Which musical institutions should we occupy?
[WARNING: Nuts -- or one nut, anyway -- may have been involved in the production of this blog entry. It will, however, provide your minimum daily requirement for irony.]
The recent social movement sweeping the nation has got me thinking about similar actions that should be taken against some powerful musical institutions in need of people-driven reform. For the institutions below, it's time to occupy, vilify, demonstrate, demonize, and present with lists of non-negotiable demands. Unless I can snag cheap tickets to tonight's performance. In which case, I sit in solidarity with my sisters and brothers!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra. For the previous seven years, the BSO and its legendary conductor had us on a yo-yo, and I don't mean the famous cellist. He's here, he's not here, he's hurt, he's healing, he's sick, he's better, he's staying, he's left town. Now, when he could actually remain upright and in one place long enough, the Maestro did some terrific things. One of the best was his incredibly innovative, sparklingly original Schoenberg Festival, wherein works by the widely admired, even more widely despised master of the Second Vienna School were paired with works by his counterpart in the First Vienna School, Beethoven. This idea was, in fact, so totally innovative and original that several other musicians (e.g., pianists Maurizio Pollini and Mitsuko Uchida, Boston's Borromeo Quartet) had been doing the same thing for years. Well, he's gone, and he ain't coming back. So it's time to demand that the BSO get what all the other cool orchestras have: a hip, dynamic, photogenic young music director. Conducting skills desirable but optional.
New York City Opera. Plagued by financial mismanagement, hampered by a lousy venue, and its very existence in doubt, NYCO's fancy, imported former general manger came up with a season of productions guaranteed to draw new audiences and encourage large cash gifts: None. Nada. Zilch. Unless you're a fan of John Cage, this won't do. So, after it indeed didn't work out too well, the g.m. did what any dedicated, courageous arts professional would do: quit. And complain about funding as he hightailed it back to Europe to suck on the taxpayers' teat. Really, before such a great man, one must adopt an attitude of utter submission and inferiority, as Erik Satie once demanded of his critics.
His replacement, also fancy, though domestic, might have been expected to instill a sense of calm and stability. But aaaah...that's not how creative minds work. Away then, with the fusty old idea of putting all your productions in the same theater. Instead, the new boss makes the audience work for it by scattering the season all over Manhattan and Brooklyn (perhaps the Bronx and Staten Island will be investigated later). After all, great art must place demands on us. Only fat cat Wall Street bankers and Puccini fans want the same cushy seat time and time again. We must demand further innovations of this sort, no matter what the small-minded people (i.e., NYCO's patrons) say. And if they end up shutting the whole thing down permanently, well, at least it will have been shut down with its artistic integrity intact.
Broadway. One of the biggest thrills of the current Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies is the sound of a real orchestra, all 28 of them, emerging from the pit. OK, so the heavily amplified sound actually mostly emerges from loudspeakers. But compared to the puny, synth-driven ensemble that accompanied the recent A Little Night Music revival, the effect is positively Wagnerian. So we demand that all Broadway shows, even straight plays ("straight" referring to non-musicals, folks), henceforth employ large instrumental ensembles. Who's going to pay for it? That's easy. Make everyone who buys a ticket show their last five income tax returns, and base their ticket price on their wealth. Only then will the rich pay their fair share -- and a good chunk of our fair share too!
Any other musical institutions on your list? Comments welcome.