On the League of American Orchestras’ Orchestra R/Evolution blog, I posted something that won’t exactly take my regular readers by surprise. I suggested that the most important thing orchestras can do is to see themselves as those who don’t go to orchestra concerts see them. Or, more broadly, to start functioning in the larger culture that classical music fled from over the past two generations.
I got a wonderful response in a comment from Rick Robinson, a bass player with the Detroit Symphony. I’m posting it here with his permission. Eloquent, to say the least. And right on target.
As a black musician in a great orchestra, I concur that we have so LITTLE resonance in our larger community that I’m usually too embarrassed to tell strangers what I do for a living… fearing they will give me the usual lip service of how PROUD they are of me yet they have never come, or even WANTED to come to a concert.
We feel the love of our donors, subscribers, volunteers and sponsors, but if the otherwise savvy concert-going man on the street doesn’t consider us a good time because he feels alienated, we either need to find a way to make it REAL for him or keep ignoring him!
I desparately want to engage him but it’s going to take some crazy new music that blends classical with styles that speak to him already… and it’s going to take some clever amplification. Then it’s going to take some speaking from the heart like a BEAT poet about how Bach and Mahler empowered me to overcome fear and inferiority.
I go to hear great jazzers in my neighborhood and discovered why improvising is so RIVETING… whether as foreground OR background. When I hear rock music, I know that the body fully resonates to the strum of the guitar, the buzz of the bass and the intoxicating patterns of the drums. Volume is key.
For this reason, I believe a TRUE revolution can only be driven by musicians… musicians able and willing to TRANSCRIBE the orchestra experience into a jazz or rock-LIKE experience.
I’ve started two “symphonic bands” that COULD possibly do this with some investment. But revolutions are NOT begun by the Establishment!
I love that last sentence. Which among other things would seem to mean — and I’ll stress that this is my interpretation, not necessarily Rick’s — that the League can talk all it wants about revolution, and invite the whole world to join the conversation, but won’t be able to do much to make a revolution happen.