Monday, January 23, 2012
Classical music has a lot to protest about
We need more activist musicians so it was encouraging to see members of the London Philharmonic protesting about the excesses of the Israelis and to see New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert protesting about the excesses of a mobile phone user. With those protests out of the way hopefully the London Philharmonic musicians will turn their attention to the orchestra's corporate sponsor Japanese Tobacco International - the company is the world's third largest cigarette company - and Alan Gilbert will talk to the man in the front row from his orchestra's global sponsor Credit Suisse - the bank is currently under scrutiny in a US Department of Justice tax evasion investigation.
All of which is, of course, small beer compared with the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. But the infringement of human rights in China is very big beer indeed; so it is worth noting that the London Philharmonic returned a few days ago from a seven concert tour of China with pianist Hong Xu while tomorrow (Jan 24) the New York Philharmonic gives a Chinese New Year concert in Avery Fisher Hall under guest conductor Long Yu.
Although managed by New York based CAMI, Long Yu, who is seen above, has close links with the Chinese Poly Group. This state controlled business started as a military enterprise in the 1980s, the decade of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and went on to become one of China's largest manufacturers of weapons. Ostensibly Poly has now divested itself of its armaments businesses but a Canadian Intelligence Service report concludes that the company has not completely severed its links with the People's Liberation Army. Another part of the same group, Poly Culture & Arts, is the state authorised cultural broker whose interests range from tour and theatre management to CD manufacture. Poly Culture also controls the performance venues in most major Chinese cities, some of which will be familiar to touring Western orchestras including the New York Philharmonic.
Classical music represents culture and humanity and China's crimes against culture and humanity are well documented - among them the subjugation of Tibet. Since invading Tibet in 1949 China has systematically destroyed one of civilisation's oldest and most precious cultures and in an unprecendented crime against humanity an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have died at the hands of the Chinese, many killed with weapons manufactured by the Poly Group. Yes, classical music has a lot to protest about.
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