He’s at it again.
Yes, the classical music crisis, which some don’t believe in, and others think has been going on forever.
This is the third post in a series. In the first, I asked, innocently enough, how long the classical music crisis (which is so widely talked about) has been going on. Answers poured in, here and on Facebook and Twitter. The answers — as I said in the second post — suggested that we don’t know how to talk about our crisis, because we don’t have enough information. Compared, as I’ve said before, with data that’s widely available about other industries in crisis, like newspapers.
In future posts, I’ll show why non-crisis beliefs — that we don’t really have a crisis and that the crisis has always been with us — don’t hold water. I’ve worked in classical music, as a student and professional, since the early 1960s, and I guarantee that there wasn’t widespread talk about a crisis, about classical music being endangered, until perhaps the 1990s. Though hints of it had surfaced earlier.
I’ll also offer data — from my own experience, and from what others report — that can teach us when and how our crisis showed itself.
Of course Sandow states that “These situations have been paraded by crisis skeptics, as if they showed that the crisis is perpetual, but when that happens, they’re taken out of context.”
He tries to give some of that context, while ignore other contextual aspects as I pointed out on his facebook page here (reproduced below for the reader’s convenience):
“New orchestras were created. Half of all orchestras that existed in the US in 1940 were founded during the depression, despite 25% unemployment and a huge drop in industrial production. Which could hardly have happened if classical music had been in crisis.”
It happened due to the WPA and Federal Music project funding. Nearly all the WPA orchestra formed during the depression era no longer exist. It’s actually a similar to the economic bubble that happened during the Rockefeller/Ford funding years (and to a lesser extent the 90s boom). In both periods there was rapid expansion, and after the funding ceased the industry was forced to adapt for funding. Few enough of us would recognize popular music from that era. With the exception of niche groups like Pink Martini we have no more Sinatras, Dean Martins, Edith Piafs singing to full scale backing orchestras and the era of the big band is effectively over too. The cost disease will eventually negatively affect any kind of industry where the product (e.g. live performance) requires significant human labor. With the funding that came from the dying broadcast media and big labels drying up as those industries hemorrhage, sports and popular music will follow course too as they are already showing signs of doing.
Cherry picking (also known as: suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument by selective observation, argument by half-truth, card stacking, fallacy of exclusion, ignoring the counter evidence, one-sided assessment, slanting, one-sidedness) is also another fallacy, one that he’s claiming those who don’t have his viewpoint have done while doing it himself. Of course Rosy retrospection (otherwise known as Nostalgia bias) is a pretty robust human trait too. and is necessary for us to believe in a magical pre-classical crisis world (or to redefine the boundaries of when the crisis began). To be fair, maybe he’ll fill in the contextual holes in his viewpoint in future posts since he seems intent on beating this dead horse.
And this is not to say that how the crisis was viewed was at all homogenous, or that the sense of the Classical Music industry crisis has remained the same–as I mentioned I’ve only listed the pieces in my Timeline of Orchestra Crisis that talk about a general crisis. For every one of those pieces there are a handful of pieces that talk specifically about individual institution deficits and season changes due to shortened funds.
I’m sure we can even go further back and find nothing about deficits and funding issues simply because nearer the Cival War era there really weren’t many permanent (as opposed to professional–an important distinction that’s made by early 20th century discussions of orchestras in the papers).
Sandow is right about one thing–none of us seem to know exactly what we’re talking about simply because none of us have a very good historical perspective on the topic and simply Cherry picking all the negative (or positive) press and mentions about Classical Music throughout US history isn’t going to give us one!