Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One More Orchestra Post

I promise I'm really not one of those "future of the orchestra" people who gets stressed out by the future of performing arts organizations like the Philadelphia Orchestra. As I wrote before, I think we overestimate the role these behemoths play in the actual musical life of our communities. And as a historian, I'm most interested in how cultural change happens over time, and much less in how best to drag my heels kicking and screaming. You know Raymond Williams's old (1958 I believe!) formulation of how that change happens? He posits that at given time there are three forms of culture: residual, dominant, and emergent. You can probably figure out what those terms mean, and where an institution like the Philadelphia Orchestra fits in.

That said, I can't resist a few links. Not just commentary, however, but also commentary on the commentary.
  • Peter Dobrin in the Inquirer on the problems faced by the Orchestra. Lots of interesting information, but I especially direct your attention to the article comments. You should know that the Inquirer comment sections are usually swirling tornadoes of incivility; these comments are remarkably thoughtful.
  • The well-known liberal blogger Atrios is a subscriber to the Orchestra, and often provides a thoughtful, neutral vantage point. Again, the comments to his post are often intriguing.
  • Yelp Reviews of the Kimmel Center.

I find all of this anonymous internet discussion fascinating. There is a lot of resentment about perceived elitism in some quarters, although in the Inquirer comments it is interesting that it's sometimes resentment of the stuffiness of the Orchestra, and other times resentment that the local moneyed elites aren't contributing enough money. But along with the resentment there is a lot of positive commentary as well. I particularly found the Yelp reviews interesting. I don't mean this condescendingly, but it is refreshing to read the the responses of wide-eyed newcomers to classical music.


PMG said...

Quick clarification: by "performing arts organizations like the Philadelphia Orchestra" I mean that precisely: a very, very small number of institutions whose artistic impact is disproportionate to the oxygen they consume, and whose existence depends heavily upon a very small number of wealthy donors and heavy federal subsidy in the form of tax deductions. I don't mean the hundreds of smaller groups that populate most cities, nor the institution of "classical music" itself, which I quite like.

JJ said...

There's something funny about following the twists and turns of this story through reading your blog and atrios' when you consider the fact that I don't live in Philadelphia and have never been to their orchestra.

The internet is an awesome thing.