Classical musicians hunt in tribes
Composer Ruth Gipps wrote "I have been told that Britten was personally responsible for having the careers of possible rivals ruined if he could", and named Willian Alwyn, William Walton, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, and Lennox Berkeley as the alleged victims of Aldeburgh tribal warfare. Other examples from the past of classical musicians hunting in packs are the celebrated Glock/Boulez pack which hunted down other fine composers including Robert Simpson, Malcolm Arnold and Edmund Rubbra, and the less celebrated bigots in the BBC who sabotaged the black conductor Rudolph Dunbar's career in the 1940s.
Today classical musicians and those close to them continue to hunt in tribal packs. In fact the hegemony of social media has amplified the role of the tribe: because social networks are agglomerations of communities of common interest - aka as tribes. So in classical music we now have social media hunting packs that are anti-Brexit, pro-CBSO, anti-Domingo, pro-new London concert hall, anti-BBC rationalisation, pro-#metoo vigilantism, etc etc.
Some of these causes obviously need advocating. But the problem is that the inequalities classical music is fighting against derive from a legacy tribal culture. Nowhere is this more evident than in two important causes - the fight for gender and ethnic equality. As a longtime advocate of these causes it grieves me to see proponents of musicians of colour and women musicians forming tribal packs. The classical establishment, the biggest and most vicious hunting pack of all, loves tribes. Because tribes are markets, and tribal causes are easily reinvented as marketing propositions. Forming a hunting pack to reclaim rightful territory is not the solution, it is part of the problem.
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