Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Now We're a 'Community'

There have been a raft of news stories lately in Europe and North America about governments cutting funding to arts organizations. The thing that strikes me is how the discussion is framed in the media. This story is typical:

Notice the use of the word 'community'. The media only seem to have three or four notes on their harmonica so they have to shoehorn stories about the arts into one of them. If it is a case of government funding then the story will be the lessening of support for a minority community, much like lessening of support for a visible minority or women. Those kinds of efforts are with the end of assuring some sort of social equality. But what could supporting the arts 'community' possibly be in aid of? Ah, this is the unasked question. The media have found their easily-communicated narrative so end of story. But arts 'workers' (and there is another interesting term, equivalent to, I suppose, sex 'workers') are not an oppressed minority, are they? They are individuals who have chosen a risky profession, economically, for personal reasons, aren't they? The potential rewards are great, are they not? Ah, perhaps that is the issue: the rewards in the non-commercial fields of art are minuscule. As a non-commercial composer you might get the occasional commission from the Canada Council, an orchestra, a festival or a private sponsor, but these, even for a 'successful' composer, will probably not add up to a living wage. Your only hope is a position teaching theory and composition at a university.

How far has classical music fallen from its position at the head of the arts in the 19th century, when it was the embodiment of our deepest nature, the Will of Schopenhauer! Now we are just another socially-disadvantaged community...


RG said...

With all due respect, you are an evil man, a close friend of Stephen Harper and adulator of Friedrich Hayek. Thomases Douglas and Mulcair will crush you like cockroaches who are your higher evolutionary kin.

The Arts (bow and tremble before that word, you dog! you worm!) are the highest expression of the human genius, the most exalted level of perfection, and the moral equivalent of gold seven and seventy-seven times refined. Artists, those who create and/or perform Art, are consequently the most exalted and highest members of the human species.

Your role in life, in your miserable narrow blinded life, is to bow and to scrape and to shoulder the burdens of physical labour for the privilege of serving and supporting their sacred leisure to be Artists. Your taxes supporting the Arts and Artists ought to be held up by you in outstretched hands from obsequious grovelling on your knees as an offering to the Divine and the Sublime and the Perfect.

If you want to have any role in adoring the Arts, beyond such crass contributions to the Community that knows what Art is, then you must beg and squirm in silence and pull your forelock and strike your breast while you wait without breathing to see whether the Community will even notice your supplication before you perish and fade from the guttery furrows of the earth in which you dwell. You bipolar you!

I will tweet your address soon!


Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, exactly! Wasn't I clear?

We usually don't do Irony here at The Music Salon as it so easily goes terribly awry! Just look at poor Jonathan Swift and all the trouble that his essay "A Modest Proposal" got him into.

I was just thinking about doing a post, or rather another post, on ideology in music and how even being anti-ideological is itself an ideology.

What you are expressing in jest is, of course, the ideology of the 19th century artist who, as a look at Wagner's life reveals, thought of himself as above mere mundane morality as his allegiance was to the ART--as you say, the "most exalted level of perfection".

Nowadays classical musicians just try to scrape by with the few crumbs left over after the pop musicians have had their fill...

RG said...

Yabbut, I estimate that behind the leftist knee-jerk support for support of the ARTS is a broader streak than a mere trace of that 19thC Romanticism you reference. They like it because it is irrational in a way that feels transcendental.

Thugs like the NDP know that they have sold their souls (and the souls of all they hope to command) to the devil the Satan of "Community" power. Marx tried to disguise his totalitarian ism by speaking of a "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" but I doubt he was unrealistic enough to suppose the workers of the world would actually unite around Der Ring des Nibelungen. Our nowadays statists raising taxes for Scheisskunst (often enough literally as well as metaphorically so) know they have no real sense of the sublime and so to disguise their ignorance shout loudly about supporting the Arts as a form of power, exaltation, and confused fantasy.

[Excuse my enthusiastic irony above.]

Bryan Townsend said...

Every time I look at my "Stats" I am reminded that my readership is far and wide. Just in the last 24 hours, for example, I have had readers from, in order of quantity, the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Georgia (the country, not the state), Poland and Russia. For this reason, I try not to talk about politics in any specifics. If I even mention the CBC, I refer to it as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

I also have, I guess, an unofficial policy of not expressing a particular political position directly. Partly because I don't think this is primarily why people come to the blog, but also because I think that a kind of neutrality is the best way to talk about politics and ideology IN MUSIC.

I do have passionate goals, but they are musical ones. I want people to know more about music, to judge it better, to not simply accept the evaluations of those people who write and speak in the mass media, but to develop their own taste and so on.

Speaking of The Ring, I am working up to doing a series of posts on the 19th century, following those on Beethoven, and there will be quite a bit to say about Wagner. What seems almost comical to us now, was taken very seriously indeed in the 19th century--still is in some circles...