12. July 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Other People's Words

Louisville, as I write, is emerging from bankruptcy protection. Syracuse, which I visited in deep doldrums last winter, is trying to form a new part-time orchestra. The sacked musicians of Rio have regrouped as an independent ensemble. You can shut a theatre but you cannot keep a good orchestra down. There will always be an audience for what it has to offer.

And why is that? Because in a lifestyle of wall-to-wall wi-fi and instant tweets, the concert hall is one of the few places where we become reachable, where we can switch off our lifelines and surrender to a form that will not let us go for an hour or more. The symphony orchestra is our relief from the communicative addiction. It forces us, willy-nilly, to resist the responsive urge. It is a cold-turkey cure for our reactive insanity, our self-destroying restlessness.The more concerts I attend, the more I see how they restore balance to over-busy lives. It may well be that we, as a society, need the symphony orchestra now more than ever before. How we pay for it will have to be reconfigured over the next two or three difficult years, amid challenges from rival art forms and digital distractions. There has never been such heated competition for every nanosecond of our supposed leisure time.

But after 30 years’ close observation of orchestral ups and downs and half a century after the Arts Council pronounced that London needed just one super-orchestra, I have reached the irreversible conclusion that the symphony orchestra will always survive — not on the weary old argument that it is somehow “good for you” to listen to “good music”, nor on any cod theories that classical music breeds clever kids and better citizens, but simply because there is a cogent human need for what an orchestra adds to the relief of city life. That need becomes ever clearer as the world speeds up.

-Norman Lebrecht


Update … okay, sometimes I do funny typos. I just corrected “Norman”, as I had typed it “Normal”! Yes, that made me laugh. At myself.

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