This Week: That Mike Pence goes to “Hamilton” story? A textbook protest… Finally – some real data on the health of orchestras… Arts criticism is either being reborn or it’s in dire shape… Pop culture is getting to be only for the rich… The myth of the outsider is a standard pop culture meme…
- The Arts And Our Next President: Many many many stories this week about artists reacting to the election of Donald Trump. Anger, sorrow, upset, denial. None got as much attention as the curtain speech aimed at Vice President-elect Mike Pence at a Broadway performance of “Hamilton” Friday night. Headlines the next day screamed about Brandon Victor Dixon lecturing Pence from the stage and the audience booing Pence. Trump demanded an apology and said theatre should be a “special” place. Trump supporters suggested a boycott of the show but fans of the show reacted with glee that a boycott might free up hard-to-get tickets. But step back a minute and actually watch video of the “lecture.” Dixon was about as polite and respectful as one could ask for, while expressing the concerns that many have about the new administration. Well done.
- Some Actual Data About The Health Of Orchestras: One of the longstanding difficulties in reporting about the health of American symphony orchestras has been that it’s difficult to get dependable data. This week the League of American Orchestras released a study with several years worth of data. The headline is that in 2013 orchestras for the first time made more of their revenue from single ticket sales than from subscriptions. Additionally – 43 percent of all income comes from philanthropy compared to 40 percent from ticket sales. So does that make orchestras “charities”? or is it that the balance between what orchestras can charge for tickets and what their expenses are has passed a milestone? A postscript: Is there some plce where classical music is growing? China, which has been welcoming Western orchestras for some time and which has been growing its homegrown orchestras, is flipping the script and finally exporting its orchestras to the West.
- Several Contradictory Stories on The Art Of Criticism This Week: A seminar in New York recently tried to make the case that we’re undergoing a renaissance in the art of cultural criticism. Organizers cited several new cultural journals which they said give hope for the future. Bill Marx, on the other hand, looks at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times’ cutbacks in arts coverage: “Too many of today’s arts editors and reviewers embrace a lilliputian vision of arts criticism, a crabbed sense of its possibilities. Nicholas Dames wonders if critics understand their role in today’s culture: “Today, many critics struggle to find a unified culture to interpret and criticize and a public to address. As A.O. Scott insists, the critic’s role is ‘to disagree, to refuse to look at anything simply as what it is,’ and yet in an age in which critics often are forced to set their sights on films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, it appears that the critic can be nothing other than ‘the vanguard of pointing out the obvious’.”
- The Victory Of The Outsider? Our Pop Culture Has Been Glorifying It Forever: It’s a stock story – the outsider who comes along and shakes things up. Such stories are “dark and bleak and often end in death. Some double as articulations of the political exceptionalism of ordinariness itself. Most, though, do something more basic, and more pessimistic: They assume the fundamental dirtiness of politics, and the related idea that any hope we’ll have of purifying the system must come from outside of it. They leave very little room for optimism about the hulking beast that is ‘the establishment,’ very little room for hope that the system in place—one populated by career politicians—can take compassion and make it scale.”