So yes, JSTOR is my friend, but while spending a lot of time searching databases of peer reviewed journals and more academic books I didn’t think to look at more “mundane” periodicals. You know, those things we used to read everyday before we had the internet–Newspapers! I discovered that I also have access to ProQuest (I know–sometimes I’m really slow!), which has access to periodicals, such as the New York Times, all the way back to 1851!
So I’ve been reading tons of ancient news, and finding some very interesting stuff and decided (hence the title of this post) to start an annotated bibliographic timeline of the so-called “Orchestra Crisis.” Right now I’m just doing random searches with relevant strings, but am slowly adding entries to this here. I’m still deciding on formatting and will likely put this up at my website in a more formal presentation–and obviously, there are no annotations yet. Let me give you a few of the gems I’ve found–since it seems to be the [Classical Music] doom and gloom consensus that it wasn’t until after Baumol’s Cost disease (and some say even much later) that we’ve recognized this “crisis.”
From the St. Louis Post – Dispatch:
Few people know how heavy the individual contributions have been. I have no figures at hand, but I think that more than $150,000 has been contributed during 35 years to pay the shortages in annual income. In this regard, however, St. Louis’ experience is not different from that of other cities where symphony orchestras have been created: if ordinary prices are charged for the seats a heavy deficit must result and must be paid by some one surely during the early years of the orchestra’s existence, and, perhaps, continuously.
N.A. (1904) “Public Asked to Support Orchestra” St Louis Post – Dispatch, November 10, pg. 3 <<http://search.proquest.com.oberon.ius.edu/docview/577565967/fulltextPDF/13D7EE474D349D260E4/4>>
The date of the publication, as you can see, is from 1904. Most of the references I’ve found before that date only mention individual orchestra deficits without reference to orchestras in general. The emphasized portion (my emphasis, btw) shows how the author has an understanding that deficits are a common thing though there doesn’t seem to be an understanding that non-performance income must be a continuous thing.
One of the first references (that I’ve found so far) to an Orchestra Crisis, is from this 1923 piece:
Aldritch, Richard. (1923) “An Orchestral Crisis” New York Times, May 6, pg. X3 <<http://search.proquest.com.oberon.ius.edu/news/docview/100253315/abstract/13D7D7342F361721BA6/1>>
Where Aldritch suggested the possible disbanding of the Chicago Orchestra if the management and musicians couldn’t come to terms. He also says some not-so-nice things about the field (as well as those who fund and support it) as a whole:
Rich men will pay the deficit in Chicago, as elsewhere — they always do. That seems to be one of the things rich men are for, and enough of them seem to be aware of their duty and destiny to keep things going in the orchestral world. The only trouble in some places indeed, as in New York, is to restrain the rich men from rushing ahead and founding new orchestras when somebody asks for them, whether they are needed by the public or not. The public and its needs, indeed, seem to be the last consideration.
For everywhere the mounting costs of orchestral performances are becoming a matter of concern.
That last comment is particularly interesting since, as you can see from some of the other pieces I’ve listed from 1924 refer to a summit, of sorts, of symphony backers (i.e. rich men) to the house of industrialist, Clarence H. Mackay, to figure out how to save orchestras. As one of the titles intimates, this includes “Discuss[ing] Big Business Methods, Including Mergers.” Indeed, with the New York Phil’s merger (in 1921) with New York’s National Symphony Orchestra, the idea of merging orchestras was most definitely on the table (the NYP will eventually also merge with the New York Symphony Society in 1928). I remember reading a fascinating history of the New York Phil in an article (that I got through JSTOR, of course) that describes its early history and the trials and tribulations (not “tribble-ations” – heh).
Anyway, if you have access to ProQuest or any other database of old newspapers (or heck–just do it the old-fashioned way and visit your library and find a Periodical Index and look through the microfiche) these articles are well worth a look at how most everyone understood the financial difficulties of performing arts organizations, and how some have occasionally cried “wolf” (not the Wolf Report – heh) throughout [at least] the past century or so.
Besides, these are the sources for information about orchestras that most people will have read–not the peer-reviewed journal articles, academic texts, and the “Sky is Falling” proclamations by pundits and experts, which, as we know tend to be terrible at prediction anyway.