Ars gratia artis and all that
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has canceled the first two weeks of its fall schedule due to a labor dispute. The musicians and the management have so far failed to agree upon a new contract. The Orchestra is running a staggering, unsustainable deficit in its operating budget. The management wants to reduce the size of its permanent staff of musicians and do other things that endanger the livelihoods of many players. I can well understand the Angst
that engenders in these very talented, highly trained musicians.
At the same time, symphony orchestras are dinosaurs being kept alive by government subsidies. I mean, if people really wanted that kind of entertainment, they'd support it, you know? Consider: very few new works are written for symphony orchestras because people aren't into that kind of music as much as they once were; meanwhile, those who dig the classics don't dig them enough to buy tickets in sufficient quantity to support the twenty big city orchestras around the country. So it's natural to see a downsizing of the professional orchestral community.Oh, no, that's terrible!
say the artsy people. We're no better than barbarians if we don't have an orchestra! If we can support a sport team, we should be able to support a symphony!
But nobody's saying we can't have an orchestra. We can have as much orchestra as you're willing to pay for. I mean, I dig morris dancing, but I can't see enough enthusiasm out there to support professional morris dancers all over the country. I think an acquaintance with Latin an essential ingredient in the Humanities, but I don't think we should have the government pay to throw academic conferences in Latin for the benefit of the two dozen people who would show up to see it done. Hey, Art, nobody's talking about the government paying for it, just the evil corporation
(i.e., the ISO). But the evil corporation doesn't have the money, and has no means of getting the money, since its customers have paid all they're willing to for the product the evil corporation produces. Which means that even if the artistes and their backers aren't talking about it now, they very soon will
be talking about increasing the local government's support of the ISO. There is no other pocket deep enough to keep this dinosaur alive.
I yield to no one in my ardor for outdated art forms, but I just don't see it as a problem that government needs to fix. I can get my morris dancing and Latin fixes without the government picking up the tab, thank you very much, and so can devotees of symphonic music. That doesn't mean such music will disappear, just that it will be given back into the hands of those who care most about it. So, we'll be seeing fewer jobs for classical musicians, which is sad, but there's nothing wrong with amateur orchestras or even pro-am orchestras like some of those Mozart wrote for.