A bad trend that seems to be gathering momentum with the speed of light...
What started out as a sad story from Atlanta, where the Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided to eliminate designated titles for arts critics and to reduce the number of reviews, is now looking more and more like a trend that is gathering momentum with the speed of light...
The Atlanta news was followed immediately by news that the Minneapolis Star Tribune is eliminating the position of full-time classical music critic, and that was followed in turn by New York Magazine's dismissal of their music critic Peter Davis. To say that these developments are alarming is, frankly, to understate the case. A few months ago, I gave a keynote address to the convention of the Eastern division of MENC, the Music Educator's National Conference. In that speech, I made the following observation:
I feel that today there is a serious distortion of values in the world - a set of values that puts the short term ahead of the long term, that puts financial achievement ahead of ethical standards, and a set of values that increasingly diminishes the worth of intellectual achievement and of human expression. In fact, when future generations look back and judge the civilizations and societies of the past, it is first and foremost the cultural and artistic achievements of those societies that are spoken of. To be sure, engineering and scientific achievements are a part of the picture of any society - even a major part. But whether it is Homer, Shakespeare, Mozart, Beethoven, Rembrandt, Picasso, James Baldwin, Garcia Lorca, or Leonard Bernstein - the artists and the art they created express the deepest and most profound thoughts of the civilizations in which they lived and worked.
These actions from Atlanta, Minneapolis, and New York compellingly demonstrate the decreasing value that those in position to influence public opinion place on the value of the arts to a society. If that does not alarm you, I cannot imagine what will!
What is so frustrating is that I have no idea what those of us who believe in the value of the arts and culture can actually do to stop this train. We must find ways to make our voices an increasingly important part of the public dialogue, and ways to communicate to those in positions of political or corporate power the sheer short-sightedness of the kind of thinking that decisions like this demonstrate. I recognize that this little blog does not have the power and scope of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Minneapolis Star Tribune, or New York Magazine. But it is what I have at my disposal - and perhaps each and every one of us has to start figuring out how to use what we have at our disposal.
See my previous entry to see how you can register your voice in Atlanta. And, here's a link to some terrific coverage of the Minneapolis situation by Minnesota Public Radio.