Reasonable Words: Tidbits from Around the Web

Now that we are safely out of one of my “30 Days” benders, back to regular programming here. Some things that caught my eye from around the web: From Notre Dame Philosophy prof Gary Gutting, a different take on the humanities crisis:

He talks about the “cultural middle class” — people with humanistic interests, but limited access to jobs that tap this:

We are rightly concerned about the plight of the economic middle class, which finds it harder and harder to find good jobs, as wealth shifts to the upper class. But we have paid scant attention to the cultural middle class, those with strong humanist interests and abilities who can’t reach the very highest levels, which provide almost all the cultural rewards of meaningful work. I’d like to offer some specific suggestions for improving the situation.

His solution ties back into education, and I think is a little simplistic about the comparison with college sports–although I, of all people, should not draw any conclusion about the economics of college sports. (My minimal knowledge of it comes from reading things by people who are as involved in it as I am in arts and culture and feel that it’s pretty screwed up too, albeit for different reasons.) Still, Gutting’s description of the situation resonated with me.

Second is a piece by John Halle at The Jacobin,

Different, but adjoining issue, and a more sophisticated argument, but some parallels with the first. Halle’s responding to a fatuous piece in the New Republic (how the internet can effectively kill off great newspapers and spare the reliably craptastic New Republic is one of life’s minor mysteries. Of course the Internet bought it, perhaps under the misapprehension it was a humor magazine.) Halle points out that whatever you think about the merits of training in classical music, there is a qualitative difference between this experience and other types of music education–for one thing, it’s unlikely you’ll learn to read music taking only rock guitar. (Not impossible, but less likely). Nor will getting some cognitive handle on, and feel for, big instrumental forms be likely. This may or may not be something to worry about, but it’s the real argument: there is something gained that may be worth the effort. Likewise ideas from ballet, which have to do with patterns in space, movement as wordless story, the expressive power of rhythmic gesture, are distinct human experiences to participate in by doing or watching. May not be your thing, but a comparison with a “School of Rock” is just silly.

Oppenheimer’s TNR essay may have been mostly been a joke to piss off his parents who perhaps forced him to practice the violin as a child leading to a PTSD that is only salved by repeated viewings of “Dazed and Confused.” But Halle does move on to a more interesting point, bringing in an example Gutting also used, the demise of Minnesota Symphony, and providing this info which I didn’t know.

This is at least part of the logic according to which the head of the negotiating committee of the Minnesota Orchestra US Bancorp CEO Richard K. Davis demands sharp wage and benefit reductions from the orchestra’s musicians. His own yearly compensation of $14.4 million could easily make up for the orchestra’s budget shortfall, by itself, as could a small fraction of the tax breaks, subsidies and bailouts gifted to Davis’s fellow board members over the past two decade. A philosophical commitment to austerity, albeit likely compounded by sheer avarice, dictates that any such exercises in generosity would be dismissed as counterproductive.  For Davis, fiscal sustainability is a prima facie indication of social and artistic merit.

While crude market fundamentalism continues to guide the actions of the Minnesota Orchestra’s board, its audiences appear to take a different view, understanding that an orchestra’s job is not to make money but to make music. This was implicit in a recent report of a farewell concert offered by the Orchestra under its departing conductor, Osma Vanska.

Gatting makes a similar argument about the sports subsidy that Minnesota offers, a tiny fraction of which could have made up the shortfall.

And both point out that neo-liberal Capitalism and support for the performing arts is a bad combo.

Perhaps this is the time to note that the Google Doodle for today is Maria Callas! Hit the graphic for her “Una voce poco fa” and you’ll have one truly excellent thing to start your week with.

Callas Google Doodle

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