Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
The New York Phil made a dreadful mistake in going to Noth Korea. Now the Steelers, we read, are flirting with the Ayatollahs.
Slightly more promising, but not much.
If they go, they will find the Iranians a wonderful people. We also have our awful politicians in this country. In Iran the people and the politicians are two very different entities. I spent two wonderful years in Mashad and Teheran, and wish I could afford to go back and visit.
Since when are cultural exchanges a ‘dreadful mistake’ ? Throughout the cold war there were hundreds of exchanges in every direction which helped to promote understanding between people. The visit of the New York Philharmonic to North Korea was a small step in the right direction.
Pittsburgh has ALREADY BEEN the first American orchestra in Iran, in 1964 (says so in the article: second paragraph: “The symphony was the last American orchestra to perform in Iran, in 1964.”). This prospective trip would be a return visit. And no calls the Orchestra the Steelers. That would be their (American) football team.
Makes you wonder why they would want representatives from the nation with the highest rate of incarceration in the world to visit. Oops- moral outrage is only the province of Europe and America. However, I can’t think of a greater ensemble to represent classical music to any country. Good for the PSO.
“However, I can’t think of a greater ensemble to represent classical music to any country.”
Why? Why the PSO, of all orchestras?
Because the PSO is so good. Why not create a good impression? They tour internationally to great reviews. We might as well send them the good stuff.
Because 1) they’ve been there before, fifty years ago, on a mission of cultural diplomacy, 2) in Europe they are considered the premier American orchestra, and 3) no American orchestra is playing better than the PSO right now. Just get their recordings and listen and compare. None better. Listen with your actual ears, and compare them to the Little Five. If you still have to ask, you’ll never know.
What’s wrong? The Pittsburg people and the organizers in Iran are very well aware of the connotations. What can be better than the Iranian officials boasting of good relations with American culture and classical European culture. That will change a lot, then on both sides a point of no return is reached. The Saudis and Netanyahu won’t like it. But that will unmask them. And indeed on the Iranian side they will find a hugely dedicated audience.
And Iran is quite different from North-Korea. North-Korea is a closed society. Iran is a remarkably open society, with more open-minded citizens than in an average US Midwest state probably.
…as well as in some other places in the western world where some people think that just traveling to Iran is a dreadful mistake.
“Thinking” it is a mistake to travel there is far different from “knowing”. I know American Jews who have traveled there and were welcomed with open arms because they were Americans, a people that the Iranian people eagerly want to get to know. To “think” that it is a dreadful mistake to travel to Iran is to be a willing victim of media brainwashing.
To be accurate, it’s not really “thinking”, it’s actually a Pavlovian response.
Comments like this are why there will never, ever be substantial public funding of the arts in the US.
What was dreadful about the NY Phil’s visit to North Korea?
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
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