Monday, 6 March 2017

The relevance of classical music

The Danish Minister of Culture has proposed to disband of the Danish Radio Orchestras and chorusses, to sell the concert hall and turn the national broadcast company into a pure media company (source: Slipped Disc 6/3/17).

Shocking..... but not surprising. The same happened in the Netherlands some years ago when the State Secretary of Culture (there is no Ministery of Culture in Holland) wanted to close-down the entire music department of national radio, including 3 orchestras (among which the famous Radio Filharmonisch Orkest), the chorus and the extensive music library with scores, parts and an enormous data base of radio recordings. Protests throughout the country achieved that the cancellation was reduced to a subsidy cut which more or less broke the department in half, but saving the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (the other orchestras had to fold).

Such burbs of commercial populism don't come out of the blue, they have been fostering for years, possibly decennia, growing on the increasing mood of rejection of art in general by 'the masses'. Politicians see in this mood a chance to ride on the waves of enthusiasm to break down 'elitism' and of course, orchestras and opera houses are the obvious, vulnerable targets. Small, petit-bourgeois countries like Denmark and Holland are especially prone to such cultural self-destruction because they don't have a strong European tradition to preserve. The safest fundament of their national identity is 'the masses'. Anything above that level is 'the enemy'. It is strange though, that politicians, in fact, say to the world: 'We Danes / Dutch are mere garden gnomes and we are proud of it!'

The funding of orchestras by the state is a tradition coming down to us from the ancien régime, the prerevolutionary times when art and music were considered as underlining the legitimacy of the monarchy and symbolizing the high cultural level of the nation, 'the glory of civilization' which reflected positively on the character and professionalism of the king. With the current erosion of civilization and cultural awareness, partly brought about by a misunderstood 'democratization' and failing educational systems, the question of how relevant the arts are, and especially classical music which is so costly (expensive orchestras and opera houses, in Europe paid for by the state), is pressing as never before. I have attempted to formulate a justification on the website of the Future Symphony Institute:

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