A couple years ago I discovered a series of pieces title “America’s Other Orchestras” at Arab America and it helped me to solidify some thoughts I’ve been having about how we have discussions, and the narratives we create, about Orchestras and Classical Music. These are thoughts that were percolating at least since I first wrote a couple times about the Kennedy Center’s American Voices Festival back in 2013.
Diversity in Classical Music has been a hot topic lately, especially given the recent announcements of upcoming seasons of organizations and the pushback many are getting recently. With the introduction of the Women Composer Database and the Composer Diversity Project, therea a push for aggregating disparate lists of composers to decenter the White Male Canon by highlighting all the Women and PoC (People of Color) composers that have long been existing in the tradition but have been systemically excluded from it except in the most tokenistic of ways.
There have been a number of recent pieces about Classical Music and Clubbing over the past few months and a couple of hefty dissertations about the “new” phenomenon and the “Indie Classical Scene.” I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time (well, years, actually) as I’ve been playing clubs for a couple of decades now (for the most part with the cello as my main axe) and have seen the explosion of clubs during the late 90s and their subsequent decline over the past 10 years or so.1
Here’s a link to my list of Symphony Orchestras and Chamber Orchestras in the US formed since 2000. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and should be viewed as a “work in progress” (much as my similar list of US Opera organizations formed since 2000).
One of the things that is striking about the early accounts of Classical Music is how provincial it was. Until the 20th century we didn’t really conceive of Classical Music as one unified field. In other words, there was a lot of diversity in the genres and repertoire performed. This coincided with what we could call a fragmented audience along ethnic lines for various genres and repertoire.