Preparing Atopy. A lecture in 6 parts. Part three: Farewell, my darling.
FAREWELL, MY DARLING
But what else does this knight have to do?
In theatre we use the term “Kill your darlings” when it is necessary to say farewell to a beloved idea that just doesn’t work like originally intended – on the stage for example.
In our current musical life there are many, many darlings. We love them dearly, and with reason, but they just don’t work like they should anymore.
In Germany for example we have the most wonderful opera houses, the finest orchestras, music universities in most bigger cities, and even in small villages, like Trossingen. But something doesn’t seem to be quite right anymore, because these institutions – which we can afford easily – are under current attack and face increasing budget constraints. Orchestra fusions happen left and right, which results in more and more competition for fledgling music students. If a flute post in an orchestra is announced one could probably buy a lottery ticket instead – you rather win there than getting such a job.
As the little pimply sister of classical music this also affects New Music with a big “N”. Countless internationally known festivals and concert series like Donaueschingen or musica viva are dependent on the cooperation with radio stations, and these radio stations are modelled after the demands and necessities of the 1950’s, but not the 21st century. It is only a question of time until all of this is abolished, but most people act like the current situation is eternal and will never change.
It’s no use to accuse anybody of being guilty, as the reasons for this slow and creeping decline (and it can keep on declining the next decades, as Germany is still a very rich country) are so manifold that it’s not only the German politicians fault – even though they definitively can be accused by default!
Most of us fight valiantly against the decline, and I am one of them, with conviction and verve. But sometimes I ask myself if it would not be better to kill some of the darlings of the contemporary music business. Or if it could be necessary to reevaluate some of the working mechanisms of the Classical music scene as it functions right now.
I don’t mean the fact that this scene is mostly heavily subsidized in Germany. Even though there are more and more naysayers who would prefer a more American model of private funding that forces everybody to build their own opera house, because otherwise there will be no opera. No, I do personally disagree with this model, as one of the reasons there actually is a European cultural heritage comes from the fact that there was always a public conscience of a mutual responsibility for this culture. Without funding of the state or church (which historically was of course often the same) there would be no Greek Philosophy, no Sixtine Chapel, no Johann Sebastian Bach. Neither of these was crowd-funded nor was there a debate about their commercial merit. We don’t have to constantly discuss how much a seat in the opera is costing the tax payers because all kind of stupid shit is costing them much, much more.
Children don’t give tax-deductable receipts for their love, and also we should not constantly expect some kind of financial gain for everything we hold dear in our lives. The Quintet in C-Major by Schubert has no monetary value at all, but everybody who has heard it only once has become another kind of human being. That’s what I mean. True value can never be measured in money. Money is an exchange item, it’s actually leass real than a Mazurka by Chopin. Money doesn’t have anything to do with me, it goes into anybody’s pocket to everybody who is greedy enough. But the Mazurka by Chopin has something to do with me, with my inner being. That’s true value.
I repeat – every Euro or Dollar that is spent by the state for culture and education is well spent money, and as essential as money spent for nourishment or health. Because if we don’t know anymore for what we live, life itself becomes questionable, and we are only cogs in a machine that doesn’t know individual expression, nor eccentricity, nor humor, nor deviation of any kind. We have to be able to afford the expense that creates this sacred space of imagination, this wild and borderless realm, because without this space we are not human anymore but just wheels in the train of senseless productivity. It’s the duty of each state to save and nurture this cultural space.
Education – and also cultural education – doesn’t make us into better human beings, but perhaps into smarter human beings. The smarter human being questions orders, doesn’t march in the conga line of dull propaganda, understands those who think different, doesn’t fear those who are foreign. Music can be part of this, as music knows no frontiers. With music we can travel into each country by ear, and each country comes to us, not only the „New World“ by Dvorak.
But still: do we have to plough on like 1950? Do we need more and more complex union contracts for choirs and orchestra until working with them becomes impossible and we and up having musicals with 2 keyboards, a percussionist and a conductor? Do we need music universities that do nothing else than preparing their students for a role that has remained the same since the 50’s, even though the 50’s are long gone?
At some point there will be no radio orchestras anymore in Germany, and probably also no radio like we know it anymore. At some point the opera houses in their great number will be gone or changed considerably. There is a possibility that a majority of future generations will not encounter classical music culture anymore, because it doesn’t appear on TV (which is also a thing of the past) nor other modern mass media. They might like it if they knew it, but they don’t know that it exists. Classical Music will be broadcast on specialist channels or accompany something else. Already now most “Classical Music” stations mostly play some crap by Hans Zimmer and claim it is some kind of classical music.
Only a tiny and dwindling number of young people from a richer background will encounter Classical Music in their life, not the poor, the immigrants or people from lower classes, which we don’t seem to deem worthy enough to encounter it. Germany for example has become a country for immigrants like the US used to be, but we still act as if they will leave at some point instead of giving them the benefit of being equal members of our society. Some of them already wait three generations for this to happen.
All this doesn’t mean we should give up, quite the opposite. But we have to kill the darling thought that Classical Music has to function in exactly the way that we are used to. A radical farewell is necessary, and many fattened and degenerated darlings have to bite the dust, that’s for sure. We have to bring the music to the street, to all streets, we have to create adventurous spaces where exciting music can be encountered, we have to fight, we have to be bold.
It will be a kind of war against ignorance and dullness, but it will be a good war, a war without victims but with only survivors, no, only awakened ones from a deep, deep sleep. This war I fight without hesitation. May all the other wars go to hell.
But what will be the role of New Music with a big “N” in this process?
(to be continued)