Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A new humilty in music

Juhani Vesikkala's writing on the future of classical music is definitely worth a read as it condenses much of the thought in and around young composers and performers dealing with the new situation we are in today in classical music. Yet I feel there are a few things it leaves out and a few which I disagree upon as parts of the solution, which I would like to exand a bit on here.

The first is the idea that composers need to learn new toolkits for delivery or distribution as a focus in the global sense. This is of course important but the issue is that it places the focus outside the local context, and this in a field where live performance is to me the most important factor of a delivery seems out of touch. The issue here to me is, as many have argued, that as composers become managers and administrators and distributors and editors, when do they compose? So the problem in my eyes is, rather then composers doing more work to be seen by concert promoters and venues, how do we create educational models that enable also those who do not make it as composers or musicians to feel fulfilled as the go betweens between those who do and the institutions they need to survive. This idea is from the context of the situation we are in today. Music needs help, from where do we get it?

Another point is that global delivery is there whether we want it or not, the commercial system heralded by youtube and other could distribution services will not disappear anytime soon, and the commercial advertising platforms such as facebook are there. While I agree that some of this needs to be retaught, it is by no means compulsory nor a main long term focus. Instead what needs to be developed is creating new types of support systems outside the personal "fundraiser" in the local context. Classical music has started to desire an existence outside the institutional, how do we support this? How do we reinvigorate the rich and create local structures for creatives to monetize upon? Where are the new mesenates for example? A first is to make cultural, both to institutions and privates donations tax deductable, while changing the legal framework where the pracariat feels it can accept the donations without financial loss in a wider social context.

The second issue touched only slighly upon by Vesikkala is developing new pedagogical methodologies that understand and work with the developing practice of music composition. Rather then thinking about the issue so that musicians should become more adabtable, something that is already a problem in most other labor fields, we should allow musicians and composers do develope stronger long term collaborative relationships and development periods. In other words, rather then fall into the world of "trending" instants we need to focus on long term develpment as the short term will sort itself.

Ian Pace recently wrote on his facebook feed, in terms of political action in classical music, that we should focus on fixing the problems we can, for example countering the abusive and opaque relationship which is possible in much of music education, and we should think about this in realistic terms: we can change this, but we can't change the minds of either Putin or Obama or bring about world peace from a single composition. And while wider political action is necessary, real change can only arise from understanding the local and currect situation and starting from there. This local radicality is what interests me, and what I think is a clear "something" we can do towards creating better musical structures within the infrastructure and scale that already exists.

What I agree on is the need to change of model from singular institution to networked practice, this Vesikkala touches upon, but unfortunately doesn't verbalise properly. That the future is more democratic and direct is most likely to be the case, though many powerdul agencies fight against this. But in terms of music, this is already the place where many of us exists through networked groups and the like, and it is a developmental tendency which seems clear to everybody, thus as this is the case now it is more important focus on creating a new model for networked practice. The work of Taller Ciclo is an example of this, to me Taller Ciclo also points towards a solution outside the western european tradition. A start to unraveling this problem is in accepting that it is more then likely that we in europe and the united states no longer hold the solutions to these problems, this is a good thing because we must get out of the idea that we in the western european world are the center of the world, yet remembering that we have a fantastic infrastructure where these things can be born. Accepting this humility is a start for a new music.

That we have lost the ball, so to speak. This is good because what it should do is make us understand that it is not up to us to uphold the tradition any longer, this leaves us out of active responsibility, which like Francesco Berardi says, is the key for a way out, and the key to finding the new model we so desperately need.

What to me is most important at the moment is to try to understand the questions of how do we create an open networked practice which can inform students on the same level of understanding towards a subject? What are the pedagogical methodologies where rigorous analytical skills and theoretical understanding can be uphelp without the need to fall into outdated models of communication or infrastructure?

In other words, how does one teach music and music theory today?

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