Classical music must woke up and smell the coffee

As pointed out here previously Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc receives the unequivocal support of the classical music industry in the form of advertising, exclusive news and interviews, advertorial partnerships, and complimentary concert tickets and CDs. Yesterday Norman published an article headlined 'US orchestra: Conductor wanted. No whites need apply' which was sourced from the National Review.  This conservative publication has a certain notoriety, including being one of the few media outlets to publish material written by Jeffrey Epstein's publicist Christina Galbraith. The National Review also publishes contributions by Dinesh D'Souza who has tweeted "So Rosa Parks wouldn't sit in the back of the bus--that's all she did, so what's the big fuss?" and this year ran an article bylined 'The Editors' proposing that the Equality Act "represents is a cynical attempt to use the Civil Rights Act as a Trojan horse for radical leftist social orthodoxies".

But the biggest claim to toxicity by the National Review was an article by Ann Coulter published two days after 9/11 saying "This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war". Although Coulter was subsequently dropped by the National Reviewan editorial statement from a contributing editor explained "So let me be clear: We did not “fire” Ann for what she wrote, even though it was poorly written and sloppy". 

Of course Norman is perfectly free, as I am, to quote any source and take any political position. Similarly the classical music industry is free to spend its promotional budgets wherever it wants. But we never stop hearing complaints about how classical music suffers from scarcity of funding, visa problems, marginalisation in the media, inadequate performance venues, apathy from younger audiences, and lack of educational support. With the classical industry's quasi-official media outlet aligning itself in this way, are these problems really surprising?


Pliable said…
It is probably a total coincidence. But since uploading my post pointing out the provenance of the National Review, Norman Lebrecht has severely edited his article and added a lame disclaimer about not endorsing the toxic views of his source. The original headline of 'Conductor wanted. No whites need apply' has been amended to 'Conductor wanted. No whites or Asians need apply' in a clumsy piece of backpedalling.

He excuses this tawdry exercise in click bait by saying "We report what is there". Quite so. Just as An Overgrown Path reports what is there before it is redacted.
Pliable said…
The National Review Buffalo Philharmonic 'no whites' article is attributed to 'David Thomas'. Following that link reveals that this is his sole contribution to the magazine and that "David Thomas is the pen name of a current conductor working with professional and semi-professional orchestras on the East Coast".
Antoine Leboyer said…
Well, N Lebrecht did the same thing to me on correcting from my editorial ( clear factual errors (including the fact that FIFA is in Zurich and not in Geneva ...). So while this is not the first time, this is not the last time. I now feel in excellent company.

As to the National Review, who is indeed very conservative (and there is far more in the US these days), I must point out that Jay Nordlinger who writes on classical music ( who has a keen ear. . He is a friend and I recommend his articles.

All the best from Germany, Antoine
Pliable said…
But undaunted, Norman now runs a story sourced from Spiked magazine -

Spiked is part funded by the Charles Koch Foundation which has strong far-right connections -

As my post says, with the classical industry's quasi-official media outlet aligning itself in this way, are the art form's current problems really surprising?
Sanssouci said…
For most in my circle, Lebrecht is either ridiculed or dismissed outright, however, this latest "report of what's there" continues a distasteful pattern of curating some of the most odious gleanings from NR's most openly racist/supremacist contributors, as was the case of publishing of BOTH installments of Heather MacDonald's ignorant, neo-nazi screed "The Crime of Whiteness in American Classical Music!"

It appears that despite the backlash, Lebrecht appears to either like the notoriety (a rather sick psychological need to be talked about, I suppose) or in fact, embraces these heinous ideologies.

Either way, Lebrecht and his Broken Record have been downgraded to right-wing trash from being merely noisome!

As for Jay Nordlinger, as Mr. Leboyer points out, is INDEED a sane holdover from the cultured conservatism of William F. Buckley, rather than the knuckle-dragging Trump cultists who seem to spew their filth on most of the NR's pages these days!

That said, with the abundance of choices out there, neither Lebrecht nor his cherished source will be missed.
Pliable said…
Chris, you make an important point when you say "There was a toxicity, especially in the comments".

It is those comments, and the large number of 'thumbs up' for the most toxic - that really disturbs me. Norman Lebrecht's rantings are bad enough. But the majority support for them indicates how deeply the malaise has worked its way into classical music.

I find myself asking the question, if this is what the classical audience wants do I want to be part of this? with increasing frequency.
Hank Drake said…
The Slipped Disc site has been changed within the last few weeks to disable "right-clicks" for Chrome and Edge users. Since these users can no longer open a link in a separate window, users must click back to the main page whenever they want to go to another posting. This is a blatant and pathetic attempt on Lebrecht's part to gin up his perceived web traffic - totally unsurprising for the David Pecker of Classical music.
David said…
Another theme is have all the really great performances, recordings indeed all the greatest musicians come and gone? I haven't heard anything in the last twenty or more years that compares with previous generations. A similar phenomenon has been observed in the field of pop music. One could put this down to, as Fischer-Dieskau diagnosed it, technology overtaking culture. One finds technological advances have take place of cultural development across all forms of media. There is more available, and a lot of it instantly, but nothing of comparable quality is being produced or created now. One might also see it as the decline of the classical tradition or even the West in general. The collapse of Christendom (Muggeridge?)... as a lot of classical music is either directly or indirectly underpinned by the Church and its values. I find very little to get excited about now n the classical music scene. Certainly the (over) promotion of female composers (unjustly?) hidden in history hasn't yielded anything groundbreaking despite endless propagabdising by the BBC to the point Robert Schumann cannot be mentioned on Radio 3 without playing a tedious excerpt from one of Clara Schumann's compositions or the time given to the sentimental musings of Florence Price. It is all very well inserting minority interest politics into culture but it does make for any great art or revelations in the same way special interest roups have ruined political debate and commitment. Agit prop inspired fringe theatre, music and culture have fallen by the wayside. Hence a soul-less younger generation without ideals. Perhaps cross over concerts/projects of the sort mounted by Jordi Savall (I liked his Tears of Lisbon album which combine modern Fado with Gregorian chant very much and reminded me of Marcello Mastrioanni's last movie Journey to The End of the World set in Portugal) and in the album featured at the top of this article.

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