Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Classical music must confront its money habit

'Bravo - It's a form of culture-washing. Oil companies on the Public Broadcasting System in the U.S. pioneered the whole idea of "we're sponsoring high culture for free for you, we can't be bad." Well, yes, they can.'
Yesterday's post, which pointed out that four of the main sponsors of the Lucerne Summer Festival have been linked to financial malfeasance, prompted that pertinent comment from SFMike.

Last week's London concert by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra drew a three line whip from the liberal leaning elements of big media, yet there was not a single mention of the funding behind the orchestra. Yes, the music making was sublime. And no, boycotts and demonstrations are not on the agenda. But classical music has its very own greedy 1% and keeping them in the style to which they have become accustomed by replacing dwindling public funding with toxic sponsorship is not the solution.

Classical music must confront its serious money habit. This comes in the form of peccadilloes such as the private jet and Sardinian retreat of Lucerne supremo Claudio Abbado and the Lamborghini of Bamberg maestro Jonathan Nott. Then there are the jaw dropping musicians fees negotiated by lavishly remunerated agents who in turn are supported by legions of middle feeders.

Right now a lot of people are demonstrating around the world because they are angry about inequality. If classical music is serious about reaching new audiences it needs to put its house in order. And talking of music festivals and toxic sponsorship...

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10 comments:

pete said...

Being liberal is all about telling others what to do, not doing it yourself.

As long as liberals tell everyone else not to use private healthcare or education, to shun big oil and big business, to cut down on energy use, to use public transport, to live on a brownfield inner city site surrounded by multiculturalism an diversity etc etc then that's their job done and their contribution to a better society complete.

That's why there was no mention of the sponsors of that concert by the liberal press. The rules do not apply to them.

paulhmuller said...

Being conservative is all about letting the market decide. So if some banks fund 19th century musical forms as played by 19th century instruments in a 19th century concert hall - how is that letting the market decide? It looks like just another institutional handout as decided by elites who happen to have some spare cash.

But if you buy into the capitalist idea that art is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it then I guess those with the most money will dictate taste. Hardly a democratic ideal.

CC44 said...

I don't think the focus of this entry was meant to be that the "liberal" media ignored the sponsors. It is not as though there has been a massive expose in The Wall Street Journal about the subject. I walked away with the impression that On An Overgrown Path is supporting the argument that classical music will not be able to reach new audiences if it refuses to lower itself out of its ivory tower. I happen to agree.

Having said that, surely you must know better than to throw words like "liberal" or "conservative" around and expect people to be reasonable. I'm still not sure why it was necessary to specifically mention that it was the "liberal leaning elements of big media", but what's done is done. I just hope that wasn't the point.

Pliable said...

Yes, there is the risk of my main thrust being drowned in semantic noise.

My gently sarcastic point was simply that surely the Guardian, with its liberal agenda, should have made the connection between the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and some pretty dodgy money.

Gently sarcastic because, as we all know, the need for the Guardian to keep in with big music and the BBC takes priority over its liberal agenda.

But CC44 is right. Classical music will not be able to reach new audiences if it refuses to lower itself out of its toxically funded ivory tower.

But there is an even more important point. First classicl music needs to recognise that much, but not all, of the time it is living in a toxically funded ivory tower.

And it was hearing Tom Service drooling over that toxically funded ivory tower that prompted me to start this path.

pete said...

'Gently sarcastic because, as we all know, the need for the Guardian to keep in with big music and the BBC takes priority over its liberal agenda.'

Follow the money.

Pliable said...

Pete, in the case of Abbado and Dudamel the Guardian doesn't follow the money, it walks alongside it.

Pliable said...

I would appreciate it if any reader with access to Musical America could tell me what this story is saying -

http://www.musicalamerica.com/news/newsstory.cfm?archived=0&storyID=26032&categoryID=1

Philip Amos said...

I add my voice to your last comment and request, Bob. I'm awfully curious. There are in fact two very relevant articles in the current issue, one by a critic whose instant opinions on anything artistic will be familiar to CBC Radio listeners (which I have not been since the start of the Great Dumbing Down some years back). I was going to sign up for the free trial until I found they wanted free access to my credit card in return.

Pliable said...

Philip, here is the Musical America text courtesy of a reader:

Classical Music and the One Percent
By Bob Shingleton
On an Overgrown Path
October 19, 2011


Classical music has a serious money habit, opines Bob Shingleton. To wit, Claudio Abbado owns a private jet; conductor Jonathan Nott drives to work at the Bamberg Symphony in his Lamborghini. The fees paid to conductors, soloists and even administrators are astronomical.

" Classical music," writes Shingleton, "has its very own greedy 1 percent and keeping them in the style to which they have become accustomed by replacing dwindling public funding with toxic sponsorship is not the solution."

The Lucerne Summer Festival is a good example of the use of "toxic" sponsors: Credit Suisse is under investigation in the U.S. for tax evasion; Zurich Insurance Company last year lost the personal data of 46,000 customers, for which it was fined about $4 million by the UK; and UBS AG, bailed out by the Swiss government in 2008, is being investigated for fraud.

Philip Amos said...

Well, I'll be damned. That is good to see. Thanks to the kind reader who provided it.