Marketplace of Ideas
William Osborne - notes
As I note later, the U.S. does not have any year round opera houses. Even the Met only has a seven month season, but one can add up the partial seasons of the country’s few scattered companies in order to make a comparison. I gave the US a very generous estimate.
The philosopher, John Locke, first proposed the origins of liberalism in the 17th century. He argued that the purpose of law was to insure human rights through limiting the powers of monarchies. In his book, The Wealth of Nations, written in 1776, Adam Smith argued for a similar abolition of government intervention in the market place. Two forms of liberalism evolved: social-liberalism focusing on the protection of human rights, and market-liberalism emphasizing laissez-faire capitalism. Liberalism flourished in America since it did not have a monarchy to suppress it. Among the country’s founders, Thomas Jefferson stressed social-liberalism while James Madison stressed market-liberalism. In many respects, Madison’s vision prevailed. By the end of the 19th century, America was a major industrial power whose economy was largely dominated by unregulated monopolies. Huge dichotomies existed in the distribution of wealth, unions were suppressed, and issues such as job safety and public welfare were almost non-existent.
After the economic collapse of the 1930s, the theories of John Maynard Keynes replaced America’s extreme market-liberalism. He argued that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow, and that regulations are necessary to curtail abuses of the market. Governments and central banks intervened to implement his policies. Roosevelt’s social-liberalism was quickly dismantled in the anti-communist atmosphere after the Second World War, but social democracy continued in Europe and became a deeply embedded aspect of their societies. A brief attempt was made to revive social-liberalism under John F. Kennedy, but failed. By the 1980s neo-liberalism was accepted policy in the United States.
Even though the social democracies of Europe have been slow to embrace neo-liberalism, it is difficult for them to resist due to the integration of markets in global capitalism.
Mr. Sandow’s views are somewhat anti-modernist and reach instead for an aesthetic derived from his background in popular music. In his article “Access: Denied”, (Symphony, September-October 2003), he criticizes modernist music for its lack of accessibility, “Some modernist music seems really strange. Twelve-tone music, for example, inevitably […] comes off as abstract, creepy, and mechanical. What was Schoenberg doing, putting all the notes in arbitrary rows?” In “Why Classical Music Needs Rock & Roll” (published on his website), he writes, “Today, the musical roots of our culture aren't in folk songs. They're in rock, country, rhythm and blues -- the entire range of musical styles that typify pop music in the rock & roll era (even rap). Classical music won't seem natural in America until both composition and performance reflect that obvious fact.” In “Noise in New York” (Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2003), he praises the Bang On A Can All-Stars who employ crossover elements from pop music. He describes the music of Michael Gordon and suggests, “A lot of people who've never heard this music would surely love it -- people, to start with, who listen to alternative pop. But how can they be reached? The future of classical composition might hang, at least in part, on the answer.” And in his article, “I’m Wolfgang, And I’ll Be Your Composer” (Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2002) he even suggests restaurants might hire classical composers to write background dinner music.
This does not mean that the music industry is alone in forcing artists to compromise their integrity. Academic composers often face an oppressive tenure system that is just as bad. And the European system of public funding is laden with officials who often exercise very narrow biases and insiderism in their tastes and opinions.
The uptown response, which came to fruition a little later, was in some sense a kind of neo-romantic music. By the mid 70s, George Rochberg championed a return to an early Schoenbergian chromatic tonality. John Corgliano was already gaining recognition, but was still held in strong contempt by the deeply established serial community. It wasn’t until the late 80s that representatives of these trends began to take the composition chairs at institutions such as Juilliard and win the uptown oriented Pulitzer Prize. Though they embraced a newfound relationship with the public, these composers did not aspire to the same kind of commercial crossover as many of the downtown composers.
These arguments were analogous with the way postmodern theory was later exploited. Some of the French theorists who developed postmodernism ultimately rejected many of its manifestations in America. From the outset, they felt America is deconstructive by its very nature. They felt the conscious and faddish use of postmodernism in the States sometimes led to simplistic rationalizations of superficial, provincial eclecticism. Perhaps it also contributed to neo-liberal justifications of placing art more exclusively in the marketplace.
In an earlier article, “Symphony Orchestras and Artist-Prophets: Cultural Isomorphism and the Allocation of Power in Music.” Leonardo Music Journal 9 (1999): 69-76, I have defined cultural isomorphism as a social order where artistic expression is strongly shaped by conditions such as a totalizing economic system, religious fundamentalism, hyper-nationalism, or a dominating state of affairs such as long term war.
This is not to say that a federal arts funding system is unnecessary, especially in America where a consensus for supporting the arts still needs to be built. As Dana Gioa, the director of the NEA has said, "On a broader and less pecuniary basis, the importance of the arts endowment is to articulate from a national perspective a compelling and inclusive message of the importance of arts funding. The most effective way to build a case really comes from the national level. Otherwise, the individual states really are left without an umbrella of support." The funding, however, will become most meaningful when people learn to administer it mostly on municipal and state levels.
Germany has been able to maintain its public arts funding even though unification expanded its population by 25 percent, and with people who had virtually no economic infrastructure left.
"Philadelphia's Mayor Seeks to Expand City's Revival," New York Times_, April 30,
Back to Page I,
SOME ADDITIONAL READING
Website of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Website of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
Melinda Whiting, “Renaissance Man Dana Gioia Brings Broad Interests and a Business Background to the NEA”
Symphony (July/August 2003) [An excellent interview with the director of the NEA in the journal of the American Symphony Orchestra League. Among other things, he discusses the Europeans’ sense of cultural patrimony.]
Roger Armbrust and Leonard Jacobs, “Arts' 2003 Funding Struggles Shift:
States Replace NEA in Cutting Monies for Culture; DCA Funds Fall” [Useful statistical information about the loss of state arts funding.]
Backstage (December 30, 2003).
Jackie Demaline, “Mapplethorpe battle changed art world”
The Cincinnati Enquirer (May 21, 2000). [A good discussion of the scandal and its affect on the NEA.]
“The Future of Arts Funding” [Transcription of a distinguished panel discussion hosted by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University.]
Bang On A Can. [Members of the group interviewed by the American Music center discuss their marketing strategies and concepts of hippness.]
Benjamin R. Barber, “Jihad vs. McWorld” The Atlantic Monthly (March 1992). [Discusses the cultural and political dangers when both regionalism and globalism become excessive.]
“Arts and Minds.” [A conference on cultural diplomacy amid global tensions hosted by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University. The site contains several excellent articles that discuss the European view of culture and its role in society.]
Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, “What is Neoliberalism? A Brief Definition for Activists”
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (January 1, 1997). [A critical discussion of neoliberalism.]
Nick Gillespie, “Poor Man’s Hero” Reason (December 2003).
[An interview with economist Johan Norberg who champions globalization as the best hope for the developing world.]
J. Bradford DeLong, “Globalization and Neoliberalism” [UC Berkeley professor of economics provides a balanced discussion of positive and negative aspects of neoliberlism.]
Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest (Summer 1989). [A highly influential discussion of the victory of western market-liberalism and its effects.]
Stephan Sartarelli, “Where Did Our Love Go? France and 'Un-Americanism'”
The Nation (December 24, 2003). [Provides additional perspectives on the growing division between Europe and America.]
Richard Florida, “Bohemia and Economic Geography”
Journal of Economic Geography (2002). [The underlying hypothesis is that the concentration of bohemians in an area creates an environment that attracts other types of talented or “high human capital” individuals.]
to Page I,