Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Frank Oteri's Vintage Whine

Like Frank, I'm clueless about sports (just ask my husband), which is probably why I find his comparison of the cult of sports with the cult of classical music spot on.

Bottling wine was one of the greatest things that ever happened to civilization. The ultimate result of canning classical music is complicated. We all benefit from having access to it whenever and wherever we want to listen, but, as the culture changes, the cultural significance of classical music relative to the population seems to decrease the chances for anyone to make classical music (either by way of performance or composition) their livelihood.

Maybe that's why Noah planted a vineyard instead of starting an orchestra.


Anonymous said...

No matter how one slices the pie, there is only so much pie. With wines, one finds there is a wine glut at the moment in many areas of the world. Olive oil, as well. With surpluses from harvests of all kinds, people lobby government to subsidize farming and ship it out as foreign aid.

So how does one lobby a Congress to subsidize classical music's glut and ship it out somewhere? With too many state universities already turning out more musicians than job openings can accept, something is happening. Even popular music genres are not all paying their freight. Perhaps culture is shifting with globalization, in which a glut of product cannot be sold? It seems so, and the answer is....

Elaine Fine said...

There are exponentially more truly competent musicians around now than there were even a generation ago because the quality of teaching and the quality of student instruments (and professional instruments) has gone way up.

The teachers and instrument makers, of course, are people who, in light of the difficulty there was finding self-sustaining musical work during the 1980s, sought ways to practice their craft in a way that could afford some kind of future.

I decided not to get a master's degree after finishing my bachelor's degree at Juilliard in 1980 specifically because I didn't want to have the job of falsely encouraging flutists to go into music as a performing profession. At that time there was still ample work in the musical world for competent string players. It is not the case any more. Now it seems that everyone, not just wind-playing musicians, are "all dressed up (with technique) with no place to go."

Underemployed (except for the few years when I typed for a living), I have never been able to make enough money through musical activities (playing, teaching, writing, broadcasting, and writing about music) to make a self-sustaining living.

Culture has been shifting for a while, and a lot of it has really gone south. The CD and the possibility of creating independent recording companies, combined with the relatively inexpensive cost of making recordings, served as a band aid, perhaps, turning a non-object-oriented art into an object-oriented one, at least for a while.

Maybe that while is over, and maybe after the glut people will, once again, value (and support financially) the idea of music being played for them in small spaces. No act of Congress could do much of anything to help because music is always the first to go in school districts' budgets. And music education is so often geared to "grow" performing musicians rather than to improve the lives of "listening musicians."

I do my part by playing free concerts, teaching music appreciation classes at a community college, writing music that amateur musicians can enjoy playing, and trying to play my fiddle in tune while Rome burns all around me.

Luckily I am not in a position to make any kind of public policy--only private policy, and, luckily I have a husband with a job that keeps us both alive.

Anonymous said...

Is Rome really burning all around you? You've family, a home, music, and, as you yourself wrote, much to be thankful for. Glass (of wine) half full or half-empty?

I prefer mine full, which is why I too perform free concerts when and where I choose, but support myself by building in my Rome which is not burning. Maybe fiddling a little.

Elaine Fine said...

You're right. I do have a great life in my inner world. I was just trying to be clever with the Rome burning thing, silly me.