Friday 28 October 2016

Trend: orchestras leaving the concert hall

In the USA, a new trend seems to have spread considerably over the last years, a trend which probably will also increase in Europe where the Berlin Philharmonic has already been detected playing Brahms in a factory hall. An important article, summing-up what happens, can be found on the site of Vulture:

Some quotes:

"By now the deinstitutionalization of music has become institutionalized." Concerts have to be organized, if music making is not the activity of private people in their home or in a communal space, solely for their own fun, or being merely shared by their friends. When music making is in the format of a public event, which should be encouraged if we want classical music to survive as a cultural phenomenon within modern society, the concert hall is the best possible creation of an environment where the music can get into its own and experienced as separate from the noise and distractions of daily life.

"Theater, opera, and virtual reality have discovered immersive as the ultimate buzzword, promising to obliterate the fourth wall or the screen, or the stage, or whatever divides performers from passive consumers." The idea that concert audiences are mere passive consumers comes from people, who are completely ignorant of music and what happens when it is experienced. Is someone reading a book in a chair, silent, calm, almost immobile, a passive consumer? No, because what is being read creates an imaginary life in the mind and heart. The same with listening to classical music: an acoustical, imaginary landscape is unfolding, and if the music is well-played, this may be a gripping and enriching experience. The workings of the imagination are not passive at all, but active engagement; the observation that the body seems to rest quietly during the process, and that it is only what you see that tells what is happening, is pure materialism, and basically stupid and nonsensical. A good orchestral concert in a concert hall will be entirely immersive to the perceptive listener, and does not need physical immersion to make its point.

“Arts administrators are united in the belief that spreading music as far as possible, in both the digital and physical worlds, is more than just a marketing gimmick: It’s a strategy for survival. The world is full of intellectually curious, artistically adventurous young people who would no more buy a ticket to hear Brahms’s Requiem in concert at Geffen Hall than they would stick a stamp on a handwritten letter.” Here, the solution of the problem of decreasing audience numbers is sought in the presentation format instead of in education, which, after all, is the only way to make the art form understandable to newcomers. What is the point to lure people into classical music who think that handwriting is not 'cool' and who could not manage to stick a stamp on an envelope? Here we see pandering to the lowest denominator and not to 'intellectually curious, artistically adventurous young people', because such people would know quite well how to find their way into the arts. That the numbers of potential lovers of classical music are understood as to diminish, says something about the general educational achievements of society, and not about the art form seemingly 'failing' to attract new audiences. In other words: if society sinks its levels of sophistication, let classical music shrink and become an island of the insiders.... and if they can no longer afford orchestras and concert halls, so be it, they should restrict concerts to chamber music.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Regional Europe

You don't have to be an academic, or a politician, or a political scientist to understand that the European Union is in an existential crisis, and that the European nation states are not capable and not suited to handle the problems which concern every European nation in itself. As I see it, many of the EU problems are not caused by its structure alone, but by the fact that the nations have - out of free will - surrendered some of their sovereignty to the EU and then, where problems arise, want to act nationally without taking the interests of other countries into account, thus working against the very idea of the EU. No wonder that the complex structure of the EU gets stuck regularly.

Elsewhere on this blog I have argued that the idea of dissolving the nation states into regions, which are united in a European federal state, would offer workable alternatives to the current state of affairs. Now, some people have already thought along these lines, as mentioned in the Wiener Zeitung:

Dr Ulrike Guérot has written about such idea and developed it into an organisation:


Wholeheartedly recommended.

Friday 21 October 2016

Psychopathology as a career

On 13th October of this year, Ricordi published a press notice, referring to an interview in Die Zeit with composer Georg Friedrich Haas, in which he reveals the difficulties he had with emancipating from his nazi youth: 

Earlier, Haas had revealed to the world that he had finally wholeheartedly accepted his psychopathological sexuality: 

If one would still doubt, in spite of the overwhelming evidence in modernism itself, that the movement was born from trauma and psychopathological conditions, Haas' revelations - so wholeheartedly shared with the world - are another proof of the sickness that is at the heart of the wish, to delete the entire dimension of musical communication and psychology, and to concentrate upon the pure sonic material.

Does Haas' work express morbidity? Or does it merely represent it, like Tracey Emin's bed does not express sordid life experience but merely represents it? Haas explores the properties of pure sound:

These are sonic variations, and they are, to some extent, stylized. But how interesting is that in itself? How much information (intellectual, aural, emotional, aesthetic) does it offer? Enough to ask for the listener's time and attention? If you don't expect music, but the changing shades of colours in pure sound, it may be interesting for a while.

Haas experienced the work of John Cage as a liberation from 'order', which he (Haas) clearly understood as 'suppression'. If you think the concept of order is merely restricting you, the last thing you should comtemplate is to become an artist. Cage wanted to exclude human intervention from music and the liberation of sound  as an aesthetic phenomenon in itself, not needing artistic manipulation. The result is not music, of course, which is an art form, and all art forms are results of human aesthetic manipulations of their material, and as such carry psychic and aesthetic content. Cage never understood what art is, let alone what music is. I can only consider Haas as an incredibly naive and damaged person without understanding of art, music, and of civil society - so, perfectly suited for a career in the modern music scene.

A title like 'Dark Dreams' does seem to be an appropriate description of Haas' entire artistic project: 

Interestingly, at the end of this piece, something like music appears, as a voice from another world, screaming and mumbling as if from a dark pit from which there is no escape. There may still be a composer of music hidden in this man. 

Stockhausen was, as a teenager, traumatized during the last days of WW II, Xenakis was similarly traumatized. I know of a modernist composer, who gave-up his composition because even as modernism it was hopelessly amateurish, and took-up a career as a conductor of new music with various specialized ensembles, and as a loud propagandist of modernism, attacking the central performance culture as a whole, in his opinion a mere bourgeois playground of stale convention. His poisonous fanaticism was effective and reminded one of the Spanish inquisition, Nazis and the enthusiasm of Lenin and Stalin. This composer's parents, who were both psychiatrists, had committed suicide when he was a teenager. Obviously, that is not the best preparation for aesthetic creation - unless one is endowed with something like a spiritual inspiration.

Modernism is (was? it is still around) something reflecting sickness. No creative developments can be expected from it.

In the modern scene, Haas' sonic art is much appreciated, and one can understand why: it reflects and vindicates the morbid, nihilist emptiness of postwar modernism, the tragedy of a lifeless world amidst the ruins of a musical culture - ruins that only exist in the hearts and minds of traumatized people with pathological psycho problems.