In the New York Times is an article about orchestras and the fact that so much (good?) new music doesn’t get performed. The writer’s last paragraph includes this statement:

Orchestras seem content to be museums now, even as they wring their hands about dropping subscription sales and graying listeners.

And I wonder … really?! Are we truly content to be museums? I don’t think so! I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had, heard, or read that talk about what the heck we need to do to draw in new faces, to rid ourselves of our antiquated image, and to increase sales. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions and possible solutions. I’ve heard that it’s too late anyway and we should pull out the coffins. I’ve heard and read pretty much anything that can be said.

But this author was talking about hearing (finally) the latest Pulitzer prize winning composition and how he had to go to Tanglewood to hear a student orchestra play it.

My first thought was “Those lucky kids!” (I’m not sure how old the musicians were, but I say “kids” a lot more than I used to.) And my second was “I wonder if the work was any good,” because I don’t know that winning a Pulitzer guarantees it’s a good work. (I then went to look at the list of past winners and I recognized some of the works and didn’t recognize others and I’m not sure what that means, if anything.) But my third thought was more of a question. I wonder if the writer of that article knows that to rent new music often costs a bundle and to play the old museum relics (which, I might add, are usually great works and that’s why they’ve lasted) costs nearly nothing to rent, if anything at all, since most orchestras have a good library and there are also free libraries, like The Free Library of Philadelphia from which one can borrow music.

I’m not defending our playing the “old dead guys stuff” all the time. I like exploring new music. I wish we’d do new works more often. (I have to say, though, that the Symphony Silicon Valley has quite a number of new works on the program this year. (Now we’ll see how many of the older folks get upset, and may I say that they are usually the ones to contribute money to organizations such as ours, so we don’t like sending them away!)

And then I remembered the last concert I played of new music. The audience couldn’t wait to get out of there … and that was in a very accepting city that prides itself in being adventurous, liberal, hip and different. Hmmm.

So I don’t know … I’m merely tossing out thoughts. I’m very bad at thinking logically and clearly (heck, I’m an oboe player and you know we have to deal with all that pressure on our brains and all, right?). So “I’m just sayin'”, to quote one of my sons. You can interpret “I’m just sayin'” as “I’m not really into arguing about this and it really isn’t anything to argue about anyway because, well, I’m just sayin’ ….

2 Comments

  1. I’m waiting for the article on why do libraries have so many old books.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Ha ha!!

    I’m not exactly certain a library is entirely comparable to a symphony but … well … you made me laugh. Laughing is good … I think! :-)