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Identity politics and classical music need to stay out of bed with each other.

The new music director of the San Francisco Symphony, Esa-Pekka Salonen, has created a collaborative council to do, uh, something.

The San Francisco Examiner reports on Feb 18, 2020: A striking aspect of the programming is Salonen’s Collaborative Partners project, announced last year, featuring contributions by: pianist, film producer and composer Nicholas Britell; soprano, curator and activist Julia Bullock; flutist, educator and experimental music advocate Claire Chase; composer and new music curator Bryce Dessner; violinist, musical director and artistic trailblazer Pekka Kuusisto; composer and genre-breaking collaborator Nico Muhly; artificial intelligence entrepreneur and roboticist Carol Reiley; and jazz bassist, vocalist and “undefinable artist” Esperanza Spalding.”

I went over the Slipped Disc Blog to see if the story was there. It was and the first comment was spot on. “That committee is the perfect combination for a disaster.”

Yes, yes it is.

Why? Hasn’t there always been a political edge to classical music? Yes and no.

There is a conception that the arts actually changed and influenced politics. I argue that the exact opposite is the case. Beethoven is responding to Napoleon both positively and negatively with his Symphony No. 3 but he has zero political influence. You will note that there isn’t one mention of politics in any of Beethoven’s letters.

Shostakovich, the most political of composers, addressed Stalin and the purges obliquely. If he had been an “activist”, he would’ve been packed off to the Gulag.

Beethoven and Shostakovich were trying to fool the censors in their respective governments. When “the wall came down” in 1989, it wasn’t due to the efforts of Shostakovich’s music.

Identity politics will destroy the arts if they are allowed to find a home therein. This panel smacks of identity politics from top to bottom which is why many of us are rolling our eyes. The foundation of great art is truth and the truth of identity politics is like shifting sand.

The truth of composers such as Beethoven found its political equivalent in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and the subsequent governments which followed and are based on the intrinsic value of the individual.

The work has been done but it’s up to us to apply it with equality and justice and for all. “That” has not been accomplished and a panel of post-modern cultural elites in the most elitist city in the world isn’t going to move the needle—at all—in my opinion.

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Leopold was a devoted and task-oriented teacher to both his children. He made the lessons fun, but also insisted on a strong work ethic and perfection. Fortunately, both children excelled well in these areas. Recognizing their special talents, Leopold devoted much of his time to their education in music as well as other subjects. Wolfgang soon showed signs of excelling beyond his father’s teachings with an early composition at age five and demonstrating outstanding ability on harpsichord and the violin. He would soon go on to play the piano, organ and viola.

Feb. 20, 2020

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The San Francisco Examiner reports on Feb 18, 2020: A striking aspect of the programming is Salonen’s Collaborative Partners project, announced last year, featuring contributions by: pianist, film producer and composer Nicholas Britell; soprano, curator and activist Julia Bullock; flutist, educator and experimental music advocate Claire Chase; composer and new music curator Bryce Dessner; violinist, musical director and artistic trailblazer Pekka Kuusisto; composer and genre-breaking collaborator Nico Muhly; artificial intelligence entrepreneur and roboticist Carol Reiley; and jazz bassist, vocalist and “undefinable artist” Esperanza Spalding.”

I went over the Slipped Disc Blog to see if the story was there. It was and the first comment was spot on. “That committee is the perfect combination for a disaster.”

Yes, yes it is.

Why? Hasn’t there always been a political edge to classical music? Yes and no.

There is a conception that the arts actually changed and influenced politics. I argue that the exact opposite is the case. Beethoven is responding to Napoleon both positively and negatively with his Symphony No. 3 but he has zero political influence. You will note that there isn’t one mention of politics in any of Beethoven’s letters.

Shostakovich, the most political of composers, addressed Stalin and the purges obliquely. If he had been an “activist”, he would’ve been packed off to the Gulag.

Beethoven and Shostakovich were trying to fool the censors in their respective governments. When “the wall came down” in 1989, it wasn’t due to the efforts of Shostakovich’s music.

Identity politics will destroy the arts if they are allowed to find a home therein. This panel smacks of identity politics from top to bottom which is why many of us are rolling our eyes. The foundation of great art is truth and the truth of identity politics is like shifting sand.

The truth of composers such as Beethoven found its political equivalent in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and the subsequent governments which followed and are based on the intrinsic value of the individual.

The work has been done but it’s up to us to apply it with equality and justice and for all. “That” has not been accomplished and a panel of post-modern cultural elites in the most elitist city in the world isn’t going to move the needle—at all—in my opinion.

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Comments
1

Leopold was a devoted and task-oriented teacher to both his children. He made the lessons fun, but also insisted on a strong work ethic and perfection. Fortunately, both children excelled well in these areas. Recognizing their special talents, Leopold devoted much of his time to their education in music as well as other subjects. Wolfgang soon showed signs of excelling beyond his father’s teachings with an early composition at age five and demonstrating outstanding ability on harpsichord and the violin. He would soon go on to play the piano, organ and viola.

Feb. 20, 2020

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