FSI’s First Fruits: Sir Roger’s New Book

We are really very excited to be holding in our hands the first book that represents the fruit of our labors. Sir Roger’s newest volume, published by Bloomsbury, is called Music as an Art and is born not only of his long and studied thought on the subject – which of course made Sir Roger our first choice for a fellow of the Future Symphony Institute – but also of his inspiration and collaboration with FSI, for which we are grateful to be generously acknowledged in the author’s introduction.

It is an important book and one we’ve long argued for because it brings to the consideration of musical matters the indispensable examination of philosophy. (If you don’t already know why that’s the starting point for us, read this.) And it does so in Sir Roger’s inimitable way, which is exceedingly readable. Those who’ve had the pleasure of attending his lectures already know that his philosophical discourse has the agreeable intimacy of a fireside chat, but it’s no less powerful for that fact. Sir Roger’s careful and gentle candor go right to the heart of the matter.

Bloomsbury Press describes the book thus:

Music as an Art begins by examining music through a philosophical lens, engaging in discussions about tonality, music and the moral life, music and cognitive science and German idealism, as well as recalling the author’s struggle to encourage his students to distinguish the qualities of good music. Scruton then explains – via erudite chapters on Schubert, Britten, Rameau, opera and film – how we can develop greater judgement in music, recognising both good taste and bad, establishing musical values, as well as musical pleasures.

As Scruton argues in this book, in earlier times, our musical culture had secure foundations in the church, the concert hall and the home; in the ceremonies and celebrations of ordinary life, religion and manners. Yet we no longer live in that world. Fewer people now play instruments and music is, for many, a form of largely solitary enjoyment. As he shows in Music as an Art, we live at a critical time for classical music, and this book is an important contribution to the debate, of which we stand in need, concerning the place of music in Western civilization.

We hope you will take the time to read Sir Roger’s book and that you will share it with others. We hope too that you will consider making your purchase through Amazon Smile and helping us out a little bit in the process.

New Urbanist Heavyweight Dhiru Thadani Joins FSI Board

It is our great pleasure to announce that Dhiru Thadani has accepted our invitation to join the board of our fledgling Institute. But the truth is that he has been a hard-hitting advocate and champion of our work – as well as an inspiration and our generous teacher – for many years now.

We look forward to bringing you his eye-opening presentation from our Seaside Symposium just as soon as we have finished editing the film and preparing the transcript. He will make you look at the way we situate our concert halls in our communities – or lack of them – in a way that will just about blow your mind. At the very least, he will definitely blow the cobwebs out of it!

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, we encourage you to look around. Here’s a little incentive:

Dhiru A. Thadani is an architect and urbanist. As a design principal and partner, he has completed projects the world over. Thadani was born to the boisterous urbanism of Bombay, India, and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1972 to attend The Catholic University of America, where he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture. During his forty years in Washington, he has taught, practiced, and worked to place architecture and urbanism in the public eye. He is the author of Visions of Seaside: Foundations / Evolution / Imagination / Built & Unbuilt Architecture, published by Rizzoli in June 2013. His previous book, The Language of Towns and Cities: A Visual Dictionary was published by Rizzoli in 2010. He is also the co-editor of Leon Krier: The Architecture of Community published by Island Press in 2009. Since its formation in 1993, Thadani has been a charter member of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and is a former board member. He was a 2001 Fellow in the Knight Program for Community Building, a five-time recipient of the CNU Charter Award for design, and the recipient of the 2011 Seaside Prize.

Thank you, Dhiru, Remover-of-Obstacles, for all that you do for us and for the future of live classical music.

FSI welcomes Mark Dulworth to its Board

With the arrival of the new year comes the blessings of a new board member. The Future Symphony Institute is most grateful that Mark Dulworth has accepted our invitation to join us in our work. Based in Houston, Mark has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Institute for some time now. Having been raised with music, he in turn raised his sons with music. And he and his family are deeply committed to FSI‘s vision and the values we exist to preserve and advance. Mark’s experience on the boards of other non-profits and the insights he has gleaned there over the years – especially at the Houston Institute, whose mission is so similar to our own – is greatly encouraging and we look forward to the advantages of our collaboration as we continue to mine the past in order to understand the present and the future of live, classical music.

Welcome, Mark, from the team at FSI. And Happy New Year to our many readers and supporters around the world!

Conference: Culture and Art in a Populist Age

October 30, 2017

Dupont Circle Hotel, Washington DC

This one-day conference that includes FSI scholar Sir Roger Scruton and friends Heather Mac Donald and Daniel Asia explores the immediate future of the arts within the dynamic and controversial political environment that has emerged in the wake of the 2016 elections. How does the recent strand of populism affect the arts and humanities moving forward? Are the high arts insulated from the vicissitudes of quotidian life? Or does a populist surge speak directly to the arts in a post-Enlightenment era? Conference participants are uniquely suited to address these questions. And FSI founder Andrew Balio will also be contributing as a respondent to these talks.

Heather Mac Donald

The Manhattan Institute
“Vandals at the Opera House: Identity Politics Comes to the Opera Stage”

Eric Gibson

Wall Street Journal
“Headwinds on the Road to a Democratic Culture”

Sir Roger Scruton

The University of Buckingham and the Future Symphony Institute
“Why Taste Matters”

Daniel Asia and Bruce Cole

University of Arizona and the Ethics & Public Policy Center, respectively
“Consonance and Dissonance in the Music and Art World”

Robert E. Gordon and Aaron D. Mobley

University of Arizona and Berkeley City College, respectively
“The Value of Art and Music in a Popular Culture”

For the complete agenda and to register, visit the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Space is limited. Sponsored by the University of Arizona American Culture and Ideas Initiative and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

These are some of our favorite thinkers all gathered in one place to reflect on a very important and timely subject. We look forward to meeting you there!

FSI Introduces Its Newest Board Member

Birgit Kovacs, MD, MBA, brings to the Institute her passion for music as well as her experience as a physician, scientist, and executive in the pharmaceutical industry where she has served in a number of leadership roles during the past 15 years. An expert in Rheumatology / Immunology by day, Birgit is a dedicated musician by day and night. She is actively involved in multiple ensembles – playing cello, trombones, cimbasso, and tuba – and serves as a member of the development committee of the World Doctors Orchestra USA. As a cellist and trombonist in the World Doctors Orchestra, Birgit has performed benefit concerts in countries throughout the world, including Armenia, South Africa, Romania, Germany, Austria, and here in the US.

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. Welcome, Birgit, from the team at FSI.

FSI at Classical:NEXT

We need a renaissance in food; We must begin to think about the value of our food, not simply its price.

Our cultural heritage is at risk. The knowledge and traditions behind our food are irreplaceable; if we lose them, they won’t come back.

—Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food International


FSI’s Andrew Balio will appear alongside his long-time friend and the award-winning chef of Woodberry Kitchen, Spike Gjerde, at Classical:NEXT’s conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on May 19th. Together they will be presenting their ideas on The Slow Music Movement: How the Slow Food Grassroots Movement May Light the Path for Music.

The ideas born out of their deep mutual respect for and fascination with each other’s craft have inspired a collaboration that includes both Culture Monster’s accomplished director David Donnelly and the Manhattan Institute’s erudite fellow Heather Mac Donald. We couldn’t be more excited about the film project that is underway because we believe that it will help to ignite this important discussion in broader circles and to generate new ideas about the way we relate to and understand our art form, both as individuals and communities.

This appearance at Europe’s largest classical music forum next month is an opportunity to get that discussion started early. We hope that you will follow these events and wish us well as we pursue a wider audience for our admittedly specialized message for music.

Announcing John Borstlap as FSI’s newest senior fellow

I strongly believe in the artistic value and importance of John Borstlap’s work for the classical music culture of today. In my opinion, Borstlap’s idea of a revival of the classical tradition is a much-needed injection into music life, and an important contribution to the development of new creation.
—Jaap van Zweden, Music Director, New York Philharmonic (2018), Dallas Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic

I think he is one of the truly remarkable intellects of our time, a serious and inspired composer, and a person with an unusual grasp of the role of the artist in general, and the composer in particular in the cultural conditions that have developed in modern Europe.
—Roger Scruton

We are honored to count among our friends and now among FSI’s fellows, a great mind from whom we have gained much insight into the thorny problems of musical composition in our modern age. Composer and author John Borstlap is an especially suitable choice for FSI because of the difficulties he has had to overcome in his career. His struggles, we believe, are those with which many living composers (and would-be composers) can identify.

We often describe FSI as a think tank comprised of experts who bring to the conversation great value and insight from outside the world of classical music and the arts. John Borstlap, a prolific and respected composer, actually fits into that mold. Mid-career, he found himself an outsider, banished by the bureaucratically managed and politically guarded musical system in Holland. His crime was that he composed from his heart in way that might be described as harking back to the late romantic period – an affront to the demands of the ruling avant-garde elite of his country. His struggle to survive became perhaps his most formative experience, pressing him into the roles also of a student of politics and a philosopher of music. This we find true of our other fellows, Sir Roger Scruton and Leon Krier, too: they were banished from mainstream conversation by the new orthodoxy of perverse modernist ideology that controls today’s arts, and the identification of which runs as a common thread through our work at FSI.

Borstlap has written, by our estimation, one of the most insightful books on the challenges faced by classical music, The Classical Revolution. In this concise and adept volume, he delves into the many assumptions that the modernist takes for granted such as notions of progress, limitlessness, and what WWII should have taught us. We encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. And we also direct you to his website, where there is more valuable reading posted on a regular basis.

A New Book About Wagner from FSI’s Sir Roger Scruton

Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung is one of the greatest works of art created in modern times, and it has fascinated both critics and devotees for over a century and a half. No recent study has examined the meaning of Wagner’s masterpiece with the attention to detail and intellectual power that Roger Scruton brings to it in this inspiring account. The Ring of Truth is an exploration of the drama, music, symbolism and philosophy of the Ring from a writer whose knowledge and understanding of the Western musical tradition are the equal of his capacities as a philosopher.

Scruton shows how, through musical connections and brilliant dramatic strokes, Wagner is able to express truths about the human condition which few other creative artists have been able to convey so convincingly. For Wagner, writes Scruton, the task of art is to “show us freedom in its immediate, contingent, human form, reminding us of what it means to us. Even if we live in a world from which gods and heroes have disappeared we can, by imagining them, dramatize the deep truths of our condition and renew our faith in what we are.”

Love, death, sacrifice and the liberation that we win through sacrifice – these are the great themes of the Ring, as they are of this book. Scruton’s passionate and moving interpretation allows us to understand more fully than ever how Wagner conveys his ideas about who we are, and why the Ring continues to be such a hypnotically absorbing work.

Read more at Penguin Books. Watch for it in our bookstore.

FSI Announces Léon Krier as its newest Senior Fellow

The Future Symphony Institute is greatly honored by this opportunity to announce the appointment of Léon Krier as its newest Senior Fellow. Léon is a tireless champion of conservation, craftsmanship, sustainability, humane scaling, aesthetics, and enduring architectural and urban principles. We gratefully acknowledge the tremendous influence that Léon, through his lifetime of thought and practice, has already had on our understanding of the organic role that classicism plays in the development and functioning of human communities.

Léon Krier represents the best of a new breed of architects in the remarkable way that he elucidates the relationship between our buildings and the institutions of our civilization. He is world-renowned as an architect, an urban planner, and an architectural theorist. Originally from Luxembourg, he was educated in Stuttgart and then in London, and has since held positions at the Royal College of Arts and the Architectural Association there, as well as at both Princeton and Yale here. Notably, he has served as consultant to His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales since 1987, and from 1988 onwards he has been the masterplanner and architectural coordinator of HRH’s new town of Poundbury.

Léon was the leading figure in the Reconstruction of the European City movement. The Académie Française accordingly awarded him its Silver Medal in 1997 for the clarity and intelligence of his vision for cities, articulated in his book Architecture: Choice Or Fate. The complete body of his theories and his practice of building houses and towns that speak to the human spirit and respond to the patterns and scale of human life is now compiled in his book The Architecture of Community.

Léon is counted chief among the New Classicists. He is himself a great lover of classical music and an accomplished amateur pianist. He has even designed a piano. We are greatly encouraged that Léon is so interested in our work, and we eagerly look forward to our future collaborations and his ongoing influence and inspiration.

Conservatism and the Conservatory

We’re eager to share with you Roger Scruton’s essay on the important but often neglected relationship between classical music and conservatism. It has been published by the National Review and you can read it either in their print issue from December 21, 2015 or online. Either way, please do read it:

To my way of thinking, there cannot be a coherent conservatism, either in everyday life or in politics, that does not take high culture seriously. It really matters to the future of our societies that classical music should survive, not as a museum exhibit, but as a live tradition of performance and enjoyment, radiating its grace and graciousness across our communities, and providing us all, whether as performers or as listeners, with a sense of the intrinsic value of being here, now and among our fellows. From that primary experience of togetherness, of which music is not the only but surely the most exhilarating instance, countless other benefits flow, in the form of solidarity, mutual support and responsibility, and the growth of real communities.


Your map to places only the dorkiest dare to go.

Subscribe to find out more about the ideas behind our ideas. And the progress of our projects.

Your email address is safe with us. Unsubscribe anytime.