One of frequent questions I’m asked when I point out the immense growth of opera companies, orchestras, and classical music ensembles over the past few decades is what their financial model is and whether that translates to making a livable wage or even whether that translates into the organization being sustainable and able to stay out of the red more than the mainstream, incumbent organizations.
Since my narrative, contra the Classical Music Crisis, involves demonstrating the field is simply constantly changing and evolving and redistributing total [performance and contributed] revenue to other newer organizations, I’ve been much more concerned with the trajectory of Classical Music group life-cycles.* The Crisis narrative focuses primarily on the mainstream and incumbent organizations and their health as a litmus test of the health of the field overall. Much of that narrative relies on a relatively static ensemble (and in some cases, a static and hegemonic audience culture) that’s unwilling to change.**
There’s such a problem with Eurocentric terminology when discussing analogues to a Western institution found in other cultures. That’s no different than with orchestras. I’ve used the phrase “Ethnic Orchestras” in reference to large ensembles modeled after the European-styled Orchestra (e.g. Traditional Chinese Orchestras), but at the same time, some of these large ensembles are definitely found within European countries (e.g. Mandolin Orchestras).
When I’m referring to large ensembles that have had little connection to the European-styled Orchestra and that are native to countries (e.g. Gamelan) I usually call those “Non-Western Orchestras.”
In a recent piece by Bill Zuckerman, which is ostensibly a defense of the state of Classical Music not being so dire as some Crisis folks are saying, we get the explanation that many of the types of values taught are the focus of music school instruction. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that, I do take some issue with Zuckerman’s examples of “new values” used by younger and newer musicians.
In my previous post about tools for the 21st Century Musician, I discussed improvisation as probably the most useful tool musicians can be using. In a way, technology is even more indispensable. Unless our voice is our primary or only instrument (and even then there are exceptions), then nearly everything we make music on is the result of some level of technology. Whether we’re talking about the technology of carved bone flutes and dried skins over a wooden frame, or the highly advanced craft that luthiers use to carve/mold stringed instruments, or the ability to build circuitry or program for electronic instruments or computers, there is always some level of technology involved in the making of musical instruments.
In a recent Telegraph piece by Hannah Furness we’re told that Peter Sellars has called for the end of Mass art forms
In a speech about the importance of art, Sellars argued the changing world had left consumers wanting a different experience from simple, traditional mass market.
Saying opera had an “irrational beauty” which is “incredibly powerful” in front of an audience, he added: “Meanwhile the new technology means you don’t to have an opera house to do an opera
“In fact, most young people don’t want to go to an opera house and it’s not how those people want to have a good time, to sit with 5,000 other people.
“In fact, what’s very exciting is some of the most exciting opera experience I’ve had is in a room with 15 other people, or 30 or 40 whatever, in an intimate situation.
As I’ve shown numerous times at this blog, the same can be said about large scale pop or stadium/arena rock shows as well as Sporting events which often take place in big stadiums. But does this mean the end of large scale mass entertainment or art forms? I’m not so sure.