Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Assuming the audience knows best is always questionable

The assumption that the audience knows best what it wants is always questionable. The blurring of the distinctions between the giving and receiving of art can be tragic. Everywhere in the West one notices this frightful descent into homogeneity, blurring distinctions obliterating the idiosyncratic, dragging the leaders down and the led up onto some middle ground of fulcrumed banality. Both communism and democracy are systems dedicated to smoothing out differences between men. Of course you can make a congenital dunce into a prime minister but this is no guarantee of improvement in the state. Those who are prepared to pass the responsibilities of the artist to the audience will merely be rewarded in the same way as the liberals who first prepared the revolution of democracy: their heads were the first to fall when mass-man took over.
R. Murray Schafer wrote that in 1966, which explains the politically incorrect tone. But, despite being written almost 50 years ago, it delivers an important message in an age where 'the audience knows best' has become the de facto mantra of classical music. And R Murray Schafer (b. 1933) cannot be dismissed as an autocratic reactionary. His 'theatre of confluence' concept predates Stockhausen's Licht and other paradigm shifting creations, and his music remains notably ahead of its time. The quote comes from Murray Schafer's essay The Theatre of Confluence 1 which is reprinted in Patria: The Complete Cycle. This anthology of his writing contains more sense in one page that does the entire collected edition of keynote speeches to the Association of British Orchestras.

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