great Spirit has other more pressing concerns.
In any case, since I am usually wrong when I make broad and sweeping statements, I wish the critics well, and heartily endorse whatever efforts they make toward improving the cultural tone of the time.
Lindsey, I don’t think that the desire for more support for “classical” music in America implies support for Beethoven, or at least it hasn’t for a very long time. Since I’m in a paraphrasing mode today, I might recall Koussevitzky’s support for American composers, and his celebrated and heavily accented remark to the effect that the next Beethoven von Colorado vill come.
|Uninformative & Unthoughtful||Seth Gordon|
|The function of critics, high art / low art, government arts funding and censorship... what is this - Meta-NMB? The "Olde Tymes Debates Page"? Can we drag out Napster while we're here?|
Well, this being post 6,875 on this page, and me responding to everything above with my usual witless nonsense, this will seem a bunch of redundant, random musings. Which I suppose it is. But I might, at some point, say something that I think is funny, and I'm primarily interested in amusing myself. Granted, it's late, and I'm tired, so I'll laugh at almost anything right now.
First off: Kingdom Come? I actually remember those guys... relied a little too heavy on the Zep influence, but they weren't bad for "hair-metal"
More important matters: Starting at the top, what stands out the most is something I've been proselytizing for years: GIVE BAD REVIEWS. Though Greg didn't phrase it as such. Advocacy journalism can only go so far, and it leaves those not "in the loop" feeling a bit left out. It gives the impression that everything's great, and if you don't like it, you "just don't get it" - trash a concert now & then. I have an enormously long rant posted somewhere on this site where I called everyone names on that subject, so I won't repeat it all here. I can't find it to link to, though - have I been censored?
And the whole scholarly style of writing, too - that's fine if you're writing for Leonardo or Computer Music Journal. But not for the New York Times or The Village Voice. How many classical music columns feature reviews akin to those you'd find in Rolling Stone? If you want to attract a younger audience (and, let's be honest, their money) you've got to write for them, not for conservatory grads.
Moving down. Let it be known that, for maybe the second time in history, I agree with Kyle Gann. If classical music dies out - at least what most people associate with "classical music" - good riddance. Do we NEED any more recordings of Pictures at an Exhibition? If you're not going to do something interesting or different with it (record the Ashkenazy arrangement or something...) you're probably not going to top the great recordings that already exist. How many copies do you honestly expect to sell? Your budget could be better used elsewhere. On the other hand, how many works by, say Ingram Marshall, have yet to be recorded / issued? I know there's a cost factor, and it's hard to get orchestras to learn new works (let alone well...) - but the market is obviously rejecting the current program most classical labels are releasing. Major Orchestras will eventually only exist only to play live, and some will die out. Community orchestras are already starting to pick up speed in some areas - I know the Eastern Connecticut Symphony has been doing gangbusters of late. I can see the orchestra going the way of the chorus, as documented last issue.
I'll go one step further than Gann, though - not only is the death of classical music not the death of "serious" music - it may in fact be what finally breathes a little life back into it! As the "insiders" are pushed to the outside by the market (and it will happen. Might take awhile, but it will...) it's going to make more room for the rest of us.
Radio? Lindsey pointed it out well enough - it's a matter of parameters. FM bandwidth just doesn't have the frequency spectrum for a ppp Feldman work. And time constraints are an issue - even on non-commercial radio. You don't want to take up an entire hour playing one piece. Public Radio needs listeners, and you have to cater to people's drive-time short attention spans. Nothing too jarring, please.
Which brings up Lindsey's next point - an important one - connecting. I won't go so far as to say that if you can't connect you shouldn't write music - but if you can't, you shouldn't complain about what the public wants. You KNEW getting into the game that those were the rules. Some things click with an audience - minimalism, for example, has proven to have market value. Microtonality has not. It could be because the former feels much less "academic" than the latter - or it's just easier on the ears, or those damn fascist repetitive rhythms that just make me wanna goose-step all over the house whenever I hear Reich's "Sextet" - there's a multitude of reasons. All of the above, I imagine. But... if that's what you want to write - be true to thine own self and all that rot.
Barry's example of his "Alamo!" was perfect - while I have an extensive background in New Music, it's a very different kind than what he does - I'm pretty un-academic (or at least I try to be) - I went wild over it. I can see, on the other hand, how a room full of overeducated snootypantses might have a very different reaction.
Skipping over the anonymous postings... to Mr. d'Quincy - okay, the "elitist" / "high art" business has been done over and over and over here... I do take exception not to you, but to the idea you attribute to Schoenberg: if it's art, people won't understand it. Well, then, why do it? And if you do it long enough that people DO understand it, is it no longer art? If the goal is to make something people won't understand - well, I saw a guy wanking himself on the subway earlier. Was he art?
Okay, skipping over my misplaced post and a few more anonymous ones (I'll defend my dis of MB over on the page I intended to put it on later... short version: he's no Cole Porter) and getting to the whole "fascist" business. I am soooo with Mr. Newhouse on this one. Perhaps I'm an undereducated buffoon, but this whole assigning of political systems to art - especially purely abstract forms - or non-political forms like your average disco hit - well, not only do I just not get it, but it strikes me as an excuse to bring up politics for the sake of doing it. And it's always "bad" political systems, like fascism, and most often used to describe what the listener thinks of as bad or uninteresting music (d'Quincy is an exception in this case, as someone who likes pop music) - look how quickly it turned from "why is music called fascist?" to Kyle Gann's mini-rant on how little credit for intelligence he give the average American (or is that Amerikan, KG?) - ah, well, he admits to being a condescending elitist, at least - and while we're on that, Kyle: No. We wouldn't all be condescending to those with opposite viewpoints. Just the grumpy old dogs like yourself. You say you "feel that the least sophisticated person here has a right to his/her opinion, and may well even come up with an insight the rest of us missed." - I've yet to see it. In fact, treating people as more / less sophisticated is just plain elitism without the democracy. Suggesting that one of those "beneath" you might have some sort of insight is vaguely reminiscent of classism - it brings to mind the whole "noble savage" concept. Actually, it's not that vague when I think about it. Though I admit I am condescending to people who believe that crop circles were made by aliens. But that's not based on matters of personal taste. And of course, I'm condescending to condescending people. And anonymous posters. So I'm not perfect.
Okay, then there's a really long post with no formatting that I can't be bothered with. And a bunch of stuff about Beethoven... and here's one that caught my attention: Marc Geelhoed wrote,
All of the talk in the discussions above abt. what constitutes "fascist" musical rhetoric or helps living composers get their worked performed is irrelevant to the topics Sandow raised
- hmm, I'ver never seen your name before. New here? Quick intro: Entropy reigns supreme. And the old format was better.
...and then everything spins off into arts funding. My own opinion (as if anyone gives a crap)? You don't want arts funding politicized? Then take it away from politics. I don't want the NEA's money, and I'd rather it was spent on building homeless shelters, buying updated schoolbooks for children, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, all that stuff. Take the political money out if it, and government figures no longer have any say in it.
I'm opposed to all government arts funding, but if they're going to do it, there should be ground rules: anything funded by the government should be available free, or at low cost, to the public. The Metropolitan Museum of Art? Fine. The Metropolitan Opera? At $150 a ticket, they don't need the extra money. Someone who can afford that can afford to pay $175 and make up the difference. As for governmental funding creating repression - well, I don't see it. But if that's what you believe, it only reinforces my initial point: if it's such a negligible amount, use it for something else. Get the government out of the arts business.
The comparison to scientific research is a bit off, though: there is lots of talk of governmental interference - most recently the debates on cloning and stem-cell research.
And the whole equating no funding to censorship business: Oh, please. You weren't censored before you got gov't funding. Lose it, you're back where you started. You need funding? Get a job. Fund yourself.
Like anyone reads this stuff,
|Deutschland Uber Alles||Seth (again)|
|A more cogent response, directly regarding the idea of copying the "German Model":|
It's all well and good that Ausberg has it's own opera company, it's own orchestra, it's own demolition derby track, whatever. I live in Brooklyn. It's right next to that cultural "wasteland" Queens, you were talking about. The NY City gov't just shut down my local firehouse due to lack of funds. They also shut them down here, here, and in six other neighborhoods. Meanwhile, state education aid is being cut not to mention the 5,000 city employees that have been laid off and possibilty of up to 10,000 more - John and Jane Q. Public really doesn't give a crap whether there's a local opera house in their neighborhood. Your utopian ideal is very nice, and in a perfect world where children weren't using textbooks from the 60s and there was affordable health care for everybody, well, maybe we could spring some extra money for an orchestra here and there. But it's not a perfect world, and we can't. Your concept of arts funding - to you it seems like such a negligible amount - I'm sure you think you know a lot about arts funding models, but you know absolutely nothing about municipal government budgeting, and those two things can't run independant of one another.
There are other problems: Let's be honest, poor and middle class people are already being driven further and further from the cultural and business centers by skyrocketing rents and cost-of-living. Put an opera house in the South Bronx - yeah, it'll make the neighborhood look a lot nicer after the local slumlords evict the whole damn neighborhood and jack up the rents for the wealthy white folk who want to live near the new hipster up-and-coming cultural "scene" - it's already happened out by MoMA's new temporary Queens location.
Oh, the German economic model: spend, spend spend. The German economy is so bad currently, that there's worries it will affect the rest of Europe. For most of the 90s Germany outspent it's revenues by around 100 billion dollars per year - they've brought it down a little - around 70 billion in 2002. Don't be surprised when they start adopting a more "American Model" to arts funding.
Before you start spending government money all willy-nilly, remember the basic concept that for everything you spend it on, that's less for something else. That new opera house in Queens will be nice, but who's going to put out the fire when it burns down?
|Government Funding and Cultural Vitality|
|There are problems with the German system, such as sexism and the kind of rigidity and lack of verve "civil servant" culture can have, but these are minuscule compared to the problems with arts funding in the USA.
Mr Osborne, would you care to expand upon your reference to the "lack of verve civil servant culture can have"? I've been trying to figure this out for the past week.
My exposure to the German and Austrian opera, theater, contemporary visual and experpimental arts, literature, and orchestral music scenes hasn't exposed any such lack of verve. I have heard many operas and musical works in Germany and Austria that I would expect not to have the opportunity to hear in the U.S. for at least a decade (and then only, perhaps, in New York or San Francisco). Do you mean to say that the vitality is waning as German and Austrian state-support is threatened by cutbacks and attempts to explore the Anglo-American model of corporate support of culture? Thanks for any expansion you can offer. Your postings have been very interesting and helpful. (And remember, while U.S. orchestras are fully gender integrated; sexism controversies remain in the U.S. over such issues as the make-up of the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra. You are no doubt aware of this controversy. Maintaining "national heritages" should not allow the Vienna Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center to continue excluding from membership women and non-whites. And give me a Vienna Choir boys or Choir of Kings College, Cambridge that looks like the Berlin, London, or Vienna of today.)
|Mark Swed on the Lincoln Center Crisis|
|Mark Swed on the Lincoln Center Crisis: "Besides Jane Moss's exemplary season, the [Lincoln Center] campus plays host to the country's most ambitious cross-disciplinary summer festival. This is exactly the arts environment in which an orchestra belongs if it cares to play a role in the future of the performing arts" [emphasis added]. ...
"[The Los Angeles] Music Center [and the Kennedy Center, as well] is also an aging facility that could use sprucing up. [They] too need a Jane Moss to give [them] interesting programming. Lincoln Center is the model, but if it falters, will [Los Angeles] have the nerve to take the lead?"
Source: Mark Swed Los Angeles Times June 15, 2003.
|Shaking Spears and Arrows of Misfortune||Barry Drogin|
|Embedded in Seth's reaction to the entire page - perhaps a first for NMB, certainly a result of this crappy date-based format - is the guess that orchestras may go the way of the chorus - a few professional entities, but mainly amateur groups. Just as D'Oyly Carte has given way to G&S Societies, and, shucks, some group of doctors at St. Vincent's rented out the venerable Lucille Lortel Theater (the former Theater de Lys) to put on a Broadway show.|
When, with sampling, every Tom, Dick and Mary can MIDI up some muzak, bend each note to his or her whim, express their angst note by note not live on American Idol but by a little spare time at the keyboard at home, well, then, who will need Kenny G? Or Michael Tilson Thomas, for that matter? Only the likes of Britney Spears will have enough unique talent to survive the onslaught of individually reproducible (forget fear of mass reproducible) "art" that will be freely swapped on the Internet. We already have websites full of lists of supposed "composers" wondering, oh so wistfully, why their stuff isn't listened to, building up a fan base of, I suppose, their relatives and a few tolerant friends, publishing for historical purposes their hysterical regurgitation of everything they've ever learned in school plus everything they've ever heard someone else write. Well, it's our cul-ture after all.
Now that I've completely confused Garth as to what I'm even talking about (I love the way he applies nineteenth century thinking to his lists of twentieth century compositional favs), it's time to sign off with a little warning to Seth - quoting the good Reverend Tony Alamo in the middle of a post without attribution - i.e., "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked" - may be a sign of deteriorating mental condition, although the sentiment is certainly appreciated (as well as the plug).
Do you think I could get Britney to perform "Alamo!" as a way of her demonstrating her desire to mature and be taken "seriously"? You know, kind of like Marilyn Monroe and "Bus Stop"? Must have done wonders for William Inge's income. But then, I wouldn't want to support the notion that her previous work is not "serious," so maybe, like a kindly older gentleman, I should advise her not to do it. Oh, the conflicts inherent! Whether tis nobler to sell-out and rake in the bucks, or to save Ms. Spears from a Moronic fate? I'm left hanging in indecision, like a Floridian (as opposed to Californian) chad!
Not Nice Music
As heard on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar
|Request for Posting Removal||garth trinkl|
|To Frank Oteri and Richard Kessler: Could I please request that the posting immediately above, by Mr Barry Drogin, be removed from this thread. Once again, Mr Drogin has posted to this site a comment containing inappropriate sexual name-calling and innuendo that I find highly offensive personally, and which I believe is destructive to the musical and professional open dialogue that this site is trying to encourage and sustain. If you do not feel that you have the editorial and executive control to address this, I will address the matter to the members of the AMC Board of Directors. Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Mr Drogin subsequently can be asked to submit a sexually non-offensive version of his thoughts.
|The problems with democracy||Frank J. Oteri|
|Recent personal attacks on this Forum, which seem to go in at least two directions, both inappropriate, are disappointing to me both professionally and personally.|
I know that the price of democracy is that we must protect speech we find offensive. In that spirit, it is not our wish to censor anything here. I also believe that the people who spout offensive innuendos ultimately wind up looking more pathetic than the people they are trying to make look pathetic.
That said, the purpose of this forum is the exchange of ideas about NEW AMERICAN MUSIC. Personal attacks discourage this exchange and are counterproductive to our purpose here.
It's interesting that the social structure is breaking down here on our forum in an issue that is devoted to what the orchestra can mean for us today. As I said in my LeadSheet, it's a pity that the orchestra today doesn't serve more as a metaphor for social interaction. Before the flames start getting lit, that is not to say the current structure of the orchestra is a role model for a society or that our current social order is necessarily a model for a better orchestra. But, needless to say, namecalling between third bassoon and snare drum player wouldn't make for a very satisfactory MUSICAL interchange, so...
Let's all try to calm down a bit and argue about something that really matters...NEW AMERICAN MUSIC...in a way that actually says something we can build on as a community.
FJO chiming in from beautiful San Francisco in an all-too-brief break from the Music Critics Association and American Symphony Orchestra League conferences trying to fight the good fight for new American music (but always with a smile!)
|News from the ASOL conference||Barry Drogin|
|June 20, 2003 - The American Symphony Orchestra League conference was shocked today by a presentation by a group of five scholars presenting irrefutable proof that Symphonies 5, 7 and 8, originally attributed to Beethoven, were, in fact, modern day forgeries.|
"Although sketches for some of the material in these works can be shown to be in Beethoven's hand," declared one of the researchers, "it is clear that other hands were at work in perpetuating this fraud upon the classical music world and record buying public." Embarrassed music publishers and record company executives are already scrambling to remove scores and recordings from their ample stocks, and music directors are scrambling to rearrange their concert seasons to accommodate the recent revelations.
"It's particularly awkward that the Fifth, so famous and popular, has been shown to be a fraud," commented Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and a host of this year's conference. "But we should have suspected, with its incessant repetition of musical material found elsewhere in Beethoven's literature, that this was the work of a skilled forger and not an original composition."
The fallout from the news is reverberating throughout the classical music world. The Sixth and Ninth Symphonies are being renumbered the Fifth and Sixth, which is already causing some confusion in the marketplace.
"We knew Beethoven was going deaf, we should have been more suspicious," said another of the researchers. "The so-called 'late string quartets' are also under intense scrutiny, in light of this recent research."
"I'm particularly concerned on the psychological effect this fraud instigated on impressionable composers, such as Mahler," said Charles S. Olton, president and CEO of the ASOL. "I mean, should he have stopped at his Sixth and died earlier? Thank god later composers such as Shostakovich ignored the taboo, although I admit we don't play much of his symphonic work anyway, given his Communist connections and the general prohibition against exposing our audiences to anything written after 1917. A shame, since I'm personally fond of parts of the "Babi Yar," but then, unlucky number 13 and all that..."
By chance attending the conference, Frank Oteri, publisher of the American Music Center's NewMusicBox web magazine, and author of the infamous 1998 "Century List" and it's 2000 follow-up "Another Century List", was frantically trying to drum up support for substitution of recent American works for the large gaps in concert seasons opened up by the recent revelations, but to no avail. "They're just going to repeat some Tchaikovsky, or perform a less popular work by Brahms," commented Oteri. "It's futile."
As reported by Barry Drogin
Not Nice Music
Recently featured on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar
|American Orchestras and Twentieth Century Music||a former orchestral musician|
|...general prohibition against exposing our audiences to anything written after 1917...
This comment in the above posting is incorrect. Current American symphony orchestra seasons typically feature as much twentieth century music -- and often as much post - 1917 music -- as they do 19th and 18th century music. The challenge for the early 21st century will be for American orchestras to commission and perform many more new works by American composers, and to offer their communities and audiences a more accurate view of American compositional achievement in the 20th and early 21st centuries; while maintaining a responsibility to performing the masterpieces of the orchestral canon. Twentieth century music is there; it is just that its American component is under-represented.
Are you sure your final quote from Frank Oteri is accurate? Colleagues report that Frank is usually upbeat in his efforts to speak out and place more American music in the repertoires of American symphony orchestras. I hope that he isn't depressed.
|Classical music critics||Steven Ward|
|This piece by Greg is wonderful and it reminds me of some of the issues Greg, Kyle Gann and some other classical music critics brought up in a survey/discussion we published on the subject at rockcritics.com
People might be interested in that piece:
|Boston Symphony Online Conservatory||Kyle Gann|
|Anyone still inerested in the issues Greg introduced way, way up at the top of this page might also want to check out the Boston Symphony's Online Conservatory at www.bso.org/itemB/detail.jhtml?id=12300008&area=bso- a stellar example of what critics, and those who write about music, could do to get and keep audiences involved. The project was conceived and created by Anthony DeRitis, who implemented insights from game theory and psychology to come up with a way to present musicological information about the pieces the BSO plays. As a composer I'm especially impressed by the analyses of the music, which are accompanied by both visual and aural musical examples - and especially by the cogent analysis of John Cage's The Seasons, a wonderful and underrated orchestral work. There is also an "exploring music" section on each page, which lets the viewer experiment with writing music in a way similar to the composer represented. The site has gotten a lot of national press, especially among education magazines, and Tony reports to me that since it went public, the BSO's internet traffic has increased 30 percent, and the average length of time per visit has increased from 7 minutes to 25. Only drawback is, I had to way upgrade my browser to access it, and my 56K modem isn't really fast enough to handle it well. But the content is excellent, and the format is superbly well done. It's one way to give internet audiences a real hands-on experience with classical music - even Cage.|
|About the State of Classical Music & Criticism||GCdA|
|You are invited to read a most fascinating (and very long) observation (for lack of a better term) on the general state of things: OPERA EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL. IMO, it spells out the problem in no uncertain manner. Caveat: Strong Language within! If you suffer from a weak stomach, you are advised to stay away. You were forewarned.
To access the article you will need to subscribe to the site. It's easy and free.
Enjoy, if you can.
|Cage in a cage||Barry Drogin|
|Kyle, I fully explored the John Cage section of the BSO Online Conservatory, and, although I haven't read any of the national press on the subject, and appreciate the number of web hits on behalf of Cage's music, I must report that I am not as impressed as you. Among my criticisms are:|
1. The site tends to treat scores the way science writers treat equations, fearful that any display of such will make them lose audience. The entire introductory section shows no scores whatsoever, and even the musical analysis sections shies away from it except for a handful of examples.
2. The initial biographical section is essentially narrated program notes, accompanied by a picture slide show. The narrator's identity is impossible to determine from an exhaustive search of the site, nor the author of the text (or texts, as the "credits" list a host of people). The music in the background is never identified, nor are each photo, which would be extremely useful and quite easy to accomplish. And when, for example, Satie is mentioned, there is no way to jump to aural, score or written information about him. Cage himself would have allowed for much more user control of the flow - he even would have thrown in an element of chance, mixing up the order of the presentation. At the very least, visitors should have been given a choice between a pre-orderred presentation of material, a randomized order, or a completely self-directed order.
3. The biography does nothing to convey a sense of Cage himself, his sense of humor, his love for truffles, etc. The Harvard lectures are mentioned but there is nothing about the huge controversy and uproar it provoked (and this within a BSO site where there may be some long memories). The general tenor of the narrative is the tone of Virgil Thomson's "music appreciation business," far too respectful, perhaps defensively so.
4. The "gamuts" are not playable as individual segments, and the sound clips do not pair with a "bouncing ball" scroll bar, which would be expected in a site for laymen.
5. The "write music like John Cage" section does not let you actually write music, i.e., create a sequence and have it played back to you. The assumption is that the randomness of the mouse over is a sufficient recreation of Cage's technique. This is too primitive.
In conclusion, I find the bulk of the site to be like glorified program notes. I appreciate being able to both read and listen to the program notes (and there are a few places where the narrator uses one word and a different word is in the text). For me, the most interesting part of the site is to hear the proper pronunciation of "I Ching" - or at least I hope that's the proper pronunciation. You can easily imagine how, for decades, I thought it was pronounced.
Interestingly, however, "I Ching" does not appear in the glossary, either under "I" or "C". I guess the creators of the site think all of the visitors already understand the term.
Not Nice Music
Featured on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar
|Music appreciation||Kyle Gann|
|One of the chronic obstacles to general positive reception of new music is the kneejerk rejection by professional composers of anything carefully aimed at the general public. The BSO Online Conservatory is meant to be a general introduction, not a Grove Dictionary of Music for composers to consult; even so, I learned a couple of things from each analysis I looked at, which I don't expect to do from a layman's guide to classical repertoire. The text and voice-overs are by Tony DeRitis, chair of the music department at Northeastern University, and someone who was instrumental in technically facilitating performances of Cage's late works at the end of his life. His material on Cage presents that composer's methods and ideas without distortion or oversimplification, making it virtually unique in my experience of Cage-presentation via general-public media. I've done a bit of scholarly Cage writing myself, and I don't believe I could have done a more thoughtful and balanced overview in the amount of space allotted. Those of us who knew Cage loved his sense of humor, but given the public tendency to view him as a charlatan, I don't feel that that, nor his fondness for truffles, needs emphasis on a BSO educational page; were I the BSO education director, I would dismiss such criteria as you suggest as inappropriately personal. I'm sure Ravel had a lively sense of humor too, but the history books don't harp on the fact. The web site is still in progress, as perhaps I should have mentioned, and new vocabulary is still being added; I Ching will doubtless join the list. My modem limitaions made the composing part of the site difficult, but I'm told that with optimum conditions the sequences will play back, and perhaps you had the same trouble. Even without that, I'm impressed that such an accessible site contains a modicum of detail interestingly presented, without any oversimplification or sacrifice of historical correctness; the content will expand, but the format has exciting potential. You're entitled to your composer's opinion, but it's aruguably not the one most relevant to the success of a general education project.
|A for potential, B- for execution||Barry Drogin|
|Rather than a kneejerk rejection of the site, I was expressing my hopes for ways in which the site could be made more accessible to the general public. My concerns mainly were not with the content of the narration, which is generally excellent, aside from the little quibble about the rare proof-read difference between the text and what is being said (oh, and I forgot to add that the text claims that "4'33" was written "for piano," which I understand from others on this website is a misunderstanding based upon the first performance.), and, as I mentioned, the lost opportunity to show Cage's impish side (something which various video documentaries have done a much better job at showing). I was commenting more on the "gee whiz" aspect of the Internet multi-media presentation. I felt I made some pertinent suggestions for how to improve the flash animation - add a text space to identify the background music and the identities of people in photographs, make the scores more interactive and add more of them, add a starting or ending credits explicitly identifying the narrator - that would have made more use of the Internet interactive multi-media environment in which the material is presented. Otherwise, as I wrote, it's just "glorified program notes."|
I'm not against program notes - or, in this case, program notes prepared by a huge team of scholars on Cage - but there are other ways to "rope people in" to a site than this site's "don't stop the movie" approach to non-interactivity. That's why I write that, at least, the visitor should have been presented with more choices in "how" to use the site.
I am not so in awe of a little Java or Flash programming - I think creators of these sites should go much further in matching the capabilities of the medium to the message they are trying to convey. In this case, the message felt to me like, "pay some respect to this dead composer and his music you're coming to hear." I'm sorry for having the impression that, if Cage were still alive, he would have liked to be represented in a humbler and more compatible fashion.
You couldn't feel a layman's urge to click on those gamuts one at a time, at his leisure, to hear them, before playing the sound clip?
Gosh, if someone makes an otherwise excellent documentary about Cage that is badly edited, must I quake in fear of pointing that out, lest no one ever make another documentary about Cage again? Kyle, when I comment on human factors issues, you can believe it is to produce a site that is more accessible to the general public, not more interesting to professional musicians.
I recently had a nice lunch with a man I worked with in my former career, who was curious to learn about my music. I asked whether he knew how to read music, and he confessed to playing trumpet back in high school. As a result of that simple question, I was able to gear my expression towards explaining some things I otherwise would never have said. I'm getting tired of this fear of score samples in writing for the general public, particularly on Internet sites where a little animation can go a long way. It is quite possible that a large segment of the BSO audience has a rudimentary ability to follow a score. If anything, the website assumes too much by simply playing the sound clip with no visual help, as I suggested.
Anyway, thanks for the reference to "professional composer." I'd like more royalties, commissions, performances and recordings to justify such a status, but wouldn't we all?
To help Barry be more "professional," visit his website at:
Not Nice Music
and do something interactive - print out a score and perform it, purchase the grand rights to a music-theatre piece, commission something, or just send money!
You know, I was one of the few people to vote against giving performers more proportional representation on the AMC board. This better not be just a composer's magazine!
|Just back from my honeymoon in Italy and getting to reading the active and a bit overenergized (at times) forum. I have read the call block some of the people posting, as well as have received some emails requesting that we add a moderator to the forum.
I completely support Frank's comments about placing free speech at the forefront, while asking, strongly urging, folks to try hard to be a bit more respectful towards their colleagues here on the forum. While I appreciate the height of the flame, as it indicates great passion, that flame does tend to burn, and is probably inhibiting others from posting what might be important and interesting thoughts, for fear of being attacked in a rude and inappropriate manner.
SO PLEASE, everyone, try to be a bit more respectful...please?
Frank, John Kennedy and I will consider the moderator question, but at this point, it doesn't look likely, due to budgetary constraints and a desire to apply staff to other areas of NMBx. |
|Slings, arrows, and Spears of misfortune||Lindsey Eck|
|Well, I wanted to address a couple of posts back up thread AND relate the whole mess to the question of criticism. Woulda done so sooner, but my Net connection went down.|
First, as to whether "progressive rock" artists might merit funding the same as those who write for orchestra. (Or whatever we're labeling as "art music," or is it "classical," and does it exclude rock and jazz and electronica--I'm still unclear about all of that, but never mind. So let's stick to the subject of orchestral music.) There's a big difference here: I've never met a single rock musician who didn't know what his/her compositions sounded like. Not one, because, even if the writer is musically literate and writes score, s/he is invariably fluent on guitar and/or keyboard and writes on the instrument. It is also not that difficult to get together a few friends in a garage to try out new songs. It is not so easy to get 64 friends together to be your pet orchestra.
Now, Barry has actually confused me with his post about self-absorbed online composers, but let me observe that the name of Britney Spears gets thrown around a lot on the Web these days, including this site, and it's become a thread-killer. Britney is invoked to throw up one's hands at the state of the public's musical taste, as in, "How can you expect these tasteless Americans to like fine art music when what they really go for is Britney Spears!" There's a problem with this stance: It isn't true.
Britney Spears and the other teen acts of the late '90s are no longer as popular as they were a few years ago, and then they were really popular with only a certain demographic: young teens. Now, Britney and the like are fading or morphing into other careers in Hollywood. The current teen idol is Avril Lavigne, a punk/pop artist whom you're free to dislike based on simplistic songwriting and derivative musical ideas, but it's not the same phenomenon as Britney Spears. The current pop music trend is called "emo"--music based on honest, emotional lyrics. We could deplore this trend, too, or we could maybe even conceive that teens who listen to "emo" might be convinced to give some form of opera a try when they reach their 20s or 30s? But if you keep sneering at the public because of the popularity of Britney Spears and other manifestations of tastelessness, you will just turn that public off and alienate potential listeners. After all, if you (the critic, the composer) don't even know that Britney is, like, so second millennium, why should we (young music consumers) trust you about what's hot in orchestral styles?
Pop music listeners are not the enemy. Pop music listeners are potential converts to your kind of music, whoever you are. It's non–music listeners who are the enemy.
Here we worry about the future of the orchestra, but answer me this: How is Yanni packing venues from the Acropolis to the Royal Albert Hall to hear his version of an orchestra? You're free to answer: "Well, his music stinks, and the public has bad taste, so there you go." But is that the whole answer? The people I know who like Yanni don't have terrible taste in other areas; they appreciate a good wine or a good book. Here's a couple of positive things about Yanni: (1) Seamless integration of synthesizers and other electric/electronic instruments with conventional orchestral instruments. (2) I'll betcha his stuff gets "more than two rehearsals, at best." Hmm, maybe one thing the public likes about Avril Lavigne and even Britney is that they can tell this music, simple as it is, has been rehearsed thousands of times? Compared to an orchestra giving a new and difficult work two rehearsals and attempting to read their way through it? Maybe, just maybe, the public can tell when a 64-piece "band" isn't "tight"?
Which brings us back to criticism. I think the art-music critic can help bridge the gap between the educated music listener with a modicum of taste and the composer who wishes to engage and challenge said listener. But the critic should not alienate the pop-music audience by sneering at its more commercial tastes or demonstrating ignorance of pop culture, such as continuing to bash Britney when she's already passé. This doesn't mean lowering one's standards; pop has its role and purpose, and so does the orchestra. (Even a high school theory student who loves Mozart isn't likely to pick a classical piece for the class song at the prom.) The ideal reviewer would be able, if need be, to judge, say, the Billy Joel musical or to pan Randy Newman's Faust as a failed opera structurally and in its total irrelevance to the Faust legend, but not as a joke because it's rock and not "classical." The reviewer should be able to examine Joe Jackson's Symphony No. 1 vis-à-vis Liebermann's Symphony No. 2 and discuss whether Jackson might have better approximated the idea of the classical symphony, even though his genre is jazz-like (without the improvisation) and his "orchestra" is actually a small combo plus synths, while Liebermann writes for a conventional symphony orchestra.
|Rehearsals and pop music||Kyle Gann|
|Lindsey, of several excellent points, your point about underrehearsed new music is the best. Everyone who tries to present composed new music (in New York especially) knows how difficult it is to get even four or five rehearsals for a concert, in terms of both musician schedules and the cost of rehearsal space. It's just impossible, and people in general probably respond more to performance energy than they do to compositional ideas. It's a never-ending crisis. Write for orchestra and it's even worse.
I also appreciate your point about critics demonstrating ignorance of pop culture, but it goes by so fast I'd need a whole other career to keep up. I educated myself about Nine Inch Nails for awhile, would impress students by discussing Trent Reznor in class, and after three years of me looking hip, the next year's class responded: "Who's that?" The industry pushes pop musicians through the meat grinder too quickly for me to spend that much of my time studying up on ephemera - no value judgment intended, except against an industry that won't nurture artists in any long-term way. It's OK - I'm only a few years away from respectable old-fogeydom anyway. If someone would offer a biannual course in Classical Critics' Guide to the Latest Pop Culture, though, I'd take it.
|...as to whether "progressive rock" artists might merit funding the same as those who write for orchestra...
Lindsey, of course creative and progressive rock artists might merit funding the same as those who write for orchestra or jazz ensemble. Back in the 1980s, when NEA funding was available, many art-rock composers received NEA funding to pursue music and music theater projects. May I presume that you are referring to non-commercially oriented progressive rock artists? What are you proposing: a suite of progressive rock songs? a progressive rock opera? a ballet/dancework or work of street theater with a progressive rock score? [The composer- performers of the San Francisco Mime Troupe received NEA funding for the politically-progressive
works the group staged in Bay Area parks in the 1980s. Is this the sort of thing you're thinking about? ... Also, Fred Frith might be able to give you more developed thoughts on the matter of progressive (or experimental) rock and funding. He can be reached at Mills College, in Oakland, California. Someone here or at NMBox will know his e-mail address.]
Thanks also for your thoughts on pop music, Britney Spears, and music criticism.
|Re: Britney, pop, art & etc...||Steve Layton|
|Pop is one thing, Art is something else (there are always fuzzy edges, but the forms are pretty clear for that). Bringing the latest pop singer in for either pro or con isn't going to be much more fruitful than talking about Annette Hanshaw in relation to Varese in the 1920s (and if you're asking "who's Annette Hanshaw?", then you're already proving the point).
Yanni's work *is* bad art, but very popular. So are paintings of fairies riding unicorns or dolphins, generally. The criteria they operate under just contain a lot of different aims, and looking in one for the other can be a lot of wasted effort, while confusing and cheapening each's contribution. Even when feeding on the other, we have to look at what's going on in the feeder.
|American pop/schlock/art||Lindsey Eck|
|The "American Music" poster asked me what sort of form I was proposing, mentioning several long-form rock alternatives. Well, I wasn't proposing anything, really. I was trying to say that long-form rock works tend to get recorded or performed more easily than orchestral work so, if money's really that limited, triage would require government funding to take care of the orchestra and let the rock writers/performers fend for themselves. My own work includes a 44-minute rock mass scored for choir, guitar, bass, keys, mandolin, woodwinds, trumpet, drums/percussion; a suite imitating Southern music of the 1890s for a short film set in that period, for piano, violin, cello, piano, bass, and female vocalist; and (a new work in process) a rock oratorio or song cycle comprising the entire Sermon on the Mount. None of this work has been supported by grants. The film has been produced, the mass is self-published and being recorded (perhaps a grant would be useful once I line up a premiere, of which I am hopeful, since it's church music), and I'm self-recording an album of songs. But that's what I'm doing. None of it is frustrating in the way that it would be to write a long-form orchestral work and not get to hear it for years, if ever.|
Steve Layton insists that Yanni's music is bad art. Well, I think most of it isn't very good. But Steve seems to dismiss the idea that the contemporary composer could learn anything from Yanni, which is where I disagree. If you want to get your work before an audience, you might at least investigate whether artists like Yanni have any aspects of crowd-pleasing that might be imitated without cheapening one's music. I suggested two: clever integration of today's electronic instruments, and rehearsing the parts till the performance is flawless.
But if Yanni's just too hard to swallow, consider the recently rebroadcast PBS special on the mariachi. Much of this concert included a complete orchestra combined with the mariachi. Now, that music, taken out of the Mexican context, would no longer resonate as progressive and forward-looking, so I'm not saying U.S. composers should write mariachi pieces. But this again seems to be a hugely popular "orchestral" format and there are ideas you could take from the mariachi orchestra. One is the large representation of plucked strings: several guitars, a mandolin, two or three harps, and a bajo sexto (six-string guitar-shaped bass) join with the bowed strings to give quite a different texture, and the harp technique is different from what you'd encounter in the classical orchestra. Also, complex and syncopated rhythms are incorporated at the micro level even as the macro level is regular and predictable.
So, let's leave poor Art out of this and appeal to his friend Craft. Craft sometimes hangs out with Pop, even if you believe Art never does.
|re: Yanni||Steve Layton|
|Steve Layton insists that Yanni's music is bad art. Well, I think most of it isn't very good. But Steve seems to dismiss the idea that the contemporary composer could learn anything from Yanni, which is where I disagree.
Oh, I'm personally inclined to dismiss his music, since it doesn't resonate much with what I'm looking for from the musical experience. But I am sure that any musician can learn something from his music's effect on a large number of people; it's just that what's learned might not have much importance in another musician's vision of what they want to achieve.
|Willing to make an ass of myself, so that you needn't assume||Barry Drogin|
I am sorry to confuse you, you are a relatively new poster to this Forum, and my posting was highly contextualized for long-term readers. If you'd been reading NewMusicBox for as long as I have (since its inception) and, unlike some, not choosing to skip reading anything that contains my by-line, you'd know that:
1. Unlike Mr. Layton and several others, I despise the word "art" and am completely fed up with all highbrow/lowbrow/nobrow distinctions.
2. Along with Seth Gordon, I am the only poster to this Forum who uses Britney Spears' name in an admiring way, not a sneering way. I have continually, for example, praised her use of extended vocal techniques in "Oops, I did it again," and hope that she continues to expand her career (the movie gig apparently not working out) into new music explorations. My little fantasy about her singing "Alamo!" must be re-read by you in this context, particularly since the score itself has an opening program note about being written for any voice singing in any style.
You may write me privately if there are other sentences in any of my posts that confuse you. You should know that Gregory Sandow has spent as much time being a rock critic as a new music critic, and Seth has a hip-hop group. Although I agree with Gann that I am way out of touch with what's "in" and "out" from a popular music viewpoint, I am constantly stopping in my television channel surfing to admire the techniques of some new music video, wonder at my kid's friend's X-Box capabilities, and, as is my mantra, "believe in the validity of all aesthetic experience." Even ran across that Yanni special on PBS, and got what I could from his use of middle-Eastern melodic line. I recently had a private e-mail exchange with someone praising Michael Post's theme to "Law and Order" (and have you noticed the subtle change in the final sliding police siren note from the first season to the later seasons) as well as admiration for the theme to "The Nanny," and you should watch our entire family groove to the "Fabulous Fish Folly Show" on our 3-year-old's Dr. Seuss Preschool CD-ROM (it's a reward each time he reaches a certain achievement level in a math game). I turn my digital cable television to the Showtunes channel when I want to unwind, and have the guilty pleasure of adoring William Finn's work. And, as you can see, I'm perfectly willing to go public with my personal tastes.
Everyone should use the word "taste" - it acknowledges some respect for one's own preferences, and for the preferences of others. "Love" and "hate" are inappropriate in this context. Training yourself to "hate" the aesthetic expression of anyone, and expressing same in print, may help get you tenure, but it doesn't wash here, at least not with me.
Not Nice Music
As featured on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar
|rehearsal||nobody in particular|
|Does Yanni really get lots of rehearsals? The little I've seen of him (on PBS) it looked like the orchestra was sight-reading with half-attentive boredom.|
|just a few comments||Noiseman433|
|about 'classical' music already being dead. I agree.
Similarly, when I perform "Alamo!" in front of an audience of sophisticated musicians, I get almost no response, but when I perform it in front of an audience with no background in new music, they go wild for the piece!
I've had similar experiences playing noise and performing Fluxus works.
I have too many problems with 'classical' radio to even begin...most of which are not unrelated to how 'classical' music is marketed these past few years.
and my compliments to Mr. Sandow for an exquisitely written and concise piece!
as a man who has performed in both pop and classical venues, I can possibly clear up a misconception you have about the rehearsal of pop music. First of all, you are conflating the rehearsal of the rhythm section and the star with the rehearsal of the back-up orchestra. Having played in orchestras for something like 50 of the top pop stars in the business during the 1980s, I can tell you that there was never an occasion on which there were more than two rehearsals. And, the need for two rehearsals was in no way a function of the musical needs of the orchestra. Two or three hours would have been more than sufficient in every instance. Since there are other matters to be taken care of in the showroom, having to do with the coordination of lights, and smoke, the placement of drums and the hateful sound monitors, and whatnot, two rehearsals (of approximately 2 to 4 hours) are usually assigned to every new show. These are the facts. The facts reflect on the craft in which you have indicated some interest. For there is very little in the way of craft required or desired in composition for the pop orchestra. The pop orchestra operates at a wholly elementary level of craft. The average grade-school orchestra could handle it nicely. I wonder if you have any conception of the degree of boredom and artistic discouragement that characterizes the lives of the vast bulk of performing pop musicians (not to mention the despair of classical orchestral musicians who are drafted into playing for pop musicians as a way of patronizing the paying audience). If you want to know why something more than half of all pop musicians are drunks, and easily a third drug addicts, here is where you’ll find part of the answer. If one needed a reason other than aesthetics to wipe the pop industry off the face of the earth, I daresay musicians’ hygiene would serve fairly well.
|Pop Rocks||Seth Gordon|
|Oh, my - I don't even know how to BEGIN to respond to that one... Mr. D'Quincy - I don't know what pop musicians you hang out with, but I haven't the slightest clue where you might have pulled those statistics from (your ass, maybe?) "more than half ... are drunks"? "a third drug addicts"? Is this just based on your own limited experience with pop musicians? I mean, if we're just gonna talk from experience, I know god only knows how many pop musicians personally - probably thirty or forty off the top of my head I could rattle off - in all different styles - and I can think of only one drug addict amongst them, and he's an ex-addict at that. And though many enjoy downing a few beers after a gig, no drunks to my knowledge.|
But then, as you said yourself earlier:
I am usually wrong when I make broad and sweeping statements
...so I'll just take as as one of those and not press the matter. Maybe, since you were talking of orchestras backing up pop stars, what you meant was not "pop" but "Pops" - and of course, this was the 80s, some twenty years ago - the era of Reagan & Cocaine - so maybe it's just an outdated view.
And next time you say:
there is very little in the way of craft required or desired in composition for the pop orchestra
well, maybe not always - but don't say that around Burt Bacharach. He may not be Xenakis, but then Xenakis never had the "craft" to write "I'll Never Fall In Love Again"
But it WAS the 80s - I guess when you were playing backup for Cyndi Lauper or WHAM! or any of the other 48 top pop stars, it must have seemed beneath you.
But before you go wiping the pop music industry off the face of the earth - would that include "West Side Story"? Frank Zappa? Fred Frith? John Zorn? Radiohead? To generalize all pop music the way you do as craft-less is not too dissimilar to average Joes who think all classical music is for boring old fuddy-duddies. Anyway, it better not include The Beach Boys, or you & I are gonna have to settle this in the parking lot after school...
And that little knock about "musicians' hygiene" - grow up.
Kyle - a li'l somethin' for you: There's nothing "respectable" about old-fogeydom. Except maybe in academic circles.
|Anyway, it better not include The Beach Boys, or you & I are gonna have to settle this in the parking lot after school...
Everytime I listen to Melt Banana covering "Surfin' USA" it brings a smile to my face.
I wasn't sure what Mr. D'Quincy was on about either, personally. All the pop musicians I've had the chance to perform with either collaboratively or just as an act on a bill have been little different than most orchestral musicians I've known.
|pop orchestra||nobody again|
|perhaps mr. dequincy was describing the backup orchestra in yanni's music, responding to my comment that they were not a good example of the benefits of extended rehearsal time. Is that an offensive observation?|
|perhaps mr. dequincy was describing the backup orchestra in yanni's music, responding to my comment that they were not a good example of the benefits of extended rehearsal time. Is that an offensive observation?
Perhaps, but that would seem to be a gross generalization to be made from back-up orchestra's in general, much less Yanni's back-up orchestra in particular.
I'm interested in hearing what Mr. d'Quincy meant exactly.
|booze and drugs||Daniel d'Quincy|
|Wow, I had no idea I was using fighting words. Seth, I’ve only once before been invited out on the street - by a Mafioso musicians union lawyer. I’m not the type for brawling and mauling so I’ll decline your offer as I declined his, and both times with a hoot and a giggle.
As for Burt Bacharach, I played with him at Harrahs Lake Tahoe during the 80s, and it’s a fact that boredom perfectly describes the attitude of practically everybody in our orchestra of some 30 musicians on that occasion. His “charts” were pathetic, but very much par for the course. I assure you that any elementary school child could navigate them with ease. After all, you must try to understand that many of our string players had classical training. And our winds and brass were extremely talented musicians, with extensive experience playing highly creative forms of jazz. At least some of the time in the showroom, they were relatively pleased to be playing imaginative arrangements by people such as Tony Bennett’s Torrie Zitto, or even Sammy Davis’s George Rhodes. Even Wayne Newton's conductor/arranger, whose name escapes me, gave us worthy parts. In the case of Newton, it was moonlight on the dungheap, as I used to say. But Burtie Boy? Well, as Barry suggested in this forum, we should always be careful to note that we are speaking from an individual sense of taste. De gustibus non disputandum est.
I wonder if musicians in the pop world have cleaned up their act since my time in the business. It’s possible. America has become so comparatively prim and proper in so many respects, making life at large almost as dull and boring as its pop music. But I hope you didn’t think I was putting pop musicians down for being drunks and drug addicts. Alcohol and drugs are medication, and I can’t think what better application they may have than for the disease of being forced day in and day out to play plastic and shallow “music” whilst blaring monitors assault one’s increasingly deaf ears, and chemical stage-smoke chokes one’s faltering lungs. I don’t begrudge the bottle to the homeless man on the street, or to the sideman on the stand.
In any case, my estimate of the numbers comes from my experience in Nevada, where, during the 80s, there were orchestras in nearly every hotel-casino. We had hundreds of musicians working full-time, and I knew many of them personally. However, I affirm again what I said about generalizations. I should have been more explicit about speaking from my own experience. Take it or leave it as you will. Any man’s experience is very limited, and mine is no exception.
|And, let us not forget that Mr. Bacharach studied composition with Henry Cowell, Darius Milhaud, and Martinu. He even attend Tanglewood as a composer fellow. So, at least he knows that his charts are pathetic. I guess that's what he wants or doesn't care...|
|not unheard of|
|On the other hand, there are plenty of clueless people who have attended Tanglewood and studied with interesting composers. But you are probably right, he most likely doesn't care if he's wasting other people's skills.|
|What you want - baby I got it...||My Name is Seth Gordon|
|A piece need not be complicated to show craft. I'm sure there are orchestra musicians who feel that playing the repetitive patterns of Glass or Adams is unworthy of their prodigious talents. I'm sorry that you didn't think Mr. Bacharach's parts were "worthy" - but then - and this ties to the "connecting with an audience" thread over on one of the other pages - maybe that ties into why HE connects with a large audience.
He's also very different than Zitto and Rhodes - while there's some crossover audience-wise, Bacharach writes pop songs and writes pop arrangements - Bennet and SDJ, while they could be kind of "poppy" - were both coming from a jazz / big band / swing thing. One style of orchestration comes out of Duke and Gil Evans, the other from Phil Spector, The Brill Building crew, and - well, Burt Bacharach.
And to anonymous mystery-person #287: sarcastically bringing up Cowell, Milhaud, and Martinu is just idiotic. They write / wrote in an entirely different genre of music.
The whole idea that the more difficult a work is to play (or listen to) the more craft-y or "worthy" it is - sorry, doesn't play with me. Perhaps we could have an NMB pop-songwriting competition. We'll get a couple of pop / rock critics to judge, and then let America vote for the "NMB Idol" (cue theme music: "Hooked on Classics") Tonight! It's Milton Babbitt vs. Carole King!
The sad thing is, Cowell, Milhaud, and Martinu were probably far more respectful of other forms of expression than the anonymous person above. And I bet they'd put their names on their opinions.
|I don't believe that Daniel was complaining about how complicated Bacharach's charts may or may not have been, but rather the quality. It would be interesting to compare the show charts to those on the recordings. Most likely there were some changes that dumbed the accompaniment down.|
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