I’ve liked the response so far to my idea that Carnegie Hall’s top management — if they’re going to bring the benefits of classical music to minority communities (see my posts on this, here and here) — might also bring some minority music into their own lives and work. By, for instance, learning salsa dancing.
You can take my idea, if you like, as a tongue in cheek allegory, but here’s why it might be more serious than some people might think.
One of the issues involved here is white vs. non-white culture, and involved with that is the venerable European problem with mind vs, body, favoring the mind, and being suspicious of the body. Other cultures are easier with the body, and make more of dancing than European culture does.
(A vignette from John Miller Chernoff’s classic book, African Rhythm and African Sensibility: In some African cultures, music doesn’t happen without dancing. The music, mostly drumming, builds up rhythms too complex for westerners to follow. If the drummers think the dancers — aka their fellow villagers — aren’t dancing well, they’ll play exaggerated simple rhythms, to make fun of how bad the dancers are.)
I don’t want to make too much of this. It’s easy for a white guy to romanticize non-white cultures (and plenty of white guys have done this), to glorify their rhythm and dancing, and along the way, implicitly patronize them as people who dance, but maybe don’t think too much. That’s very wrong.
But that European culture has had trouble with the body — that can’t seriously be in dispute. Or that the link between music and dancing — not dancing in theory, but actual get-up-on-your-feet and do it dancing — is stronger in other cultural worlds, including some that now are western. (In fact, the eruption of rock & roll, and all the pop music that followed it, can be interpreted as part of an eruption of non-European music into the western world, creating a new kind of western musical culture.)
(Another vignette: marching bands, one after another, in a major parade. The bands made up of black kids don’t march — they dance. Also the dancing of African fans at the World Cup, and African players when they score a goal.)
So if the senior management of Carnegie Hall goes salsa dancing…that might help to right some old cultural wrongs, just maybe.
I’d love to see AC Douglas dance.