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Exclusive: top maestro warns of Asianisation and tabloidisation of classical music

Franz Welser-Möst, music director of the Vienna Opera and the Cleveland Orchestra, used the bicentennary of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde to deliver a reasoned, well-rounded and altogether scathing analysis of the state of classical music in 2012.

‘We in Europe,’ he argues, ‘as well as in America and the entire Western world, can no longer take for granted our claim to leadership in the cultural matters we have inherited. Quite clearly, a bypass lane has opened next to us’.  So, he goes on to ask: ‘Are we faced with a phenomenon of “Asianization,” much like the “Americanization” of a century ago?’

Franz goes on to attack an event-driven culture at music festivals and elsewhere. He attacks concert administrators who feed tabloid values ahead of creative content. ‘With the “event” as defined by reports in glossy magazines becoming the sole point, and with the organizers using business success to distract themselves from poor artistic quality— (this) is testament to short-sightedness, and a contribution to the process by which art and culture erode.’

(He names no culprits but we think we may know who he means. Gidon Kremer might agree).

Here is the first half of the Welser-Möst diatribe, in a text recorded and translated exclusively for Slipped Disc. The second half, equally forthright, follows here

200 Years of the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna

 

200 years ago, a group of enthusiasts was moved by their love of music to form a society which founding charter states the following: “The uplifting of music in all its aspects is the primary purpose of the Society; members’ own pursuit and enjoyment thereof are merely subordinate objectives.”

Aside from the fact that the Society’s founding took place not only out of a love for music, but also for patriotic and social reasons, it was also a great deed in terms of cultural policy. Because here, various social classes—above all the ascendant bourgeoisie—began manifesting a desire for freedom and independence, with the arts understood to be an important part of their own culture and portrayed as constituent to their identity.

It is entirely justified that such an anniversary be taken as an occasion to look back and appreciate the singular status of this institution worldwide, and to be proud of it. But I think that such a celebration should, most importantly, serve to entertain the question of just where this journey is to take us—as an institution, as a country and as a society.

For many centuries, this city has known that human beings cannot exist without dreams. Art gives rise to identity by reminding us that we are unable to live without dreams. Two hundred years ago, the establishment of this Society was a manifestation of the dream of freedom, the political and social freedom that we see demonstrated so vividly and emotionally in Beethoven’s music, which we can experience in exactly the same way today.

One hundred years ago, the dream of the unlimited ability to travel brought about an enormous acceleration of life—something which human beings still have yet to completely digest. And now, one hundred years later, we are reliving this situation with respect to the speed of communication, a challenge that looms before us like an unconquerable peak.

It is impossible to see clearly into the fog of the future, but if we desire to know not only where we are going but also how we want to shape the journey, then we must first take stock of and analyze our cultural sector, as it stands and as part of a whole. In the interest of obtaining a better view and understanding it within a larger context, we would do well to take a step back and look at the broadest-possible picture.

One hundred years ago, the art world reacted to the phenomenon of acceleration by taking up the archaic—just think of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. At that time, America was just embarking on the process of ascending to its future lead role in the Western world, and European culture grew not only curious about America, beginning to integrate it into its art, but also began adopting more and more from America in a process that was slow—and made even slower by the powerful political earthquakes of the 20th century—but nonetheless unstoppable. Much in today’s Europe is “Americanized.” As a “part-time American” myself, I ascertain this without any judgmental intent.

Today, it seems to me that our Western world—including America—is once again subject to fundamental changes with regard to culture and our understanding thereof. Are we faced with a phenomenon of “Asianization,” much like the “Americanization” of a century ago? This would seem entirely conceivable when one thinks of the phenomenon of Lang Lang, which has resulted in one million children taking piano lessons and ten million Twitter followers in China alone. One must not discount this simply as a sort of pop-cultural phenomenon within classical music; it much rather shows us that we in Europe, as well as in America and the entire Western world, can no longer take for granted our claim to leadership in the cultural matters we have inherited: quite clearly, a passing lane has opened up right next to us.

In the world of Indian divinities, there are the gods Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the Destroyer—all three of whom share equal status. Viewed in this context, we in the Western world would to an excessive extent be worshippers of Vishnu, the Preserver! The mere pursuit of maintenance, or often even just administration, paying no heed to the necessity of both creation and destruction, is enough to undermine the foundations of any culture—including our own.

Cultivation, which must be one of the foundations of any society, requires creativity. We should be giving this more thought, formulating new dreams and setting new goals—to aim for the impossible, both for ourselves and for coming generations, and to perhaps come just a bit closer to precisely that which we will never achieve. Any person who wants to accomplish something special does precisely this: he declares the impossible to be his goal, that is his motivation—failure is an integral part of the equation and, moreover, a major factor on the path of progress.

Culture’s maintenance is important, but so is its renewal. Merely broadening our scope, as we see happening with many festivals these days, entails becoming more shallow rather than opening up, as it is falsely portrayed. Art should and indeed must be accessible to everyone, but “tabloidization”—with the “event” as defined by reports in glossy magazines becoming the sole point, and with even the organizers using business success to distract themselves from poor artistic quality—is testament to short-sightedness, and it is also a contribution to the process by which art and culture erode. Art must plumb the depths as an important part of our dream-world, the world that we should dream of—but it is also, as it indeed must be, an expression of its times. We live in an age of superficiality, but precisely this what we must fight back against, showing that more exists than just quick satisfaction and the addiction to records, which I find perverse in artistic events because it degrades art into a mass-produced good. Subtlety and complex engagement with our own existence are difficult to communicate, but this communication is an essential task of the arts and of those working in the cultural field. Organizers and promoters must facilitate precisely this, rather than undermining it with “events.”

Continues here.

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Comments

  1. Mark Pemberton says:

    I can’t see any evidence that he “warns against” Asianisation.

    • He does, implicity. But you have a point, Mark. I’ve changed the header to ‘warns of’. N

      • Melissa Dunphy says:

        Why on earth are we using the word “warn” at all? Is there something dangerous or unfavorable about Europe no longer being able to take its “cultural leadership” for granted?

        • Very good point, Mark, Norman, and Melissa. I echo all those sentiments.

        • I agree. Using the word ‘warn’ implies an element of racism, but he merely points out that things are changing. We might believe he is against it because he is Austrian, but that in itself is racist!

  2. I also didn’t get the racist vibe the headline suggests (even changed from ‘against’ to ‘of’). I think the speech includes an acknowledgement that the classical world has expanded to include a massive Asian population that didn’t exist 100 years ago. And this means that any prior or perceived hemisphere-hegemony is under threat (with no implication that this is a bad thing).

    The real warning is against the loss of creativity, against the loss of dreams, against the loss of failure even.

  3. I agree with Ms. Milne. I should add that when I attend one of my daughter’s US public school orchestra concerts, in a school that is perhaps 10% Asian, half the orchestra is Asian. So I do not think of this as a Lang Lang phenomenon. I rather think we are seeing a parallel to Jewish culture from the beginnings of the last century — educate your children well and expose them to fine culture. This is to be applauded. Finally, the county in which I live, Prince William in the state of Virginia, mandates that a student take up a musical instrument or sing in chorus for 6th, 7th and 8th grade. I think that is a fine educational policy. 250 kids playing in a gymnasium can make a big sound (though it is not an in-tune sound necessarily, as you might imagine). Thank you for bringing us this article.

  4. Much of what F-WM says resonates with me in identifying trends to adjust and sometimes to appear to trivialise the presentation of classical music to make it for example more internet-friendly and/or targeted at wider audiences who are under 50 and less specialist. However the next step of equating the changes with “Asianization” I do not understand and do not really like. Does F-WM’s proposition include that the participation of Asian performers in classical music is somehow out of order in undermining its integrity and/or overwhelming the stature of centres like Vienna, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, etc., etc.? Is there some supposed optimal ethnic background for classical music performers and concertgoers? Does this mean that the massive interest in classical music in China, Japan and Korea is something bad? Where does that leave the great Asian performers we already have and love on our stages?

    These ideas do not resonate with me at all. I work regularly with artists from Japan, Korea and China and find them every bit as serious as those from Europe or the USA. That there should be so many students in China, Korea and Japan interested in learning the piano, violin, flute, conducting, singing, etc. is something I believe we should celebrate, not get red in the face about. Not only in classical music is the Conservative West having difficulty getting used to a world where it has diminishing influence after it has dominated for many decades if not centuries. However much some protest the world has changed and we must make the most of it. Vienna is the home of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde which hosted these pronouncements and one must remember that their organisations like the VPO do not even find the presence of women in an orchestra a concept with which they are happy.

  5. Wow, FWM is actually on to something. Perhaps he has finally looked up from the score and at the faces of his violin section in Cleveland, not to say the sound these players produce.

    A far cry from the sound produced by George Szell and his compatriots.

    • Melissa Dunphy says:

      Yes, I believe it has been scientifically proven that Asian faces make worse sounds, especially when compared to Hungarians. Thank you for spreading this well-founded belief.

      • First of all, where have I said anything about ‘worse’ (it must be your racist tendencies) and do you actually equate the style of playing during Szell’s time with what the conservatories in North America and Asia produce today?

        Get off your perch and try standing upright for a change. You might begin to see the world for what it is.

        • So how then did you mean “Szell and his compatriots”? You said that, not “Szell and the musicians of his time”. “A far cry from” may not necessarily have a negative connotation, but in your posts it sure does as if has. After all, you complain that FW-M “finally” looked up and noticed – not only the “different sound” but, and that’s what you mention first their “different faces”.

          I look forward to seeing how you will get out of the corner you talked yourself into. Just calling Melissa “racist” won’t do. It pushes you further into that corner.

  6. Welser-Möst makes many important and much needed points, but his comment about the Asianization of culture caught my eye too. (In spite of this horrible translation.) Since at least 1683 when the Ottomans besieged their city, the Viennese have had a phobia of Asianization. It is almost impossible to make such remarks in the current social and political climate of Austria, where xenophobic rightwing politicians command large followings, without a significant number of people placing them in a xenophobic context. So I wonder why Welser-Möst didn’t contextualize his statements in a way to more clearly distance himself from those views? For more info see:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Party_of_Austria

    One manifestation of this problem has been the long-term policy of the Vienna Philharmonic to exclude Asians, since they feel such individuals would destroy the orchestra’s image of Austrian authenticity. For documentation see these two articles:

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/prophets.htm

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/sugiyama.htm

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/ozawa.htm

    As just one example, in his memoirs, published in 1970, Otto Strasser, a former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic describes the problems blind auditions caused:

    “I hold it for incorrect that today the applicants play behind a screen; an arrangement that was brought in after the Second World War in order to assure objective judgments. I continuously fought against it, especially after I became Chairman of the Philharmonic, because I am convinced that to the artist also belongs the person, that one must not only hear, but also see, in order to judge him in his entire personality. [...] Even a grotesque situation that played itself out after my retirement, was not able to change the situation. An applicant qualified himself as the best, and as the screen was raised, there stood a Japanese before the stunned jury. He was, however, not engaged, because his face did not fit with the ‘Pizzicato-Polka’ of the New Year’s Concert.”

    Again, Welser-Möst is keenly aware of this history, which makes his comment about Asianization discomforting. The negative aspects of this history and their current manifestations, of course, will be heatedly debated. I enjoy the wide range of views and backgrounds among Slipped Disk posters, but forgive me if I do not debate this topic with anonymous commentators. I feel these difficult subjects can only be meaningfully discussed of people have the responibility to put their name to their words.

    • “Since at least 1683 when the Ottomans besieged their city, the Viennese have had a phobia of Asianization. It is almost impossible to make such remarks in the current social and political climate of Austria, where xenophobic rightwing politicians command large followings, without a significant number of people placing them in a xenophobic context.”

      No, I think it is pretty clear from the other commentaries that it is really just you who places these comments in a xenophobic context. It’s pretty clear what FWM says. He says let’s not be complacent, let’s not just sit on our cultural heritage, let’s not feel superior and entitled, let’s look around and take a few clues from the rapidly developing and ever more complex and international world around us.

      And – preserving one cultural identity does not mean putting down others. It’s really just you who makes it look like that here.

  7. Nuvakwahu says:

    Let’s keep in mind that race is distinct from culture. I think we often conflate and confuse the two.

  8. Joep Bronkhorst says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but it seems to me that FWM views the so-called ‘Asianisation’ as a positive thing, leading to pluralism in classical music: ‘a passing lane has opened up right next to us… we in the Western world would to an excessive extent be worshippers of Vishnu, the Preserver’. He’s saying we have to embrace different cultures and alternative forms of creative expression, not rely on the past glories of Western classical and Romantic repertoire. (Which isn’t exactly an original point of view, anyway.)

  9. The problem is not Asianization, but rather the fact that a huge influx of talented and sensitive people is amplifying symptoms of corporatization. The media focus on Asian artists is misguided; the real focus should be the consolidation of media, the consolidation of funding and the general removal of the live performance experience from daily life.

  10. Henry Peyrebrune says:

    Norman – your headline is unfair and inaccurate.

    FWM is not _warning_ of Asianisation. He’s saying that Europe cannot take its leadership for granted simply because the art form has European roots. Just as Americans became leaders in classical music in the 20th century, Asians may become leaders in the 21st. He then immediately goes on to say that cultivation and creativity must be equally as important as preservation, but that the Europe and the West give disproportionate emphasis to preservation.

    “Creativity only arises in places where self-satisfaction is not predominant.” If he is warning against anything, he is warning Europeans not to rest on their historic laurels or isolate themselves in ivory tower modernism.

  11. While there is a lot of hot air here, the warning seems to be against concert organizers and promoters who insist on programming works he personally doesn’t like. While his comments might stir some needed discussion on the fading of orchestral music in popular culture, he does come with baggage. This earlier article on the director might be reread to see that he himself is not without problems. http://www.scena.org/columns/lebrecht/040212-NL-welsermost.html

  12. For those who´d like to read the speech in the original German. It is on Welser-Möst Facebook page.

    Festrede Franz Welser-Möst: 200 Jahre Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien, Wien am 29.11.2012
    by Franz Welser-Möst on Friday, 30 November 2012 at 12:59 ·

    200 Jahre Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien

    Die Liebe zur Musik hat vor 200 Jahren Enthusiasten dazu veranlasst eine Gesellschaft zu gründen, die in den Gründungsstatuten festhält: „Die Emporbringung der Musik in all ihren Zweigen ist der Hauptzweck der Gesellschaft; der Selbstbetrieb und Selbstgenuss derselben sind nur untergeordnete Zwecke.“

    Abgesehen davon, dass die Gründung der Gesellschaft nicht nur aus Gründen der Liebe zur Musik erfolgte, sondern auch aus patriotischen und sozialen Gründen, ist die Gründung auch eine grosse kulturpolitische Tat. Weil sich hier durch verschiedene Gesellschaftsschichten, vor allem durch das erstarkende Bürgertum ein Wille zur Freiheit und Unabhängigkeit zu manifestieren beginnt und damit Kunst als wichtiger Teil der eigenen Kultur angesehen wird und sich als identitätsstiftend darstellt.

    Es ist durchaus berechtigt aus Anlass eines solchen Jubiläums zurück zu schauen und sich der weltweit singulären Stellung dieses Hauses bewusst zu sein, Stolz zu zeigen, aber ich finde, dass eine solche Feier vor allem dazu dienen sollte, sich die Frage als Institution, als Land und als Gesellschaft zu stellen, wohin die Reise denn gehen soll.

    Diese Stadt hat seit vielen Jahrhunderten gewusst, dass der Mensch ohne Träume nicht sein kann. Kunst stiftet Identität weil sie uns daran erinnert, dass wir ohne Träume nicht lebensfähig sind.

    Vor zweihundert Jahren war es der Traum nach Freiheit, der sich in dieser Gesellschaftsgründung zeigt, die politische und gesellschaftliche Freiheit, wie wir sie in Beethovens Musik ganz plastisch, emotional vorgeführt bekommen und bis heute genau so erfahren können.

    Vor hundert Jahren war es der Traum von der unbegrenzten Fortbewegungsmöglichkeit, die eine enorme Beschleunigung des Lebens gebracht hat und die der Mensch bis heute nicht wirklich zur Gänze verdaut hat. Und der sich nach weiteren hundert Jahren wiederum in der Kommunikationsbeschleunigung wiederfindet, die wie ein unbezwingbarer Berg vor uns steht.

    In die Nebel der Zukunft zu schauen ist unmöglich, aber wenn wir nicht nur wissen wollen wohin die Reise gehen soll, sondern vor allem, wenn wir sie mit gestalten wollen, dann bedarf es zuerst einer Bestandsaufnahme, einer Analyse auch unseres Kulturbetriebes als Teil des Ganzen, wie er sich im Moment darstellt.

    Um einen besseren Blick zu erhalten auf diesen Kulturbetrieb, ihn im grösseren Zusammenhang zu verstehen, ist es hilfreich, einen Schritt zurück zu treten und den grösstmöglichen Rahmen anzusehen.

    Vor hundert Jahren- Stichwort Beschleunigung- reagierte die Kunstwelt mit Rückgriffen auf das Archaische, denken Sie nur an Stravinskys „Frühlingsopfer“. Amerika begann damals Führer der westlichen Welt zu werden und die europäische Kultur begann nicht nur Amerika neugierig zu betrachten und in ihre Kunst einzuarbeiten, sondern in einem langen, weil auch durch die starken politischen Erdbeben des 20. Jahrhunderts verlangsamten, aber trotzdem unaufhaltbaren Prozess mehr und mehr von Amerika zu übernehmen. Vieles in Europa ist heute „veramerikanisiert“. Als „Teilzeitamerikaner“ stelle ich das vollkommen wertfrei fest.

    Heute wird die westliche Welt- so scheint es mir- inklusive Amerika, wieder von grundlegenden Änderungen in unserer Kultur und unserem Kulturverständnis erfasst. Stehen wir vor einer „Verasiatisierung“, ähnlich der „Veramerikanisierung“ vor hundert Jahren? Durchaus vorstellbar, wenn man weiss, dass aufgrund des Phänomens Lang Lang in China allein heute eine Million Kinder Klavier lernen und ihm auf Twitter 10 Millionen Menschen in seiner Heimat allein folgen. Dann kann man das aber nicht einfach nur als eine Art Popkultur innerhalb der klassischen Musik abtun, sondern es zeigt uns, dass wir in Europa, aber auch in Amerika, der westlichen Welt insgesamt, nicht mehr so selbstverständlich die Führerschaft in uns überbrachten kulturellen Dingen beanspruchen können und sich da ganz deutlich eine Überholspur neben uns auftut.

    Es gibt in der indischen Götterwelt die Götter Brahma, den Schöpfer, Vishnu, den Erhalter und Shiva, den Zerstörer- die alle drei gleichberechtigt sind. Übertragen auf uns in der westlichen Welt: wir sind allzu sehr Anbeter von Vishnu, dem Erhalter! Allein zu erhalten und allzu oft auch nur zu verwalten, sich nicht eingedenk zu sein, dass es die Schöpfung, aber auch die Zerstörung braucht, unterspült die Fundamente jeder Kultur -auch der unseren.

    Kultivierung, die ein Grundanliegen einer jeden Gesellschaft sein muss, braucht Kreativität. Darüber sollten wir uns mehr Gedanken machen, uns neue Träume formulieren, uns Ziele setzen. Auch nicht nur uns sondern auch den nächsten Generationen das Unmögliche vorzugeben, um vielleicht genau diesem ein kleines Stück näher zu kommen, auch in dem Bewusstsein, dass wir es vielleicht nie erreichen werden. Jeder Mensch, der besonderes erreichen will, sei es in der Kunst oder auch im Sport visiert genau das an: er erklärt das Unmögliche zum Ziel, das ist seine Motivation- Scheitern ist dabei mit einberechnet und sogar ein wesentlicher Faktor auf dem Wege des Fortschritts.

    Die Pflege der Kultur ist wichtig, aber auch die Erneuerung. Allein in die Breite zu gehen, wie wir es heute auch bei vielen Festivals erleben, bedeutet Verflachung und nicht eine Öffnung, wie es fälschlicherweise dargestellt wird. Kunst soll und muss für alle zugänglich sein, aber eine „Verboulevardisierung“, in der nur mehr der „Event“ zählt, sich über Berichten in Hochglanzmagazinen definiert, Veranstalter sich selbst über mangelnde Qualität mit Ergebnissen von Einnahmen hinweg zu täuschen versuchen, zeugt von Kurzsichtigkeit und ist auch ein Beitrag zum Erosionsprozess von Kunst und Kultur. Kunst muss in die Tiefe gehen, ist ein wichtiger Teil unserer Traumwelt, der Welt, die wir uns erträumen sollen, sie ist und muss aber auch ein Ausdruck ihrer Zeit sein. Wir leben in einer Zeit der Oberflächlichkeit, aber genau deswegen gilt es dagegen anzugehen und zu zeigen, dass es mehr gibt als die schnelle Befriedigung und Sucht nach Rekorden, die ich in Kunstveranstaltungen pervers finde, da man damit Kunst zu Massenware degradiert. Subtilität und komplexe Auseinandersetzung mit unserem Sein ist schwer zu vermitteln, aber eine unabdingbare Aufgabe der Kunst und Kulturschaffenden. Veranstalter müssen genau das ermöglichen und nicht mit „Events“ unterlaufen.

    Ein Wort über die Kunst und vor allem die Musik von heute:

    Denjenigen, die sich heute so gerne in Sachen zeitgenössischer Musik fälschlicherweise und missverständlich auf Adorno berufen und sich zu Gralshütern der Moderne selbst erhoben haben, sei gesagt: Pierre Boulez, den ich sehr verehre, hat schon vor zwanzig Jahren in einem Interview mit der Los Angeles Times gesagt, dass ein Baum viele Äste hat!

    Ich möchte dem hinzufügen: Arroganz ist unkreativ und lähmend. Musik in ihrer kunstvollsten Form hat sich auch immer Kraft aus Nährböden wie der Populärmusik und der Natur geholt. Heute, wo wir „globalisiert“ sind und auch so agieren, wäre es ein Beitrag zum Verfall unserer Kultur, sich in der neuen Musik in den Elfenbeinturm der kulturellen „Überlegenheit“ zurück zu ziehen. Die Verbindung von Intellekt und Emotion, die Musik braucht und ohne die sie nicht lebensfähig ist, ist aber auch nur in der Auseinandersetzung mit dem Publikum erfahrbar. Wir haben zu oft in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten in der Programmierung von neuer Musik politische Korrektheit und Anbiederung an selbst ernannte Hohepriester der Moderne erlebt statt Überzeugung, Feigenblätter statt Neugierde. Dies hat zu oft Kreativität eingeengt, ja oft abgewürgt.

    Manche Philosophen unserer Zeit meinen, dass Wissenschaft die Religion abgelöst hat. Träfe das auch auf die Kunst zu, würde das die Aufgabe ihrer selbst bedeuten. Damit würden wir uns aber unserer Träume berauben!

    Wohin geht also die Reise?

    Wir brauchen auch in unserer Kultur Menschen und Institutionen, die sich nicht scheuen, Elite zu sein, sich trotzdem nicht in den Elfenbeinturm zurückziehen, schlicht- die auch bereit sind voran zu gehen. Aussergewöhnliches wird immer zuerst als suspekt angesehen, um später als Vision erkannt und bejubelt zu werden.

    Ich wünsche dem geliebten Musikverein, dieser Stadt, dem Land, Europa, der westlichen Welt unbeirrbaren Sinn für Qualität in unserer Kultur, dass wir sie nicht nur pflegen, verwalten oder im schlimmsten Fall für selbstverständlich nehmen, sondern und vor allem auch Offenheit, Neugierde und Mut gegenüber dem Neuen und Anderen zeigen.

    Hegel hat gesagt: „Die Freiheit der Kunst verurteilt sie zur Unverbindlichkeit.“ Natürlich hat er damit gemeint, dass die Freiheit auch in der Kunst in der Ordnung liegt, jeder Musiker weiss das. Liest man den Satz aber anders, nämlich kulturpolitisch, ist dieser Satz fatal und muss uns allen Auftrag sein, ihm zu widersprechen.

    Kreativität entsteht nur dort, wo keine Selbstzufriedenheit herrscht. Kunst leitet uns dazu, uns mit unserem Sein zu beschäftigen, in die Tiefe zu gehen, sie ist auch der Versuch zum Kern unserer individuellen Existenz vorzudringen. Auf der Reise im Nebel der Zukunft scheint man im Kreise zu gehen, dabei ist es ein Weg auf der Spirale zur Tiefe, zum Kern des Wesens schlecht hin. Die Energie dafür ist die Investition in Kreativität. Jede Gesellschaft, jedes Land, jede Institution muss sich dieser Aufgabe geistiger Investition und Innovation stellen. Nur so geht die Reise auch tatsächlich weiter. Die Gründungsgeschichte der Gesellschaft dieses Hauses hat es gezeigt und muss es in neuem Ausmass auch in Zukunft zeigen.

  13. pathetic, so pathetic, and a racist edge. Schwarzkopf had the same attitude. If there is one thing which killed European culture it’s the Nazis, in 50 years from now the impact of this human and cultural holocaust will become clearer to the eye if there still some intelligen eyes left to do so

    • Fred said:

      “pathetic, so pathetic, and a racist edge. Schwarzkopf had the same attitude. If there is one thing which killed European culture it’s the Nazis, in 50 years from now the impact of this human and cultural holocaust will become clearer to the eye if there still some intelligen eyes left to do so”

      We will see, but in the meantime, it is obvious that it hasn’t become clear to your eye at all that your comments have nothing to do with what Welser-Möst actually said, and what most of the commentators here saw in his statements. So it’s pretty obvious you haven’t read his speech, nor most or any of the comments. So you are just judging by superficial impression and prejudice. That’s pretty bad – just about as bad as what you thought you were criticizing.

      • Peter - a different one from the other Peter says:

        I rather agree with Michael.
        More generally, what we maybe have here is a nice example of the power of suggestion. Norman has taken one small element of a wide ranging speech, labelled it (very misleadingly it would seem) and suddenly readers are seeing that message, and reacting to it. The Asianisation is a passing comment and, in my reading, it is welcomed rather than issued as a warning. Surely the warning is more about superficiality.
        And that is something from which no particular continent or culture is immune – Europe, America or Asia. (All right, for those of a pedantic persuasion, it happens very little in Antarctica ).
        But it must be difficult to write an eye catching and representative headline for every posting – Norman’s success rate is pretty good, and he puts up some fascinating stuff, despite a few headlines such as this that go very wide of the target.

        And Norman, on a personal note, perhaps I can say that I am enjoying this blog particularly this week, because I am immobilised with a… slipped disc. How very appropriate.

  14. I smell the parfumes of Jean Marie le Pen and Jorg Haider in Franzie’s comment here. Don’t you realize Ladies and Gentlemen, he called the Westerner to be worshippers of Vishnu, the Preserver, which means according to FWM Western classical music must be preserved by the white people. This sentence by Franzie has clear racial connotation…..I am flabbergasted

    • Delores says:
      December 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      “I smell the parfumes of Jean Marie le Pen and Jorg Haider in Franzie’s comment here. Don’t you realize Ladies and Gentlemen, he called the Westerner to be worshippers of Vishnu, the Preserver, which means according to FWM Western classical music must be preserved by the white people. This sentence by Franzie has clear racial connotation…..I am flabbergasted”

      I am flabbergasted, too, by how you managed to twist this into a racist thing. “Franzie” didn’t say anything like you say he did. On the contrary. He said that us Westerners often are too much just Vishnu and that that is not a good thing because preservation alone also means stagnation. So that’s a very self-critical view. And let’s not remember who he addresses here. He is basically telling them “what you are doing is nice but let’s not forget that there is more out there and let’s learn a little from other cultures”.
      Really the exact opposite of what you put into hi mouth.

  15. We can look at this from the opposite direction too — that now there is a whole new audience for European classical music as there is for Chinese music. Children and students who may not have been interested in music now are flocking to study and learn. Of course, everything will seem to change, and some of the changes will be distressing; but all that is great will find a way to survive and renew itself.

  16. There’s no warning against Asianisation that I can see in this speech. And no racism either. I think it’s a beautiful message and one that classical musicians better take heed of!

    • I agree with Waldo and it is a beautiful speech and that is why I´m posting the complete version here and invite your readers to read it again.

      “ART GIVES RISE TO IDENTITY BY REMINDING US THAT WE ARE UNABLE TO LIVE WITHOUT DREAMS.” keynote speech – 200th ann. Musikverein
      by Franz Welser-Möst on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 11:24 ·

      Franz Welser-Möst:

      keynote speech – 200 years Musikverein

      200 years ago, a group of enthusiasts was moved by their love of music to form a society which founding charter states the following: “The uplifting of music in all its aspects is the primary purpose of the Society; members’ own pursuit and enjoyment thereof are merely subordinate objectives.”

      Aside from the fact that the Society’s founding took place not only out of a love for music, but also for patriotic and social reasons, it was also a great deed in terms of cultural policy. Because here, various social classes—above all the ascendant bourgeoisie—began manifesting a desire for freedom and independence, with the arts understood to be an important part of their own culture and portrayed as constituent to their identity.

      It is entirely justified that such an anniversary be taken as an occasion to look back and appreciate the singular status of this institution worldwide, and to be proud of it. But I think that such a celebration should, most importantly, serve to entertain the question of just where this journey is to take us—as an institution, as a country and as a society.

      For many centuries, this city has known that human beings cannot exist without dreams. Art gives rise to identity by reminding us that we are unable to live without dreams.

      Two hundred years ago, the establishment of this Society was a manifestation of the dream of freedom, the political and social freedom that we see demonstrated so vividly and emotionally in Beethoven’s music, which we can experience in exactly the same way today.

      One hundred years ago, the dream of the unlimited ability to travel brought about an enormous acceleration of life—something which human beings still have yet to completely digest. And now, one hundred years later, we are reliving this situation with respect to the speed of communication, a challenge that looms before us like an unconquerable peak.

      It is impossible to see clearly into the fog of the future, but if we desire to know not only where we are going but also how we want to shape the journey, then we must first take stock of and analyze our cultural sector, as it stands and as part of a whole.

      In the interest of obtaining a better view and understanding it within a larger context, we would do well to take a step back and look at the broadest-possible picture.

      One hundred years ago, the art world reacted to the phenomenon of acceleration by taking up the archaic—just think of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. At that time, America was just embarking on the process of ascending to its future lead role in the Western world, and European culture grew not only curious about America, beginning to integrate it into its art, but also began adopting more and more from America in a process that was slow—and made even slower by the powerful political earthquakes of the 20th century—but nonetheless unstoppable. Much in today’s Europe is “Americanized.” As a “part-time American” myself, I ascertain this without any judgmental intent.

      Today, it seems to me that our Western world—including America—is once again subject to fundamental changes with regard to culture and our understanding thereof. Are we faced with a phenomenon of “Asianization,” much like the “Americanization” of a century ago? This would seem entirely conceivable when one thinks of the phenomenon of Lang Lang, which has resulted in one million children taking piano lessons and ten million Twitter followers in China alone. One must not discount this simply as a sort of pop-cultural phenomenon within classical music; it much rather shows us that we in Europe, as well as in America and the entire Western world, can no longer take for granted our claim to leadership in the cultural matters we have inherited: quite clearly, a passing lane has opened up right next to us.

      In the world of Indian divinities, there are the gods Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the Destroyer—all three of whom share equal status. Viewed in this context, we in the Western world would to an excessive extent be worshippers of Vishnu, the Preserver! The mere pursuit of maintenance, or often even just administration, paying no heed to the necessity of both creation and destruction, is enough to undermine the foundations of any culture—including our own.

      Cultivation, which must be one of the foundations of any society, requires creativity. We should be giving this more thought, formulating new dreams and setting new goals—to aim for the impossible, both for ourselves and for coming generations, and to perhaps come just a bit closer to precisely that which we will never achieve. Any person who wants to accomplish something special does precisely this: he declares the impossible to be his goal, that is his motivation—failure is an integral part of the equation and, moreover, a major factor on the path of progress.

      Culture’s maintenance is important, but so is its renewal. Merely broadening our scope, as we see happening with many festivals these days, entails becoming more shallow rather than opening up, as it is falsely portrayed. Art should and indeed must be accessible to everyone, but “tabloidization”—with the “event” as defined by reports in glossy magazines becoming the sole point, and with even the organizers using business success to distract themselves from poor artistic quality—is testament to short-sightedness, and it is also a contribution to the process by which art and culture erode. Art must plumb the depths as an important part of our dream-world, the world that we should dream of—but it is also, as it indeed must be, an expression of its times. We live in an age of superficiality, but precisely this what we must fight back against, showing that more exists than just quick satisfaction and the addiction to records, which I find perverse in artistic events because it degrades art into a mass-produced good. Subtlety and complex engagement with our own existence are difficult to communicate, but this communication is an essential task of the arts and of those working in the cultural field. Organizers and promoters must facilitate precisely this, rather than undermining it with “events.”

      A word about art and, above all, the music of today: to those who are so fond of wrongly and mistakenly calling on Adorno with reference to contemporary music, appointing themselves guardians of modernism itself, let it be said to them: Pierre Boulez, whom I greatly admire, said 20 years ago in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that a tree has many branches!

      I’d like to add to this the following: arrogance is uncreative and crippling. Music in its most artful form has also always nourished itself from sources such as popular music and nature. And today, with us having been “globalized” and also acting that way, it would be a contribution to the decadence of our culture if, in the field of new music, we were to retreat into the ivory tower of cultural “superiority.” The connection of intellect and emotion, which music needs and without which it would not survive, can only be experienced when dealing with the audience. And all too often, over the past decades of programming new music, we have seen not conviction but rather political correctness and the currying of favor with self-proclaimed high priests of modernism, and instead of curiosity we have seen fig leaves. Far too often, this has constrained creativity, indeed often choking it off entirely.

      Some philosophies of our era would assert that science has superseded religion. If this applied to art, this would entail art’s abandonment of its very self. And that would rob us of our dreams!

      So just where is this journey headed?

      In our culture, we still need individuals and institutions who do not shy away from being elites, but also do not withdraw to the ivory tower—simply put, those who are prepared to forge ahead. The exceptional will always be viewed as suspect at first, but later on be regarded as visionary and, indeed, celebrated.

      I would wish for my beloved Musikverein, for this city, this country, Europe, and the Western word, an unerring sense for quality in our culture. That we might not only maintain it, administrate it, or—in the worst case—take it for granted, but above all show openness, curiosity and courage toward the new and other.

      Hegel said, “The freedom of art condemns it to be subjective.” What he meant, of course, is that in art, as well, freedom is to be found within order—this is something that every musician knows. But if one reads his sentence differently, namely from the standpoint of cultural policy, it is a fatal statement—the contradiction of which must be a challenge for all of us to take up.

      Creativity only arises in places where self-satisfaction is not predominant. Art leads us to deal with our very being, to go in-depth, and it is also the attempt to penetrate to the core our individual existence. On this journey into the fog of the future, one seems to go in circles—this is, in fact, a spiraling path that leads into the depths, toward the core of knowledge itself. The energy for this is the investment we must make in creativity. Every society, every country, every institution must take on to this task of intellectual investment and innovation. Only in this way can the journey actually proceed onward. The story of this society and this institution’s founding showed us this, and it must show us this more than ever in the future.

      Translation by Christopher Roth

      • Welser-Möst’s arguments move along the lines of Samuel Huntington’s well-known and controversial article, “Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” which was published in Foreign Affairs in 1996. In response to Francis Fukiyama’s seminal essay about the “End of History,” he argued that after the Cold War, the new conflicts in the next quarter century would not be political, but rather cultural due to the due to the rising power of China and Islam. Here is a wiki article about his article:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clash_of_Civilizations

        And in German here (the German article is actually more complete):

        http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kampf_der_Kulturen

        Critics (for example articles in Le Monde Diplomatique) call “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” the theoretical legitimization of American-led Western aggression against China and the world’s Islamic and Orthodox cultures. Huntington was twice denied membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

        Ironically, there even seems to be a cultural divide between English-speakers and continental Europeans in how terms like “Asianization” are viewed. In a melting pot like America, people are more inclined to see the word as somewhat racist — especially given warnings that we will be eclipsed by Asians in a “passing lane.” In Austria, Welser-Möst’s home country, the Vienna Philharmonic has long excluded Asians. Note carefully how this is glossed over in this discussion.

        The “Americanization” of European culture is also generally viewed as a negative phenomenon in Europe — and often not without good cause. Welser-Möst is at best being disingenuine by using these terms as if they were not charged with a multiplicity of meanings and possible contextualizations. (And again, I will not discuss these difficult issues with anonymous posters for the reasons explained in my earlier post.)

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