Friday, June 24, 2016

Urban Planning for Classical Musicians

There are few places in the world where one does get the sense that significant efforts have been made to accommodate classical musicians: Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, London, parts of New York. But in most places, one has the feeling that little or no attempt has been made to create a wholesome environment for those of us who are music lovers and musicians. I mean, Mexico City? Have you been to Mexico City? Apart from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, it is a pretty harsh environment. In fact, a lot of places show distressing signs of being not very congenial environments for classical music and its lovers. Here are some of the major issues:

  • barking dogs
  • braying burros
  • macaws!
  • loud motorcycles
  • boom-box cars
  • fireworks
  • marching bands
  • brass bands
  • barking dogs
  • drum circles
  • Muzak
  • loud inappropriate music in restaurants chosen by the twenty-something staff but immensely irritating to the fifty-something diners
  • traffic
  • busses
  • barking dogs
  • EDM
  • sirens
and so on.

And, conversely, there is a shocking lack of these kinds of essential features that are so important to classical music and its lovers:
  • recording studios, an extremely important feature that should be available in all residences, schools, colleges, universities, office buildings and everywhere else people are apt to find themselves. You never know when you might need to record something.
  • sound-proofing in all the above locations so that you can do whatever it is you are doing, practicing Bach probably, without having to contend with the disruptive sound of someone next door chewing loudly or something
  • of course, there should be concert and recital spaces in various sizes available anywhere there are people. One small recital space for every area with 500 population, one medium concert hall for every area with 1000 population and one opera house for every area with 10,000 population should be sufficient.
  • instrument maintenance and repair people available on a 24 hour basis everywhere--for obvious reasons! Also, for guitarists, personnel specially trained in the emergency repair of broken nails.
  • special flights on specially-designed aircraft to all important destinations with accommodations specifically for musicians travelling with violins, cellos, guitars, tubas, double basses or any other musical instruments up to and including large gongs, timpani and gamelans. White-gloved baggage assistants will be available to help stow safely large and awkward instruments.
  • of course, there will need to be appropriate refreshments available anywhere musicians are working, such as concert halls, recording studios and street corners in the case of busking musicians. These should include a mixed selection of Norwegian smoked salmon, Dom Pérignon, brioche, Perrier, M&Ms with the brown ones taken out, etc.
Honestly, wouldn't all of society be so much better off, and with lower blood pressure according to recent research, if happy, contented classical musicians were encouraged to be happy and productive all over the place? I know I would feel better.

And now for an appropriate envoi, look what cool things could be happening all over the place:

I mean, talk about transforming society?


Marc Puckett said...

Ha, ha. No macaws or burros here in Eugene, although there was a 'gang-related' shooting outside the public library last night, more or less during the singing of the Kyrie of Bach's Mass in B minor (perhaps half a mile between the two events). Add 'informed criticism in the local media' (or, 'any media coverage at all') to your 'essentials' list, perhaps: the shooting made it into the newspaper this morning but not the splendid performance of Bach (am being a bit disingenuous: I knew there wouldn't be, until the weekend's editions). Not all perfection (the corno di caccia in the Gloria-- 'historically informed performance', you know-- must be devilishly difficult to play) but a splendid beginning of the Oregon Bach Festival. Am just this morning realising that your friend Chris Thile is one of the artists here, not performing any Bach, however. :-)

Christine Lacroix said...

Thanks for the lovely flashmob. Nice way to start my Saturday. You might enjoy this one, the little girl on the drum towards the end is adorable:

Bryan Townsend said...

Marc, you are so lucky to be able to attend a good performance of the B minor Mass!

Christine, you're welcome. It is interesting why these classical flashmobs are so striking. I think it might be for two reasons: one is the sheer unlikeliness of seeing this kind of performance just thrown together in a public space. But the other is that the depiction of this kind of thing: large-scale highly disciplined intelligent collaboration on an aesthetic object, is extraordinarily rare in our culture (outside the concert hall). What we usually see in any kind of narrative is the lonely individual, or small group, contending with themselves and others. That is the Romantic Theme and it is what we are used to.