Friday, September 16, 2011

Music and International Politics

I post this with extreme trepidation as it sometimes seems as if the under the surface politics in music already threatens it to such an extent that discussing it overtly could only make matters worse! As you know if you read this blog, I am very focused on the music itself to the exclusion of everything else. But Norman Lebrecht recently posted this story about the suspension of four symphony players for writing a letter. The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians seems to be taking place in London as well, as there were two recent incidents where concerts by Israeli musicians were disrupted by protests. As Norman Lebrecht points out in an earlier post:
A small group of musicians has sent a letter to the Independent newspaper calling on the BBC to cancel this week’s Prom by the Israel Philharmonic. 
By "small group" it seems there were twenty-some signatories. The fallout from this, as recounted in the link above, is that four of the musicians signing the letter are members of the London Philharmonic and have been suspended for up to nine months by the board. The London Philharmonic is a player-owned organization and the board is a mixed group of players, executives and supporters. It seems as if the crux of the offence was in including their orchestral affiliation in the signature to the letter, making it appear that the orchestra itself supported the contents of the letter.

I really think we need a Geneva Convention to outlaw tactics like this from the world of music. Music has its own set of ethics and conventions that include everything from how to handle the resolution of a suspended fourth to proper attire for concerts (yes, I'm thinking of you, Yuja Wang). It would seem to me that the ethics of the musical universe should forbid trying to prevent the performance of fellow musicians for non-musical political reasons.

On the other hand, you might be able to make an argument for the banning of certain performances for good musical reasons...

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