Catching Up with Cardew

On the second page of Cardew’s Stockhausen Serves Imperialism are words that, had they been listened to earlier, would have derailed many pointless arguments of my youth:

…it is clearly impossible to bring work with a decidedly socialist or revolutionary content to bear on a mass audience. Access to this audience (the artist’s real means of production) is controlled by the state.

“Access to the mass audience is controlled by the state.” And by “the state” it is now obvious that we mean, not the U.S. Government, but the corporations that own the U.S. Government and the TV stations, newspapers, and radio stations. The corporate state owns access to mass audiences. Why would they freely give that prize over to… living composers? Why would they give it to classical musicians at all? What’s their incentive? The state grants mass-audience access to those who promise to make money for it, to those who will put making money as their top priority, and to those who promise not to contradict the ideology that keeps the corporate state in power. (Howard Stern, a big money-maker in radio, was just yanked from all Clear Channel radio stations for his obscenity – just days after he turned against the Bush administration. Interesting?)

And so all those years of new-music hand-wringing and soul-searching seem silly now. “Why are audiences turning away from classical music?” “Why does no one like our music?” “What can we do to reach out to audiences? Add a backbeat, maybe?” It wasn’t that audiences were turning away: it was that the State was taking over control, an enormous hand slowly turning off the spigot. What seemed like contentious Marxist theory in Cardew’s writings 30 years ago seems like only too obvious fact now.

Benito Mussolini said (and he should know), “Fascism should properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of State and corporate power.” Ever wonder what it was like to live in a Fascist state? Wonder no longer.

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