Stop the presses:
Symposium on Building Communities with Music
to be rescheduled for Fall 2017
Circumstances have unexpectedly conspired together to dash our hopes for a midwinter get-away in January, but we are looking forward to the same opportunity to converge for a long weekend in the company of Sir Roger Scruton and Léon Krier on Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast next Fall. We’re planning a series of conversations and concerts in an intimate and inspirational setting for next November. Together we will to come to a deeper understanding of the role of classical music in our communities and of the relationships between the habits of human settlement and a flourishing musical culture. Please accept our apologies for our false start. We are more disappointed than anyone, but will use the time to plan something even better. Keep your calendar open and watch for future details.
New & Noteworthy
As Edward Shils observed, tradition is best understood not as the “dead hand of the past,” but as “the hand of the gardener, which nourishes and elicits tendencies of judgment which would otherwise not be strong enough to emerge on their own.”
Not only is beautiful music being written again but, it turns out, beautiful music was written all along, throughout the 20th century. It simply went underground, but it is surfacing once again. And it is glorious. The tremendously good news is that we are living at the time of a major musical renaissance.
Designing with this particular attitude towards context does not mean we will arrive at one universally perfect solution every time. If we follow this formula, however, we are most likely to arrive at a building that will be relevant to, embraced and even loved by, the greatest number of people who will see it, visit it, or touch it on any given day.
New York’s Metropolitan Opera has stood resolutely against Regietheater decadence. In fact, its greatest gift to the world at the present moment is to mount productions – whether sleekly abstract or richly realistic – that allow the beauty of some of the most powerful music ever written to shine forth. The question now is whether that musical gift will continue.
When we throw together these shows on one rehearsal, with an undermanned orchestra augmented by freelancers who perhaps have never played together before, we are again denigrating the intelligence of our audience: “They won’t know the difference.” In my experience, this is profoundly wrongheaded.
Reading the gripping chapters of Robert R. Reilly’s book, with YouTube on the screen, was both an education in itself, and a source of shame to me, who have defended tonality all these years without realising that it is a live tradition, constantly renewing itself in defiance of an academic orthodoxy that denies its right to exist.
The Opéra Bastille is obviously intended to be a modern rethinking of the traditional opera house, but in turning away from la grande cuisine bourgeoise of the Palais Garnier, Carlos Ott has eschewed nouvelle cuisine and instead has provided the Parisian public with the architectural equivalent of bread and water.
With the appointment of Sir Simon Rattle as the new music director of the grandest of London's many great orchestras come the excited whispers about the possibility of a new concert hall for the city's brilliant but beleaguered classical music scene. It is not too early to begin the conversation about how to imagine and understand such a hall – or to late to assert how badly indeed it is needed. Here we will collect the thoughts and dialogues on the subject that we hope will make a difference in the debate that will inevitably to ensue.
Ours is a musical culture. People of all musical tastes and backgrounds understand this. Music marks the passage of our moods, our days, our seasons, our years, and our lives. It brings us together, and it marks out our solitude. It celebrates our achievements and mourns our losses.
And the music itself is common property to all. It is not like, say, a painting that is sold and then belongs only to the purchaser, to hang over a sofa or in a private collection, perhaps to end up one day in a public gallery. You cannot buy a song or a symphony, only an instance of it. You cannot buy a box of chords or key signatures like you can a box of watercolors or pastels.
In fact, the music belongs even to those who haven’t heard it yet. We are trustees of an international treasure, obliged to understand the accident of our existence in this time and place more as a responsibility than an entitlement. This realization takes on a special meaning today for the defenders of music’s classical tradition.
For if it’s true that music is made of what you cannot buy, it is also true that a page of chords and key signatures is not what we enjoy when we enjoy music. We do not dance to sheets of paper covered with notes or recall a melody as ink markings on a staff. Music lives for us as a performance in which we partake, as musicians, as listeners, as dancers. And so the tradition of live performance is the heart of our classical tradition.
Our classical tradition, in turn, is at the heart of all our other musical traditions. What we are about is nothing less than the preservation, in trust, of the tradition of live classical music for the benefit of all posterity.
But we do need your help. Please consider joining us in support of this worthy cause.