We are deeply grateful to be welcoming our third year as the Future Symphony Institute. Our journey continues to be one of discovery, inspiration, and friendship. Thank you to our many readers and supporters. We look forward to sharing with you some exciting projects that are developing behind the scenes this year. Stay tuned for more details.
New & Noteworthy
October 30th in Washington, DC. This one-day conference explores the immediate future of the arts within the dynamic and controversial political environment that has emerged in the wake of the 2016 elections. Register now, as space is limited. Sponsored by the University of Arizona American Culture and Ideas Initiative and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
When orchestras rack their brains to discover the ways that they are relevant to their communities, they invariably come up with a wide range of replies that almost never includes their concert hall. Yet there is little else that could appear on that list that is as permanent and concrete as the daily encounter of a community with its concert hall.
The Future Symphony Institute was founded to bring the expertise from fields far outside of the classical music world to bear on the challenges facing our orchestras. We are very excited to have on our team someone who is as competent in the worlds of scientific research and business as she is passionate about her participation in the future of classical music.
Do we really want to hear Beethoven’s Fifth as it was heard at its premiere? Do we want to listen to 50 unevenly trained musicians, give or take, playing for four hours on weak instruments that are hard to play, in an unheated concert hall conducted by a deaf man on one rehearsal?
The prescriptions most loudly recommended for America’s challenged orchestras today stress complicity with the modern realities of speed, technology, and globalization. Shorter, quicker concerts geared towards shorter, quicker attention spans; the sensual and intellectual stimulation of novelty and fashion; harnessing technological innovation to prove that we can keep up; focusing our attention on bigger halls, bigger stars, and wider distribution, emphasizing the global and universal rather than the local and the particular – these are answers we hear over and over. But what if they’re wrong?
Those charged with the tasks of managing our musical institutions and of providing the vision that will guide them through our present into their future, those who make important decisions for the sake of the communities our musical institutions serve, those with the awesome responsibility of discharging accumulated wealth through foundations dedicated to the flourishing of art and culture, and the general public with whom power ultimately lies to demand that music be a part of their children’s education, to participate in their communities’ musical life, and to support our musical institutions, are in desperate need of this book.
It is a common criticism today, as it was in 1341, that to look “backwards” is to look upon something old and decrepit, outdated and dilapidated. Time for us moves only forward, and so paradoxically, while our civilization grows old, it is our past that we label as aged and the day itself as eternally young.
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 – nor too 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.