2014-10-09 THOUGHTS ON THE ASO LOCKOUT
I warn you up front, this will be one of those non-Buddhist postings. Expect inflammatory rhetoric. Fasten your seatbelts, etc …
Here is where you can donate. I am far from rolling in greenbacks right now, raising money to get Monarca out to the world and all … but I’m sending my $25. When you read about Maestro Robert Spano putting his own money where his mouth is ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/arts/music/atlanta-symphony-orchestra-music-director-backs-performers.html?_r=0 , I’m sure you’ll want to do the same. SO JOIN ME!!
I’m going to continue posting stuff about this, because, I repeat: it is as important as National Security. It IS national security. What does it say about the US that an arts organization like the ASO can be allowed to go out of business? In my humble opinion, that is up there with high infant mortality, or throwing acid in the faces of girls who want to go to school, as an indicator of quality of life.
Such a convenient narrative, this one. Let’s sample a couple of juicy key points:
“There’s no more money like this any more.” Meaning, money like that which is necessary to support a Symphony Orchestra. Or to have much art at all, really and truly. Because, count on it, once the symphony orchestras are gone there will start to be arguments made for getting rid of chamber orchestras because there isn’t any more of that kind of money either.
Oh really? And the money which many rather low-level people on Wall Street make? Or the money that some people on the boards of such institutions make … is there no money like that any more? Is that not around anymore either?
Really. People who do not have to worry –who have never had to worry for even a minute, let alone a day— about how they would deal with one of their children breaking an arm, or decent pregnancy and birth care of a wife or sister … are saying things about musicians like: “It does make me wonder … I’m not calling them crazy. I’m just wondering if they’re crazy.” This was Mr. Douglas Hertz, chair of the Woodruff Board, talking about some existential crisis which he appears to be having about this whole business. This remark of his edges up, I swear, to the “when did you stop beating your wife” sort of commentary. How exactly was this supposed to be constructive? Or was it just supposed to demonstrate his essential –and maybe EXISTENTIAL— ignorance about Art In General? Or demonstrate that frankly, my dear, he just Doesn’t Give A Damn? Like some sort of Good Ol’ Boy or something. I decline to speculate further because it would be insulting … for everyone’s … intelligence.
For me this is a slightly –but only very slightly—more sophisticated version of the now tried-and-true USian Blame The Worker litany. A pretty tired one, by now. Do I need to go over how the workers of Detroit somehow ended up being responsible for the numerous and Really Embarrassing errors of management, both in strategic and business planning and in terms of just plain reading the scientific evidence? I thought not.
Then there is the idea that to get rid of this highbrow art is "what The People Really Want anyway, so Who are WE to deny the popular taste?"
Now this is really rich. Here are these people salivating to step up to bat and hold forth about how they are really populist, really For The People. All just because they have managed to develop some twisted discourse that you can’t play Mozart or Brahms or Copland for Jane & Joe Sixpack because “people like that can’t appreciate this kind of music”. And anyway, J & J can’t afford the ticket price.
WOW. Might the former be because education budgets have been cut to the bone and jeez, there’s no money for a music –or art, or literature, teacher any more? Might the latter be because both Js have been laid off and now have no health coverage? Do you need to ask?: they got laid off because of the suicidally stupid business “decisions” of these “managers” who suddenly and inexplicably are qualified to judge the viability of a Symphony Orchestra. People who, I intuit, can barely manage a visit to their own hearts.
In other words, the justification for not having art in people’s lives is because of a situation which these “managers” themselves created. Pretty rich, almost as rich as they are themselves, except in their spirits where they are appallingly poor.
I don’t want to belittle anyone’s contribution to Society As A Whole, but might it not be possible that Each and Every One of these ASO musicians is making more of a contribution than some mid-level cutie on Wall Street, or a mediocre MBA who thinks classical music is something that you use to go to sleep? Just sayin’, as they say.
And anyway, which one is making more of a contribution to the general Balance Of Beauty in the Universe? Do you have to even think about your answer to this?
I already warned you this was not going to be my Most Buddhist Self, people, so no reproaches please.
It breaks my heart, it makes me cry, to read:
“Though they’ve been locked out of Symphony Hall, the ASO players have not stopped playing. They’ve played chamber music at a local club, Terminal West, and Friday night, about 35 players will perform two shows at the 525-seat theater at Oglethorpe University. They’re being led by Richard Prior, the Emory Symphony Orchestra’s conductor.
After walking the picket line earlier in the week, the players were thrilled to be onstage at Oglethorpe for a rehearsal and to be joined by members of the Atlanta Mozart Choir.
‘It feels a little exciting and subversive,’ said Michael Kurth, the bassist helping organize the performances. ‘It actually feels exhilarating to be with my colleagues, and just proper. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.’
This is what they DO, dear ones, it IS what they are supposed to be doing. And you know what else? It is subversive – because with every beautiful note they play together, in love and solidarity, they are sowing doubt in the mind of every listener. Doubt about the pseudo-values espoused by people like Mr Douglas Hertz, whose deathless --as in Night of the Living Passive-Aggressive Undead-- words I quote above.
And with the Atlanta Mozart Choir, so beautiful. It is no accident that one of the primary tools for union organizers in Europe in the late 19th century, and later in the USA, was the choir, or some sort of choral group. There are few things that can wake the heart and move the soul like voices together in harmony: it’s a model for solidarity and unity of purpose.
I totally understand that someone may have been born to read the Mysterious Tarot of the Stock Market or know what Banks and Currencies will Do Tomorrow, or any one of those things. But the happy fact of the matter is that these colleagues of mine do something that materially improves the lives of those around them, every day. Just that simple. How many Bankers and Currency Traders can say the same?
Here's where again:
I repeat: this is as important as National Security. It IS national security.