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UPDATE: Classical editor has quit the New York Times

James Oestreich has finally accepted a buyout and will retire at the end of the month from the New York Times. He’s 70 this year, so it’s about time, but he has been hanging on for dear life. His departure will unblock a function that has ossified and gone rancid in recent years.

Some weeks back, Oestreich’s protector the culture editor Jon Landman resigned from the paper. Feeling the chill, Oestreich has accepted the inevitable.

Now, at last, maybe, the Times might get to grips with major new developments in classical music.

james oestreich

 

UPDATE: Here’s his farewell message to staff, gleefully mailed by some of them to Slipped Disc:

Folks:

After 24 years on staff at The New York Times, I have decided to make a major change and take advantage of The Times’s current buyout offer. I will complete my tenure as classical music editor on Jan. 31, but I am delighted to report that I will be advising the department on our coverage through the spring, as well as continuing to write for The Times on a freelance basis.

As many of you have heard me say (perhaps ad nauseam), this has been a dream job. If I had drawn up an ideal job description for myself beforehand, I could hardly have done better. The opportunity to do this work, in a field and on behalf of an art form that I truly love, at The Times – an institution for which my respect, impossibly high to begin with, has nevertheless grown through years of seeing it in action – was a privilege beyond measure.

That this privilege has also been all-consuming will come as no surprise to colleagues in the newsroom, and I am excited about the prospect (finally) of balancing my life with a bit of teaching, other writing and maybe even a book project.

I could not be more grateful to those many treasured colleagues in the newsroom and to all my friends within and without the paper. I hope that our paths will continue to cross in projects for The Times and in other ventures. You can reach me at this e-mail address during the interim.

All best wishes,

Jim

 

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Comments

  1. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Or not…it could also signal the end of cultural coverage, especially of classical music, as we have known it from the flagship of American newspapers. “All the news that’s fit to print…” might now become something even more ominous. Where are Virgil (not NYT) and Harold (NYT 4 sure) when we need them?

    • Perhaps the NYT will cut back on coverage of classical music – there’s no way to know yet – but I’m quite sure the paper won’t eliminate that coverage altogether. The presence of major classical music organizations in New York is too much an integral part of the city’s image in the minds of its cultural elites (even those who don’t go to classical concerts themselves).

      • I agree. It needs, tho, to abolish the individual art form editors. There’s not enough work to justify their retention.

        • Indeed, that’s what I’ve been seeing in the Times for years – reporters originally hired for a particular area are diversifying. That’s what happened to Felicia Lee, Michael Kimmelman, Edward Rothstein (by choice?), Allan Kozinn and others. So maybe we’ll start seeing classical reviews from Frank Bruni, Maureen Dowd and Adam Nagourney.

        • Patricia Ann Neely says:

          To : Norman Lebrecht,
          Are you saying there are not enough concerts to justify the number of reviewers on staff? If so, then you’re WRONG! Just the opposite. There are plenty of concerts that deserve coverage. Then again, if you only read NY Times reviews, then you wouldn’t necessarily be knowledgeable of that fact.

          Patricia Ann Neely
          A professional musician

          • I have made, over and over, exactly the opposite point: the NY Times coverage of classical music has become less diverse and it narrowed still further when Allan Kozinn was moved off the beat.

  2. Chevalier Diddley says:

    With Donald Trump looking to buy the NYT, I wouldn’t count on classical music getting any coverage at all.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/01/trump-exploring-improbable-ways-to-buy-the-times.html

  3. “…the Times might get to grips with major new developments in classical music” — are you kidding? The Times will continue to reduce its coverage of classical music because it doesn’t bring in money. My guess is that eventually the Times will have only 1 full-time critic and other contributions will be free lance.

    • Are you really sure the classical music coverage in the NY Times doesn’t bring in money, Bob? The paper charges handsome fees for advertisements in its arts pages, especially the Sunday Arts & Leisure section, and many classical organizations here feel they have no choice but to pay those fees.

      NYT’s Arts & Leisure, by the way, is reportedly the single most profitable newspaper section in North America.

      Movie ads might bring in even more revenue, but I’d wager that the Times is already running all the movie ads that studios are prepared to purchase there.

      As I commented above, the Times may want to reduce classical music coverage, but it won’t want to be seen eliminating it altogether.

    • Diane Noel says:

      Bob,

      Grim, but true. I just ended a thirty-year subscription because, among other irritations, the classical music coverage had pretty much gone away … Almost as bad as the LA Times.

      • The classical music coverage in the New York Times “had pretty much gone away”, Diane? Really?

        I just went to nytimes.com, went to the Music page and counted. There are three classical articles today, two from yesterday (plus an obituary of a French horn payer), three from the day before that, two from Monday – plus the first of the classical features from this Sunday’s Arts & Leisure.

        (By the way, eight of those ten articles include music written in the last 50 years; three of them are strictly about contemporary music.)

        Granted, that’s not as much classical music coverage as the paper had at its height, and it’s by no means covering all the classical music activity that happens in greater NYC. (No outlet has both the personnel and the money to do that properly.) But it’s not nothing – not even close.

        • paula brochu says:

          “Gone away” is an exaggeration, granted, but the level of expertise behind the coverage (generally speaking) has waned, without argument.

          • Sure. (Though that’s not what Diane said.) In terms of the level of expertise, really that’s just a matter of which writers a newspaper happens to engage, isn’t it?

  4. Bob Kosovsky: “My guess is that eventually the Times will have only 1 full-time critic and other contributions will be free lance.”

    That’s the basically situation now, actually – ever since Allan Kozinn was transferred. Tommasini is the only full-time critic; Oestreich is an editor who sometimes reviews; all the other NYT critics, however often their bylines appear, are contracted as freelancers.

    That’s the way things have worked for a while at other major US papers – especially the Washington Post, which runs lots of classical reviews (including online-only reviews, which I don’t think the NYT does).

    • paula brochu says:

      There is a distinction to be made between stringers and freelancers.

      A stringer is a regular contributor without the reward of benefits or a cushy salary. There was a time when the staff had six critics and fewer stringers. Stringers worked their tails off for years trying to get on staff and to cobble together enough of an income to survive it, being paid per piece (very little). They did a lot of the less glamorous things that in later years, the salaried employees began having to do in addition to their regular workload.

      Stringers now carry a respectable workload and aren’t paid enough, in my opinion. A freelancer could be anyone — submitting pieces as it suits them — to be accepted or rejected at the Times’ discretion, per piece.

      My guess is that the Times is reducing the headcount for the sake of not having to pay benefits to as many writers. I’m sure most of the stringers are expecting to eventually earn their way onto the staff, but the Times has a long history of dangling a carrot for years and never making good on their promises. Alex Ross, Jereme Eichler, Tim Page… and many more were worked like dogs, tempted with a staff position and eventually let go. Even John Rockwell was subject to such games.

      Also, the Times’ printed version of the paper and the digital version are completely different. Allan submitted 5 assigned pieces in his new position at the culture desk in a day or two, but only one half of one piece ran in the physical paper. Oddly enough, his piece about Henry’s Grossman’s Beatles photos was longer in the physical paper than online, which usually doesn’t happen.

      • Good point – I had not thought to make that distinction between stringers and freelancers, and it is an important one. Many thanks, Paula.

  5. Arts and Leisure makes a fortune — and could make more if it were better edited.

    I wonder what effect, if any, the outpouring of public unhappiness about the transfer of Allan Kozinn had to do with the corporate push that has now been given to the two editors (Landman and Oestreich) who plotted and engineered it.

    • So do I, Tim. Sounds to me like chickens coming home to roost.

    • I heard tales of such undercover efforts, and am sorry. I really miss Allan Kozinn’s ideas and remarks. It’s really too bad.

    • Tim, are we really sure that it’s a corporate push that caused Landman and Oestreich to leave the Times – and not simply that two editors of retirement age decided that this was the time to retire because the buyout offer meant they’d get paid extra to do it?

      I don’t know either way. (And you may have inside info that others don’t.) But it’s very easy for all of us outsiders to imagine newsroom intrigues that might not really be there.

      • paula brochu says:

        I can tell you on good authoriy that despite their public attempts to leave with dignity, they did not *want* to go. And yes, I believe wholeheartedly that the public outcry regarding Allan’s move to the Culture desk didn’t work in their favor. I am told by very reliable sources, that the Times is still regularly receiving angry letters regarding Jim and John’s decision to move Allan.

        • Daniel Okrent says:

          I simply don’t believe this is accurate. Landman was the very first person at the paper to grab the offered retirement package, well ahead of the threatened deadline. Oestreich is 70. And the Kozinn reassignment would not have happened without the assent of top editorial management. Unless either Landman or Oestreich says otherwise – and at this point they would have nothing to lose by saying so – it is only fair to presume their departures were entirely voluntary.

          • paula brochu says:

            Daniel, with all due respect, I know for an absolute, undeniable fact, that this is the case, particularly regarding Jim’s, who has said for years, even very recently, that he didn’t intend on leaving the Times until he was 75. In a meeting where a number of people were present, just prior to his decision to take the buy-out, he said that he felt like he had a target painted on him.

            I’m always sorry to see people pushed out of their place of identity, but it was not so long ago that he was the one holding the paint can. Sometimes karma moves fast.

          • paula brochu says:

            Also… as the union recently pointed out in a private meeting, Times editors can do what they want in regard to assignments and reassignments and have every right to, whether it makes sense or not, without concern about people above them, who have their own jobs to do without meddling in the decisions of the editors.

            However, the three people holding the bag regarding the nonsensical decision to move Allan, are all three out the door, less than a year after instigating what became an unprecedented outpouring of support of a music critic, and criticism of the Times for its lack of good judgement.

  6. I just want to say publicly that Jim Oestreich helped me out as a young classical music critic with enormously valuable nuts and bolts-type instruction, as part of the Music Critics of North America’s annual conference. Whatever the current deficiencies in the Times’ state of affairs as judged by others, they need to account for his assistance to several writers over many, many years as a senior American music critic and his service to the field. Even though I’ve left music journalism behind for management, I continue to have enormous respect for his opinions and craft.

    • I think your argument could be turned around. When I survey American music journalism in our major papers I am struck by its conformity and its hesitancy to genuinely challenge the status quo. So much could be said, for example, about our unique and isolated system of funding the arts and how debilitating it is, but not a word is said. Comparisons with the rest of the developed world’s public funding systems would be very revealing. The information is at hand with a little research, but not a word is said. Why have I never seen mentioned in a major American paper, for example, that the USA only has 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year? Why is it never mentioned that the Met’s budget is about twice its European counterparts while the vast majority of Americans have very little access to opera at all.

      Indeed, these people are following in the footsteps of James Oestreich whose narrow, conservative views would not allow him to address such issues. And of course, his worldview aligns well with the conservatism that permeates our major classical music institutions exactly because of the plutocratic structures that fund them. (And this is to say nothing of the corporate perspectives that shape our major papers.)

      Music journalism in the USA will not come alive until we begin to hear at least a few voices willing to address the more challenging socio-political topics in the field that are staring us in the face. Until then, we will have to continue turning to the European press to find really engaging music journalism. Slipped Disk is just one small example. Or perhaps even better, to blogs which will probably eventually become the best source of music journalism, if they haven’t already.

      In anycase, it will be difficult for the arts to create a lively atmosphere if they are only written about by a bunch of candy-assed, goody two shoes who seem to be writing for little more than an audience of blue-haired ladies.

      • A critic writing for a newspaper or other organization is not a free agent. They can’t write about anything they want but have to fulfill the purpose of the newspaper.

        If I was a potential patron of the arts reading an article in a newspaper or magazine saying how debilitating the patronage system is, I might want to tell my rich friends there’s no point in funding the arts anymore. How is the critic helping the system?

        When you look at the history of music, it’s very hard not to come to the conclusion that ephemeral music criticism does not play a significant or historically important role at all. There are few exceptions of course (e.g. Berlioz, Hanslick, Shaw), but for the most part, music criticism is unimportant. (redacted)

        When you read something by Herman Klein or better, W.J. Henderson, you realize that they are in a totally different league where it’s not just the incredible content they include, but where the style of writing is incredibly high.

        • Alas, you are right. Major newspapers often have close symbiotic relationships to the financial elite since they are the major stock holders and their companies buy the most advertising. These circumstances subtly constrain the political perspectives of the American media whose function ultimately becomes the manufacture of consent for a system of plutocracy.

          It is thus unlikely that the corporate media in the USA will write much about public arts funding. If we had an effective public system the wealthy would not only lose their special entitlements in the arts world, it might also lead to other forms of social democracy that would ultimately even out the dichotomies in our distribution of wealth – which are more extreme than in any other developed country.

          To become a mainstream music journalist, one has to make it clear that they are willing to accept these constraints – and even better, that they believe in their value. This is why blogs are becoming a much better source of truth than the mainstream media.

          The press is freer in Europe because the tolerated political spectrum is considerably wider. This is especially true for thought on the left, since the political center in the rest of the developed world is a good deal to the left of the center in the USA.

          On the other hand, I think some wealthy people would be very interested in information about European systems. Those people could use their resources and influence to help begin the long process of developing a good public funding system in the USA so that we could have cultural standards in line with the rest of the developed world.

          The irony is that Americans are so brainwashed by the narrow political spectrum of their media, that even the obvious facts I discuss here would seem to many of them to be radical, if not crazy.

          • William Osborne: I appreciate and have always appreciated your important work on gender and race prejudice in orchestras in Europe and, in particular, at the Vienna Philharmonic. However, the absurdity, wrongheadedness, hostility, ignorance, and entirely false statements and accusations in your posts above make me wonder if they are even authored by the same person. It is clear that you don’t have even the first idea of how an Amercan newspaper works or worked, or of what a classical music critic does or how we do it. That you dismiss the work of our entire field and every practitioner in it as conservative corporate puppetry tout court would be offensive and insulting if it came from someone speaking from any actual knowledge or from outside of what is obviously a very narrow ideology. That’s clearly not the case here.

            I’ll continue to follow your important work in the areas that you have pioneered and in which you are expert. But as someone who has devoted his career to both arts criticism and press criticism and has published a book on America’s great independent journalist and, through his famed one-man weekly newspaper, proto-’blogger, I.F. Stone, I have to wonder why anyone would pay attention to this cartoonish ’68-Generation barstool philosophizing. I imagine that living in the evil empire of the U.S. and because no critics or music journalists here care about the subject that it is some sort of a miracle that we have open auditions and hiring in our orchestras while the utopian ideal of state support in Europe has absolutely nothing to do with hidebound ensembles and companies there who throw up barriers to women, Asians, other non-whites, and Russians (i.e., Jews). See how easy it can be to think and write simplistically? As a wise (American) sage used to say, Good grief!

          • I consider a truly conservative view to be one that sees the problem with every topic, writing on every music blog in the English language, to be the US’s deficient public-funding system for the arts. That seems like a narrow worldview, to me. It wouldn’t occur to me, had I such a worldview, to notice how arts groups have expanded to funding pie to include business, individuals, foundations, government, and even organized labor in some instances, to advance the arts. It might even be possible that such a need has driven innovation and increased the range of our artists’ abilities. But, that’s surely much too radical.

          • Andrew (and Marc Geelhoad,) in all of the polemic you fail to address the concrete arguments I have made in this thread. We should note that I am by no means the only person who holds such views. They are wide-spread. One of the most well-known studies stating the view of the major media I mention is the seminal book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. They argue, quote, “that the mass media of the United States are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.”

            Chomsky and Herman list five major causes for this self-censorhship, though for the sake of brevity I can’t do justice to their arguments:

            1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation. The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.

            2. Advertising. News media must cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers.

            3. Sourcing Mass Media News. News agencies are dependant on large organizations (such as the government, the financial industry, and the military) for sourcing the news. This is a form of subsidy, and to maintain good relations with these sources they must cater to their interests.

            4. Flak and the Enforcers. Displeasing the powerful can have serious consequences such as lawsuits, legislative actions, and campaigns to discredit the offending media outlet.

            5. Anti-Communism. This was still a controlling filter when the book was published in 1988, which Chomsky notes has now been replaced by the so-called war on terror.

            The wiki article about the book isn’t too bad, and gives a better summary. See it here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Political_Economy_of_the_Mass_Media

            There is also a very well-known documentary film of the same name based on book which can be viewed on YouTube here:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQhEBCWMe44

            I strongly recommend the film, which lasts over four hours, played in 300 cities around the world; won 22 awards; appeared in more than 50 international film festivals; and was broadcast in over 30 markets. It has also been translated into a dozen languages.

            We see that we do not need mere indignant denials from those with a vested interest in the field, but clear explanations for why the *widely-held* views expressed by such esteemed intellectuals as Chomsky and Herman are false.

            To make it simpler, lets look at just one of the examples I mentioned in my earlier posts. Tell us why no major paper in the USA has written about the fact that we only have 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. It cannot be denied that is a very salient topic and one that should have been addressed long ago. So why all the silence? Why is it unreasonable to correlate this to the constraints created by the media’s “reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship” practiced without “overt coercion,” especially as outlined by the five systemic problems the mass media faces as outlined by Herman and Chomsky? Discussion of the correlations would seem worthwhile.

            Of course, I’m not expecting much of a response, but I hope the readers will at least see that the matter is not so easily closed as some of the esteemed journalists here might like to claim.

          • Bill, This is just getting silly. You think that I (or Marc) do not know who Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky are? Have not read their books or seen their films or films about them? I’ve already mentioned that I published a *book* about many of these same subjects and a man whom Herman and Chomsky held up as an example of what they argued for, the late I.F. Stone. If you think that you can apply Herman and Chomsky to classical music criticism in the United States (but not in Holy Europe, where despite your protestations, classical music criticism is in serious trouble and where Le Monde has dropped reviews almost entirely) and that you can relate that application to your baseless and mean-spirited comments about Jim Oestreich, you go right ahead. If I want to have an all-night dormitory lounge argument I prefer to do so when I am 18 years old and in an actual dormitory. I continue to look forward to your valuable reports on state-supported European orchestras and their endless and breathtaking devotion to racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism in hiring. Good night!

          • I’m sure that you and Marc are very familiar with “Manufacturing Consent.” I mention it because this is a public forum where there are many participants who might not. In fact, the book is so well-known that I was confused by your comments which are written as if they are ignorant of it. It would be very interesting to take a closer look at music journalism through the lens of “Manufacturing Consent” – which to my knowledge hasn’t been done in a formal article. I’ve ordered your book about I. F. Stone from Amazon – a real bargain at $6.75 for a new copy!—and am really looking forward to it. I’m sure it will be a wonderful and informative read that will increase my understanding.

            I do not exclude the European press, musical or otherwise, from Chomsky’s and Herman’s criticisms. I could talk a lot about the press here in Europe which I’ve been reading for 34 years (and where a huge amount about my activism has been written though seldom by name.) The European press is an important topic, but the focus of the discussion here is the NYT and the American media.

            My comments about Oestreich are not particularly mean-spirited, and certainly not by the standards he applied to many others in his own writings and editing. (I think especially of the countless, devastatingly harsh reviews by Anne Midgette when she worked under him.)
            Anyway, I’m sorry you don’t want to discuss the specific example about opera in the USA I mentioned, but I as I mentioned, I wasn’t expecting too much.

            Perhaps the most revealing aspect of your comments is the mild condescension – the belief that journalists have a corner on truth and knowledge while so many others are ignorant. I mention it because this is one of the factors that seems to be creating a major transformation in the media. In reality, the knowledge held among the larger public is massive and that is why blogs have replaced so much mainstream journalism. The idea of the journalist as a source of specialized knowledge and perspective will need to be reexamined to find where it is valid and where not.

        • Bob Kosovsky: “When you look at the history of music, it’s very hard not to come to the conclusion that ephemeral music criticism does not play a significant or historically important role at all. There are few exceptions of course (e.g. Berlioz, Hanslick, Shaw), but for the most part, music criticism is unimportant.”

          Well, of course ephemeral music criticism doesn’t play a historically important role. It’s not meant to; like most journalism, it’s ephemeral by its very nature.

          That doesn’t mean that music criticism isn’t important, at least to the extent that music itself is important.

      • Russell Platt says:

        Well, I’m not a candy-assed goody two-shoes….I’m an American composer. And there is still much to admire about the critics at the Times. (Steve Smith, for example, is the pied piper of the downtown post-minimalist scene.) I hope they stand their ground and strike out for new directions.

        • William, as the chef says in Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game,” itself rather concerned with the aristocracy and lower classes, “Diets I can accept, but not obsessions.” Your absolute myopia in how you think the US media, government, and arts worlds intersect and interact leaves you blind to both the reality of the situation and its possible advantages to the prevailing European model. Three of the top one hundred cities for opera are in the US? OK. How many technological advances arose in Europe that spread the arts (ALL of them) to wider audiences? Radio, TV, the long-playing record, the internet – all inventions that reached their apex in the United States, bringing the arts to untold millions. It would of course be excellent for all sections of the US to have access to the performing arts, but we, as usual from the time of our founding, found another way to skin the cat.

          The notion that the mass media is in active collusion with the government to stifle the live performing arts gives far too much credit to both spheres. Have you paid any attention to the political discussions about the tax code? Do you think there is any possible appetite among politicians (and therefore, the people they represent) for an expansion or re-direction of tax revenue to support artists or arts institutions? There’s a broad section of the country that thinks we pay old people and poor people too much. I doubt they could be brought around to believe that string quartets and “Don Giovanni” are also worth supporting.

          Lastly, the performing arts in the US have been viewed from 1776 forward as European, and only civic-minded urban folk have determined the undeniable benefits in bringing them to the citizenry. The founding fathers didn’t think to establish a mandate for the arts. State-supported art (publicly, at least…) has never been a goal among the elected representatives, or the population at large. The idea that any newspaper or journalist could overturn this is laudable, yet requires a rejection of everything that has come before it. I admire your passion on this topic, but I think you overlook far too much.

          • I hope that my great friend Marc Geelhoed is joking when he stokes the fires of the European view of the U.S. as the land of the cultural booboisie where only fat-cat big-city types support or present the performing arts. The League of American Orchestras has more than 800 dues-paying North American ensembles based in and playing for audiences from the smallest hamlets to the largest cities. OPERA America has some 130 U.S. company members. And this is to say nothing of theatre and dance and the training for same where such institutions as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, and the North Carolina (High) School for the Performing Arts are among the leading enterprises in the country. Americans don’t just invent widgets. They create, participate in, attend, and support the arts. And they take ownership in them as donors, volunteers, and unpaid managers. Ask Riccardo Muti or Pierre Boulez or Calixto Bieito or Anthony Freud or many other Europeans amd Britons who do important creative work here.

            Again, there all kinds of debates one can have about funding or employment models, cultural tendencies and legacies, or corporate mind control. Or about whether ‘blogs have “people power” and have wrested importance from “expertise claiming” publication critics. (For better or worse, they have not done so in any of the performing arts in the U.S.) Or whether high art is itself “conservative ” or “radical” (or neither). But I have seen nothing here that indicates that Jim Oestreich and The New York Times are responsible for any of the ills that some here are tearing their hair over. Perhaps some new threads are in order where more focused discussions and debates might develop. Good night!

          • Daniel Okrent says:

            Brilliantly stated. And let’s add this: the American system of funding of the arts leaves the decisions on what to support to a heterogeneous, pluralistic society, rather than placing it in the hands of cultural commissars who have specific, often idelogical agendas. In 2011, Americans gave $13 billion to arts and cultural organizations – the overwhelming preponderance of it tax deductible, and thus subsidized by every taxpayer in the country. There’s reason to worry that this indirect (but no less vital) government support of the arts may be cut back by revisions in the tax code – but to date, our subsidies for the arts have been robust, varied, and astonishingly productive.

          • Amen!

          • The reason telecommunications is dominated by the USA (the central technolgoy you mention) is because its research and development has been massively and continuously subsidized by the government since WWII. Your argument about private funding being better for inovation is thus amusingly ironic.

            Though movement toward a public funding system for the arts will be a long process, I do not accept fatalistic arguments that it is impossible. Our country is capable of enormous transformation, as our black President illustrates. The first step is to give the arts community enough information to give them a sense of vision and hope. This is not myopic, but rather the removal of our society’s blinkered perspectives.

            Americans do not reject the performing arts as European. I’ve seen 60,000 people in Central Park to see the free performances of the Met. And at a yearly event, about 20,000 fill a baseball stadium in San Francisco to see even a video broadcast of the SF Opera. With proper arts education and the development of an effective cultural infrastructure, the arts could eventually have the same position in the USA as in Europe. Again, it is a matter of vision, hope, and determination.

          • Just one comment on Andrew’s post above. Data for the numbers for arts institutions like orchestras and opera is only meaningful if the criteria is defined. Any group can call itself an orchestra (like a Jr. High youth orchestra,) and opera companies can do a little as one performance a year. A more serious measure, at least for our purposes here, might be the number of fulltime, year-round groups. Germany has 133 such orchestras, while the USA with four times the population only has 17. Germany has 83 such opera houses, while the USA has none. Zero! Even the Met only has a seven month season. We only have about 6 real opera houses in the USA – the MET, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Santa Fe, and the Washington National Opera. The latter does so few performances it might be called our National Joke.

            We see why the USA only has 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year.

          • Again, no. “Any” group is not a dues-paying member of a professional organization. And, of course, if *you* set the criteria, then you can determine the outcome of any question that you frame. What is just wacky to me is that here you have people who work on just these things as critics, writers, managers, administrators, and musicians — bringing music to thousands of people, youth and community and education programs that, after decades (I was a child in such programs), still make one’s jaw drop, and fighting these good fights every day and you are telling us that the only issue is full-time subsidized employment for musicians across he country and that Eustace Tilley is the symbol of The New Yorker! Is Che Guevara now on the cover of the FAZ? I missed that development.

          • In response to Daniel Okrent, the numbers show that our system of funding has not been productive, as the numbers I list above about fulltime orchestras and opera houses show. And worse, our system of funding by the wealthy concentrates funding in a few financial centers and leaves the rest of the country neglected. Europe’s public funding speads cultural institutions around much more democratically.

            The trope that Europe’s public funding system is not pluralistic and ideological is also not based on fact (hence no documentation is offered in the above comment.) In reality, Europeans administer arts funding locally, and not from a remote Federal organization such as the NEA. About 50% of the funding is municipal, 45% state, and only about 5% Federal. The numbers vary a bit from country to country, but that it is the basic pattern. Europeans have a strong belief that culture is by nature local. They thus express themselves according to their autonomous, local needs and prerogatives. (One need only drive down the streets of almost any city in America and look at all the corporate big boxes to see what homogenity really is.)

            We should also avoid the old trick of citing 13 billion dollars in US funding. What is defined as cultural funding is very loose, so the number is basically inflated and plain propaganda. A more meaningful measure is the number of performances per capita. The numbers I mention about our having only 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year tells us much more, as are the numbers for fulltime orchestras and opera houses. These are examples of concrete and documentable measures.

            We are getting an ironic demonstration here of the ways journalists spread misinformation, or misleading information, in support of the system in which they work.

          • Daniel Okrent says:

            My oh my. I’m accused of no documentation. Then please document your following assertions:
            1. U.S, funding is concentrated in a few financial centers and the rest of the country is neglected.
            2. Non-federal funding in Europe is consequently non-ideological.
            3. $13 billion in tax-deductible U.S. arts contribution is “inflated propaganda.”
            4. The fact that only three of the Top 100 opera companies are American is “concrete and documentable” — but what of chamber groups? Choruses and chorales? Community orchestras? Recital programs? Local festivals? Ecclesiastical performances? Your one piece of concrete “evidence” proves no point other than that Americans are not as interested in opera as Europeans are. This is analogous to saying that Europeans, who are somewhat interested in basketball, are not as interested in it as Americans are. It is a self-evidency, and has been one for far more than a century.

            Finally, you have cut me to the quick with the most slanderous insult of all: “journalist.” I suppose that your presumption of my self-interest (note: I was last employed as a journalist eight years ago) disqualifies me from impartial judgment — but yours as a musician does not?

          • Andrew, “dues-paying North American ensembles” will need a much clearer definition before we can have any idea what you’re talking about. That can range from youth orchestras, to amateur brass bands, to string quartets. We should also note that 800 is not a large number for such a catch-all definition. On the other hand, it is an example of how vauge information is used for propaganda. Even journalism should be more precise in its use of language and information than that. How ironic these sort of wooly arguments are being used by the James Oestreich defense committee… :-)

          • Sir (Wm Osborne), that’s it. You are so off in a game of your own, it’s not funny. No, “string quartets” are not members of the League of American Orchestras. Etc. Do you have anything better to do with your time [redacted]? You have insulted at least six great people since you started your name-calling. I should never have engaged with you. I’m through with this. I will also no longer be able cite your work on European orchestra hiring policies. Biting the hand and all of that. Fortunately this information is now ascertainable elsewhere thanks to your earlier important efforts. Bye.

          • Here is some of the information that Mr. Okrent requests, though I doubt he will respond in kind and provide clarifications about the proverbial “13 billion” given to the arts in America. He will also ignore the fact that France and Germany give about that much to the arts even though they have about a quarter the population.

            A good measure of how funding is concentrated in a few financial centers, though relatively self-evident to begin with, is to look at the salaries of orchestra musicians in ICSOM vs. ROPA orchestras – i.e. major vs. regional orchestras. The average salary of ICSOM orchestras is about 60k per year but in regional orchestras only about 13k per year. One can also compare the number of performances they give which shows how short-changed regional communities are.
            Another example is that we only have 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. Atlanta comes in at 306th, Portland at 251st, Baltimore at 237th, and so on. See the stats here:

            http://www.operabase.com

            We should also remember that these so-called regional communities include large cities, like for example, Albuquerque, NM which has a metro population of 900,000. The people in these regional communities represent the majority of the American population but only receive a tiny fraction of the country’s arts funding.

            A good way to see that European arts funding is not ideological is to look at the large variety of artists it supports. We see composers as neo-Romantic as Thomas Adès to modernist avant-guardists like Wolfgang Rhiem, all whose work is generously supported by public funding. We see Cagian sound artists, electronic music centers, and professional brass bands supported. Similar examples exist in all the arts. One can also look at the diversity of the funding sources since the orientation is local. About 90% of European funding, in general, comes from the municipal and state levels, so there are countless government organizations funding the arts. There is no uniform source and thus no uniform ideology. The decisions are also seldom made by officials, but by rotating juries of professional peers. Mr. Okrent is simply parroting the old red-baiting tropes about “commissars” and the like. One would expect better from him.

            The logic of trying to ignore that we only have 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year by trying to turn the focus to chamber groups, amateur choruses, church concerts, etc. is weak and rationalizing. Opera is a central genre of Western music and cannot be discounted when evaluating the effectiveness of funding systems.

            We are seeing an unfortunate illustration here of the ignorance that exists among so many journalists about arts funding systems. Their indignation is matched only by their lack of knowledge. They thus all to often subsitute crude sarcasm for reasoned argument. It is also based on an unfortunate form of American ethnocentricity. These limited perspectives among American journalists are one of the larger problems advocates of public arts funding face. It also illustrates why discussions such as this are important.

          • Daniel Okrent says:

            Mr. Osborne: You have a very strange notion of “evidence.” I had previously accepted your 3-of-top 100 opera companies assertion. I even accept your beside-the-point declaration that opera is “central.” Your only other evidence has to do with musicians’ salaries, which hasn’t been part of our discussion until now. You doubt I would respond with evidence on the $13 billion: See 2012 annual report of Giving USA, data compiled by the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University. You point to European support for such composers as Wolfgang Rihm (not Rhiem) and Thomas Ades as evidence of continental enlightenment, but seem unaware that Rihm’s “Lichtes Spiel” was premiered by the NY Philharmonic, or that Ades has had work commissioned by the NY Phil, the Los Angeles Phil, the New World Symphony Orch of Miami, and has had residencies with the LA Phil and at the Ojai Festival — every one of them organizations supported by tax-deductible contributions (which is say, by the federal government).
            I do accept your assault on me for being that lowest of species, a journalist (even though a former one) — for, as such, I have no reason to blame my own career problems on someone other than myself. Now I join Patner: you and I are through. You may have whatever last word you wish.

          • Dan, just to let you know where William Osborne’s perspective is coming from …

            A few months ago, on another ArtsJournal blog, arguing (again) that the US must have government funding of the arts like all other civilized countries, Osborne wrote the following sentence:

            “San Francisco Opera’s voice carries a great deal of weight in American society.”

            When I read that, I knew for sure that he had spent way too long living in Europe (32 years, he has said) to understand anymore the political and social situation here, especially with respect to the arts.

            I do admire Osborne’s passion, energy and persistence, and I’ve suggested to him before that he come back home and use that passion to advocate for public funding of the arts (a project that he acknowledges will take a generation or more). If he did that, many of us might consider him a sort of hero.

            Alas, instead Osborne chooses to use his passion and energy to harangue – over and over again, and often in insulting or hostile tones – the readers of classical music blogs who would generally be inclined to agree with him. And Osborne does this from Germany, where the question of whether the government should fund the arts was settled long before he arrived there. Meanwhile, many of us in the States might be thrilled to have public arts funding, but we have more pressing, and more winnable, battles to fight.

          • Daniel Okrent says:

            Thanks for this. The SF Opera line actually made me emit something between a chuckle and a snort.

            Is it against Slipped_Disc protocol for me to ask your name?
            DO

          • Ah, the use of actual names in cyberspace! For my part, and, it would appear, that of many on this thread, I have always found it easiest to hide behind my own. To paraphrase Sam Rayburn (longtime Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and mentor of Lyndon Johnson), that way I don’t have to remember who I said I was the last time. ;-)

          • Amen.

          • In response to Mr. Okrent’s latest post, the study by the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University isn’t about arts funding. It is an analysis of how philanthropy is distributed among all types of giving. The *arts, culture, and humanities* receive 4% of total philanthropic giving for a sum of 13 billion. There is no further break down so we don’t know what went to “culture” (which can include zoos, parks, and even swimming pools) nor how much the “humanities” received which relates to education and research. What the arts actually ended up with is not specified and is likely about half the sum, though we have no way of knowing. Nor is there any indication about what sorts of arts were funded, nor how much the various genres received. Your use of this study is exactly the sort of vague, unqualified, misleading allusion that is often used in the press to create false assumptions about arts funding.

            As I have noted, measures of performances per capita, and fulltime, professional performing groups placed in the context of international comparisons give us a much more accurate picture.

            The centrality of opera is not beside the point, and the suggestion is absurd in regard to arts funding. That American orchestras performed some of the composers I mentioned is irrelevant to that point that European funding is not ideologically based. I’ve made no “assault” on you for being a journalist. Much of your work is excellent and I feel very honored to have had a chat with you. Thank you for taking the time, and thanks for the spelling correction.

          • Daniel Okrent says:

            Thanks for the gracious closing words. We’ll just agree to disagree.
            DO

          • Another thought concerning the 13 billion number under discussion. UNESCO has suggested that governments reserve 1% of expenditures for the arts. This policy is followed by quite a few European countries – including large countries like France and Germany.

            One percent of the U.S. Federal budget would be 37 billion dollars, which would put us in line with European arts spending. It puts the 13 billion currently spent on the much broader category of “arts, culture, and humanities” into perspective. It is only about a third as much. And the amount that actually goes to the arts, is probably about a sixth as much.

            I noticed that there is a 1% for the arts program being proposed for NYC. See:

            http://e.wcs.org/site/PageNavigator/onepercent/home

            I hope it will be successful and spread to other cities.

          • In case there are other readers who are unfamiliar with American arts funding, we have something here called the income tax. We also have deductions that can be made from one’s owed taxes for gifts to charitable, educational, and cultural organizations. $13 billion to the arts in 2011. In New York City there are regular donations from individuals and private foundations that far exceed single-year tax deductions. A one percent figure — monies that are useful seed and bridge grants, and also function as endorsements for other, larger givers — is meaningless. Here is a nice survey of arts funding of all types recently published by the National Endowment for the Arts — an evil, dissembling, illusionarty branch of our enslaving plutocracy, so you all can take it with a box of salt:

            http://www.nea.gov/pub/how.pdf

          • Regarding MWnyc’s interesting perspectives, I spend a a LOT of time in the States where I own a house and have extensive tours. I’m aware of the political climate in the USA regarding arts funding and that the effort will be a long and slow process. It is exactly in debate with people involved in the field where this work music begin, and that debate is inevitably strenuous. As for the displeasure of debate partners, it is obvious that some is my abrasiveness, some theirs. As for who is worse, note that is it not my posts here that have been redacted, but those of some of my debate partners….

          • Ah, the hilarity. Remember when in primary school a child would so frustrate a teacher by refusing to cease uncivil behavior that the teacher would finally lose her cool and raise her voice, or even curse? This would then reinforce the view of the delighted taunter that he was on a much higher plane than she and than his fellows. Our host Mr Lebrecht does a fine job in both making his redactions and letting the world see the unredacted. Surely there are some major winds of influence emanating now from the San Francisco Opera which will tell us even more!

          • In that discussion with MWnyc, I explained that it is within the arts community, and more specifically, within the classical music community, where the SF Opera’s voice carries significant weight.

            We need to create the belief in the arts community that over the long-term advocacy for public arts funding will indeed make a difference. In these initial stages, there are four groups that need to be our focus in educational efforts about public arts funding:

            1. artists
            2. arts administrators
            3. arts journalists
            4. music educators (on both the university and public school levels)

            By developing a consensus among these people (which will in itself take a lot of time as demostrated here,) they could begin the long process of educating the public in a way that would gradually change our primitive political culture regarding public arts funding. And even the education of the general public would need to be differentiated into multiple groups and conducted over a long period of time.

            People will say, of course, that this would entail such a long process that it is pointless. I would guess it will take about 30 years of consistent effort before we see the needed changes. In reality, this endeavor is not pointless. As concrete comparisons show, because it’s the only workable choice we have if we want to have cultural lives in line with the rest of the developed world.

          • So come home and get started, William!

          • Regarding Mwync’s suggestion that I return to the States for advocacy work, I guess that’s part of the irony. I would very much like to go back, but f I did as an artist I would have no income — a situation compounded by America’s paltry funding of the arts. I can accomplish more from here in Europe where both my wife and I have generous support structures for our artistic endeavors — though also many enemies due to our work for women in orchestras. (Europeans and Americans both share a similar allergy to unpleasant truths.)

            In these discussions, we see that a wide spectrum of European countries spend over *ten times* the amount on the arts than the USA (both public and private combined.) And we see numerous concrete examples of how much richer it makes their cultural lives with examples of the activity in a wide range of cities.

            And yet we see the resistance American music journalists have in acknowledging these documented facts, much less reporting them. Even if they believe change in our funding system is impossible, the differences with Europe are still very much reporting. It would open people’s eyes and perhaps create the beginnings of much needed changes in the way Americans think about the arts and how they are funded.

        • Regarding Russell’s comment, the idea that American composers and reporting about them might be bit on the “candy-assed, goody two shoes” side of things is worth discussion. During the 20s and 30s there was a very lively political aspect to American art. WWII, the Truman Loyalty Acts, McCarthyism, and the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom decimated those trends. Even quintessentially American artists like Arthur Miller, John Steinbeck, and Aaron Copland were hauled before HUAC and were left intimidated for the rest of their lives. A growing tradition was stopped dead in its tracks.

          Other social forces were at work as well. By the 50s, movements such as the Harlem Renaissance of the 30s had been turned into Harlem the Wasteland. The revolutions of the 60s ended in drug-addled dissipation. The postmodern developments of the 80s created a conformist aesthetic that began to actively embrace the music industry – something that easily aligned with the system embracing ethos of the Yuppies that appeared at about the same time. Not much protest these days – though I won’t comment on their anatomy or shoes. At any rate, I think one could say that the high arts in America today are more de-politicized than in any other developed country.

          Under these circumstances, new music and the reporting about it has become something of a false alibi. It creates the impression of being progressive and forward looking, when in reality it is toothless, if not a bit reactionary.

          I notice you work for the New Yorker. It’s a trivial point, but the irony of the magazine’s logo seems worth comment – a wealthy, monocled man in a top hat with a high, stiff collar putting his nose in the air. Put that with our plutocratic system of funding the arts, the general social climate of the high arts in New York, our tamed artists, and the…er…character…of so much classical music journalism, and the logo reminds us of social and aesthetic conditions still more prevalent in the arts than we want to admit.

          My comment, of course, is polemical and would be more meaningful is spelled out in a reasoned and documented manner (which is beyond the scope of blog commentary,) but I think these historical perspective should be carefully considered.

          • Hello all,
            My comment on the civic-minded people funding the arts was meant as a historical description of how the arts were organized early in American life. Today, of course, as Andrew and Daniel Okrent describe, the funding picture is much more democratic. My point was that historically, the arts have been viewed as a European import and as a high-society affair. (Less than 10 years ago, I was asked by a blues- and soul-connoisseur if he needed to wear a tuxedo to an orchestra concert.)

            Decades of work has undone this unfair stereotype, but my intention was to show how that stereotype exists somewhat differently here than in European countries where artists and their work are viewed as birthrights. That image may itself be becoming blurrier, but I do think it helps describe how and why state funding for the arts has evolved here when held in poor comparison to European nations.

          • Noted! And thanks! Irony, we are all seeing, doesn’t always fly in this format. ;-)

          • Russell Platt says:

            Yes, The New Yorker does have Eustace, and we love him, and that’s part of NY high culture. But New York is continually energized by the flood of young hopefuls from Sacramento, Tuscaloosa, Grand Rapids, and many other such places who come and make it here in journalism, fashion, media, and the arts….I was born in NYC, but I sometimes I think that they’re the real New Yorkers.

            I think it is the struggle to pay the rent that defines most artists’ lives here, more than politics. But that is, of course, a fascinating subject, as is the question of determining what constitutes quality in post-Cold War music. Back to work.

          • My advice to Andrew, Mark and Daniel:

            Please read this article:

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/02/01/you-cant-argue-with-crazy/

          • ;-)

  7. I’m watching this kind of decentralization happen in my neck of the woods, Portland OR. Our major newspaper cut way back on previews, reviews, features of classical music/musicians. Our minor arts rags have lumped classical music in with world and jazz (Willamette Week) if they haven’t outright banned it (The Mercury). Happily, what I see are a lot of start up online papers (Oregon Arts Watch, Oregon Music News), credible bloggers (Noble on Viola, start-up Jana Hanchett) and formerly private reviewers whose writing chops, taruskin-expertise and entertainment warrant public access so I’m pushing them to at least post on my site (Jeff Winslow, composer). A classical music reviewer recently told me of the happy glut of reviewers in NYC and Paris – in little arts journals, street mags. . . . . Maybe this is the door that’s opening again. Or maybe I’m a PollyAnna.

    • Oh, there are plenty of critics (and more who’d like to be critics) in New York and Paris. The problem is figuring out ways for them to get paid for their work.

  8. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Let’s face it, NYT is preparing for the brave new world without a paper version (within3- 5 years IMHO). I have no doubt they will do as much or more on line using free-lancers to cover cultural news. The Sunday NYTimes, weighing in at 4 lbs or 2 kilos is history. I remember when you could warm a family of 4 for the winter with one. I regret it but accept it. I would rather see them go 100% internet than have “the Donald” or “the Rupert” interfering with editorial policy.

    • I think it’s more likely to be 10-12 years or more before newspapers that large go entirely dead-tree-free. As with very large ships or freight trains, there’s just too much inertia for anything that size to change direction quickly.

      I fear, however, that online advertising rates are not going to rise in price enough to support quality newspaper-style journalism until print newspapers (whose ads are, I believe, somewhat overpriced for the impact they actually have on readers with years of practice ignoring them) die out.

      (And, rhetorical excess or not, I love the image of a family keeping itself warm through the winter with an enormous Sunday New York Times. “Dear, I’m getting chilly. Could you add the Automobiles section to the fire?” “Hell no. Use the Weddings section.” “I burned that yesterday. Are you finished with Week in Review?”)

  9. What Marc Geelhoed said.

  10. Daniel Okrent says:

    No volunteer was “engineered” out the door; the buyout offer was handsome; and no one is expecting future offers to be anything but stingy. The paper still has more classical coverage than the next 3 or 4 American papers combined. And the movement toward more freelancers is really a positive for readers – a greater variety of voices, a range of tastes, a heightened opportunity for surprise.

    • Thank you, Dan!

      (He is in a position to know, for those readers who don’t recognize the name.)

      I particularly agree with you that the move to an extended stable of freelancers plus one staff critic (I hate the “chief critic” idea) is a good thing, offering a greater range of writing styles, perspectives, tastes and expertise.

      However, since I seem to be on a crusade against rhetorical excess this week, I’ll take issue with one thing you wrote. The New York Times obviously has more classical coverage than any other US newspaper, but (and I’m speaking as someone who has to check these papers several times a week), the NYT does not have more classical coverage than the Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times or Boston Globe combined.

    • I realize this isn’t advancing the conversation, but…

      Love your work, Mr. Okrent! Great to see you here.

    • Russell Platt says:

      I too raise a glass to Daniel Okrent, the first public editor of the Times and the editor of the late, lamented New England Monthly (which I read cover to cover in its heyday), among many other achievements. May he continue to comment on Times-related matters.

  11. Laurie Davison says:

    wouldn’t it be amazing if Allan Kozinn became the new Classical editor?

  12. Classical music seems to be waning in importance in American culture, so coverage in newspapers will naturally fade along with it. The audience is simply dissipating. In the current (01/28) New Yorker, Adam Gopnik (himself a critic) says of his two teenagers, “”Sg. Pepper” baffles them as much as Beethoven’s Ninth.” Maybe individual bloggers (largely unpaid) will continue to write about music for a mostly dispersed audience that gets its music electronically from sources like Spotify or Rhapsody, but daily coverage of live performances will shrink until it disappears.

  13. paula brochu says:

    Great thread, but lots of theories, misguided information and variables, and no real solutions.

    The Times is facing a multifaceted challenge. I’ll give them that. Everything is changing — who’s reading, what they’re reading, what they want from a music review, transition to digital, figuring out how to keep things in the black with all these market changes, expanding interest in pop music and contemporary entertainment, competition from new blogs that are popping up every day, affirmative action concerns regarding new hires and trying to balance its image – trying to hire more females and people from various minority groups, rising costs of products and necessary services, trying to maintain a culture that includes seriously bloated salaries at the very top, rising costs of insurance coverage, unemployment etc. for full-time employees, which tempts them to instigate turn-over that replaces older employees with younger ones and part-timers, and it goes on and on.

    On another note: Music critics have to cover the big items that the editor and chief critic think are key events, but otherwise do have some say in what they cover. Anyone who has been paying attention to Allan’s work would have seen that over the years, he has been a champion of new music, early music and little known musicians and venues — not things that generate huge amounts of ad revenue. There is no way that it can be viewed as catering to elitists or being narrow. And he was never told that he needed to abandon his interests to cover items by big ad-buying venues, to my knowledge. Also, the business side of the Times has nothing to do with the creative side. I’m sure it looks like the Times caters to the Met (etc.) because of the generous advertizing space it purchases, but it’s just a fact that the Met and its programming are still something that the world is interested in reading about, and as long as that’s true, it will hopefully get the coverage.

    • Thank you, Paula, for these two important summaries.

    • It is important to remember that the Met’s 300 million dollar budget (the largest of any arts organization in the USA) is chump change compared to the budgets of the plutocratic forces that control or manipulate the American mass media and our society as a whole. We are comparing tens of millions with trillions – sums thousands of times larger.

      The real issue is that the arts section, like all other parts of the paper, not have editorial practices that would regularly displease the larger plutocratic forces that fund the paper and have immense influence. Among countless examples of offending practices would be *regularly appearing* articles about arts education, public arts funding, the imbalanced racial demographics of classical music, America’s high ticket prices relative to other countries, and the lack of availability of the high arts in America relative to other developed countries. Another example would be reporting directly related to these systems of enforced self-censorship, such as articles about the political attacks designed to suppress cultural and political programming on NPR and PBS.

      It might be accepted if articles on these topics occasionally appear as a sort of alibi as long as they are not too prominent, influential, or persistent, but the overall policy of self-censorship must remain in tact.

      It will be interesting to see who the next arts section and music section editors at the Times will be. How will they be vetted to make sure they accept these subtle standards of self-censorship?

      Of course, this all sounds cynical, but it is the reality we face. Journalists who challenge these standards are often tainted for life and can face enormous professional and personal consequences. An interesting example is Gary Webb’s reporting about the CIA sanctioned drug smuggling of the Contras. See:

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

      Another example, though still under debate, was Dan Rather’s report about George Bush’s record at the Texas National Guard.

  14. Lord Montague says:

    Andrew Patner wrote:

    ” …state-supported European orchestras and their endless and breathtaking devotion to racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism in hiring. ”
    ##

    I wonder how it is possible to have such an extremely distorted perception of reality.

    • Sir, that’s it. You are so off in a game of your own, it’s not funny. No, “string quartets” are not members of the League of American Orchestras. Etc. Do you have anything better to do with your time than troll on other people’s websites? Do you have a job? You have insulted at least six great people since you started your name-calling. I should never have engaged with you. I’m through with this. I will also no longer be able cite your work on European orchestra hiring policies. Biting the hand and all of that. Fortunately this information is now ascertainable elsewhere thanks to your earlier important efforts. Bye.

      • I think Andrew’s post was misplaced. I’m not Lord Montague and in fact his posts sometimes appall me — such as the tasteless allusion above to ghettos. Aside from that, I think my advocacy work for women in orchestras will proceed quite fine without Andrew’s citations. If there have ever been any in the first place, I’m unaware of them.

        • [redacted]. You wrote me twice over the years, by air post and e-mail, to thank me for radio and newspaper citation and endorsements of your work and to send me additional materials, which I thanked you for. I thought you were just a sad man. I now see that you are a bad one as well. I’m saddened that Norman publishes your baseless bile and personal attacks.

          • You must be confusing me with one of the many other people I work with in the VPO Watch run by the IAWM. Some years ago there were some very active participants in the Chicago area. I’ve lived in Europe for the last 32 years and have never listened to the radio in Chicago. And I’ve never sent an air mail post to any journalist.

            I’ve strongly criticized James Oestreich for acting as an apologist for the Vienna Philharmonic, which might be why you think I am a bad person – though given my advocacy work that is not an unusal accusation. I usually hear much worse.

          • Aw, Jeebus, man. I know who you are! How can anyone not?! My radio pieces were also posted as text online and distributed internationally both at wfmt.com and on my own sites. My written articles appeared and appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. I neither know any “people that [you] work with” nor that there are or were such people. I am a strong and consistent critic of the Vienna Philharmonic on these and other matters and have been so in articles and interviews in and from Chicago, Salzburg, and Vienna itself. [redacted] My already high estimate of Jim Oestreich has increased greatly since your rancor has been posted here. [redacted]

  15. Tough here in the ghetto, Lord M. Send foodstuffs!

  16. I strongly suggest that Mr. Patner [redacted] actually visit Europe. I will show him around Paris’ 8 orchestras, 5 major operas (6 if you count Versailles as part of Paris), show him the classic music magazines (plural) in the local newstand. He can look at the raft of daily publications, all with reviews of classical concerts. I will show him what is available at the Salle Pleyel and the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and then will show him the construction site for the dramatic new Philharmonie. Of course he could look at all of this on the internet but ignorance is bliss.

    • Mr Patner is a regular festival visitor to Europe. NL

      • Thank you, Norman. “Frank”: I am not at all opposed to the European music scene. I am opposed to empty claims that there is only one way to run a railroad. I have been to just about every venue in Paris, thank you, and have lived there as well. It is of course one of the great cities of the world, if today more touristic than creative, and one of my favorites as well. One could debate the health, individual nature, and peculiarities of the music scene in each city one at a time, of course. Again, that was not the point here. And I’d check if you are reading previews or reviews in those newspapers these days, alas. Salut!

    • The same high level of cultural activity is found in many European cities. London has five fulltime, major orchestras: London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. London also has two opera houses, Covant Garden and the English National Opera.

      Munich also has five fulltime orchestras: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Munich Chamber Orchestra (which I think now has a different name,) Bavarian Radio Entertainment Orchestra (being phased out I think,) and the Orchester Graunke. And it also has two fulltime opera houses, the worldclass National Theater and the Gaertnerplatz Theater.

      Berlin has a similar number of orchestras and three(!) fulltime opera houses. Vienna has the Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, and the Vienna Radio Orchestra and two fulltime opera houses.

      Helsinki has two fulltime symphony orchestras and a fulltime opera house for a population of 600,000. (New York City would have 39 fulltime, year-round professional orchestras by a comparable per capita basis. California would have 183.)

      Finland has 15 fulltime, professional orchestras for a country of 5.4 million. That’s one orchestra for every 366,00 people. Turku, for example, has a fulltime orchestra even though the city only has a population of about 150,000. In 2010 these orchestras performed 268 works by Finish composers. Municipalities pay 48% of the costs for these orchestras, states 29%, and the Finish Radio 10%. Most of the rest comes from earned income.

      As Frank notes, it is little wonder that the American journalists here are unable to debate on the basis of facts and reasoned arguments. Their attitudes help us see why reporting on these topics remain limited and why Americans remain ignorant about the relative inferiority of their priviate arts funding system.

  17. This was a misfiled (by me) reply. Sorry, Your Lordship!

  18. This 13 billion number makes for very interesting international comparisons.

    As I noted above, that 13 billion sum isn’t just for the arts, but rather the “arts, culture, and humanities.” Culture is a broad term that can include zoos, parks, swimming pools, youth festivals, Boy Scouts, and so on. And the humanities are education and research activities that usually don’t involve the arts. The study, as noted above, does not indicate how the funds were divided. Most likely about half went to the arts.

    On a per capita basis the whole sum comes to $42 per person, and probably in the range of $21 per person for the arts.

    By comparison Austria spends $369 per capita, Denmark $474, Norway $590, Germany $136, Italy $194, and France $265. The average is $289 – well over ten times American spending, both public and private.

    All is not lost though. We outrank a few really poor countries poor like Albania, Georgia, and Moldova by a good margin, and most Latin American countries, though not all. Even poor Bulgaria spends twice on the arts what America does.

    I can post the URL for the European numbers if anyone needs it.

    • I forgot to add that these numbers show how ineffective our system of funding the arts through tax deductions is.

    • Lord Montague says:

      It gets more shameful and frightening, when you put it into proportion to military spending. The US spends app. $2000 per capita per year on the military.
      Most civilized countries spend about TWO times the amount per capita for the military than for the arts.
      The US spends about ONE HUNDRED times more money for the military than for the arts per capita.

      • Greg Hlatky says:

        Don’t get your hopes up. Under the current administration, defense spending has remained flat at about 4.5% of GDP while federal spending in general went from 20% of GDP in 2008 to about 24% today (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/hist.pdf). Funding for the arts hasn’t increased at all.

        You can rest assured that every dime taken from the military-industrial complex is going to go to the public union-bureaucrat-crony capitalist complex, not to the fine arts. Those that dispense tax dollars got where they were without knowing Schumann from Shinola; what do they need you for? What do you bring to the table? Votes? Campaign contributions? Media coverage? A nice post-incumbancy sinecure or “consultancy”? Nothing, really? Get out of my office, pal. I got more important people to see.

  19. Mr. Patner,

    Well done, sir. I have long been a fan of your reviews (although I may not always have agreed), but now find myself admiring your debating skills. My sincerest thanks for taking up the cause!

  20. Daniel Okrent says:

    Paula,
    You may be right about Jim, but on the three above him who are departing, I’m absolutely certain you’re wrong — and I stress the “absolutely.” That’s neither the way the Times works, nor particularly logical in terms of decision-making, lines of authority, and the relative importance of particular personnel moves.
    Dan

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