Sunday, February 05, 2006

To clarify

Sorry - I'm not sure that my main point about my post below is clear (this isn't response to your comment Mike, which is interesting for sure!).

I feel that eighth blackbird came around in the right place at the right time. Good support, both academically and financially, from Universities combined with a fortuitous management contract allowed this group to consider staying together, which has only helped in a snowballing manner the rest of their careers.

But there aren't really any other groups like them. Nearly every other group that I can think of is comprised of members spread out geographically that only come together on break from teaching/performing. Or their teaching load places too many demands on their time to allow for adequate practice.

It takes a serious commitment from all parties to ensure success like this. But there is precious little of this in academia or from the government, at least in the States. What I am suggesting below and in this post is that better, continued support is what is needed. Sure, large ensembles like orchestras are supported by the public. But the audience reaction to eighth blackbird, not to mention the reaction of youngsters (they visited at least two universities and three schools plus a retirement home in thier 4 day residency here in St Cloud) just shows me that there is an existing audience for this already. Audiences crave progress, not business as usual with art.

It would be nice if society as a whole recognized this!!!


Anonymous stephen f lilly said...

This rambles a bit and is only tangentially related, but I think there may be some points in there...

I have been reading Rationalizing Culture by Georgina Born (an ethnography of mid-1980s IRCAM), and one of the central issues is the institutionalization of the arts. I must admit I am conflicted. I find myself looking for a job in a field that has isolated and even sterilized non-popular musics (for instance, I am greatly saddened by the effect I see much of academia having on jazz - turning everything from Count Basie to Charlie Parker into the modern day Eine Klein Nachtmusik). Of course, this is nothing compared with what Sony and MTV have done with popular musics, and without institutional support, computer music would have gone no where. So what is my point? Too often people look upon “art” music as something from which society can improve its lot. This is often how PBS or the NEA are justified, but with increased funding comes increased control. But how can artists freely express themselves when PBS cannot even show a lesbian couple living quietly in Vermont when public money is being used? Furthermore, I do not think American society will never embrace non-popular art. I do not compose for society, I compose for myself and the small group of people who want to listen. Obviously, one should never cease trying to make people aware of this music, but keep in mind, we cannot even garner the support of most American performers.

I wish there was a way to increase state support without overtly politicizing art.
I wish there was a way to stop people from thumping their bibles and pocketbooks.
Unfortunately, we have to make due with the loopholes we have managed to carve out of capitalism, and applaud Eighth Blackbird for their efforts, hoping they do not have to resort to either a) the San Francisco Symphony playing amateur arrangements of Metallica tunes for attention or b) another ensemble that plays Cage for education and Mozart for money.

2/10/2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger Mike Boyd said...

More on the PBS/NEA/NPR issue - I get increasing frustrated with the NPR-intellectual's view of music. Since NPR typically plays shortish, popular, very common-practice "classical" music (basically to function as easy listening for "sophisticated" adults), these people (who might otherwise be interested in newer, progressive music) seem to identify with music that has a sonic affinity with Mozart and von Suppe (who, based on listening only to NPR, seems to be an historically significant composer) - therefore, the only contemporary music being played is neo-tonal (not even Varese makes it on most symphony's calendars!). If publicly funded radio would even partially embrace more adventuresome music, the effects would be widespread!

2/20/2006 12:29 PM  

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