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Thread: Most fertile political soil for classical music?

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Default Most fertile political soil for classical music?

    I love Baroque music. One of the things that you notice is the sheer number of excellent composers of this era.

    We can note the number of small German states which provided a market for music. We can see how the monopoly of Lully under an absolute monarch apparently stifled the development of French music. We can see how the Italian market again through a network of princelings and Cardinals provided patronage and musicians - including Lully himself.

    As we move into the industrial era with the growth of larger orchestras, what is the best system to support this? I lack the musical knowledge to decide.

    So, the question I want to pose is: what are the best political conditions for the growth of classical music?

    I am not saying I would like to have lived in some of the 18th century states!
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Moderator Nereffid's Avatar
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    History might suggest that the best system is one where the ruling classes are synonymous with the elites, they're not overly distracted by wars or other major crises or the need to keep an eye on the balance sheets, and they need something to keep their fellow elites amused.
    Alternatively, there were Weimar Germany and the earliest years of the USSR, whose chaos seemed to provide fertile ground for modernism, but both experiments were terminated rather too early.

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    Senior Member Garlic's Avatar
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    Some kind of system whereby artists have strong government support but also creative autonomy and no ideological directives. I'm not sure what that would be called.
    Last edited by Garlic; Sep-24-2013 at 10:19.

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    Senior Member Ramako's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nereffid View Post
    History might suggest that the best system is one where the ruling classes are synonymous with the elites, they're not overly distracted by wars or other major crises or the need to keep an eye on the balance sheets, and they need something to keep their fellow elites amused.
    Alternatively, there were Weimar Germany and the earliest years of the USSR, whose chaos seemed to provide fertile ground for modernism, but both experiments were terminated rather too early.
    Again, English music had a rare moment of being excellent during the late 16th and early 17th century, during which time Britain was in an unstable political state, with the armada etc.

    Vienna seems to be a good example 1770-1920, give or take, of association of place and good music. I don't know about Austrian politics during that time though, and I think they varied quite a lot.

    I would say that the political system and good music are not linked very strongly, but both are influenced by the social conditions and 'spirit' of the various states and places they are in.
    Last edited by Ramako; Sep-24-2013 at 15:31.

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    Senior Member julianoq's Avatar
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    From my point of view, conflict and instability usually spark progress in many areas, including music. I am not saying that amazing art can't be created in a stable environment, but humanity evolves with difficulties. It is not a coincidence that most developed countries are located in areas with unstable/difficult natural environment, and many poor countries are located in places with plenty of natural resources like oil, etc.

    In music, I believe that Shostakovich is a good example. Would his music evolve like it did without the extreme unstable and difficult environment around him? We can't answer for sure, but I believe it wouldn't. In brazilian popular music we have Chico Buarque, his most fantastic compositions came when he was opposing the military dictatorship in Brazil, his case is similar to Shostakovich. He was good, then the conflict started and he evolved into a genius. Anyway, it is just a theory, not any absolute true
    Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

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    Senior Member Ondine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggart View Post
    So, the question I want to pose is: what are the best political conditions for the growth of classical music?
    The same conditions that science has, must be applied to classical music.
    'Small is Beautiful...'
    Leopold Kohr
    ------
    English isn't my mother language... please be patient.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    While I think it's true that disastrous contemporary events can turn some minds toward art as a kind of refuge, I'm not sure that repressive or otherwise problematic state governments should get much credit for the art produced in their time (if only because monsters like Stalin want the credit for it!). More credit should probably be given to the people who run and participate in the networks of patronage, conservatories, churches, universities, and whatever other local institutions that identify and nurture talent. Such institutions seem to run their courses with relative distance from the state politics that works out on another--I won't say higher!--plane. Shostakovich is in some respects an exception, insofar as one of the most powerful aspects of his achievement is the way he managed to produce masterworks despite hostile government surveillance and travesties like the Zhdanov decree. But would his music have been worse if his life had been better?

    William Walton did very well for all of us, and look at the horrors he had to witness:

    Veduta_di_Forio.JPG

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    Senior Member Eschbeg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    More credit should probably be given to the people who run and participate in the networks of patronage, conservatories, churches, universities, and whatever other local institutions that identify and nurture talent
    This is definitely the key here: places where systems of patronage have been established, in both the direct sense (rich people paying for music) as well as the indirect sense (institutions that "host" music), are places where classical music will thrive... which is to say it's less about the political climate than about the economic climate. Historically, systems of patronage have existed in all sorts of political climates: serfdom, absolute monarchies, democracies, communist states, fascist states, etc. Each of those places has produced composers who still matter today: Ventadorn, Vivaldi, Copland, Shostakovich, Respighi, etc. What they had in common was that music was considered valuable enough for elites and/or people in power to want to sponsor it.

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    Senior Member julianoq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    While I think it's true that disastrous contemporary events can turn some minds toward art as a kind of refuge, I'm not sure that repressive or otherwise problematic state governments should get much credit for the art produced in their time (if only because monsters like Stalin want the credit for it!). More credit should probably be given to the people who run and participate in the networks of patronage, conservatories, churches, universities, and whatever other local institutions that identify and nurture talent. Such institutions seem to run their courses with relative distance from the state politics that works out on another--I won't say higher!--plane. Shostakovich is in some respects an exception, insofar as one of the most powerful aspects of his achievement is the way he managed to produce masterworks despite hostile government surveillance and travesties like the Zhdanov decree. But would his music have been worse if his life had been better?

    William Walton did very well for all of us, and look at the horrors he had to witness:

    Veduta_di_Forio.JPG
    My point is not to give "credit" for repressive governments. My point is that conflicts and difficulties inspire humans, whose progress many times comes from adversities. Of course the credit must be given to institutions that incentive music. I am sure that many talented composers lived a great life. But we can observe in many historical events that men who overcome difficulties can rise from it stronger. Would Beethoven compositions be the same without the deafness that started when he was only 26? Maybe, or maybe it would be even better, but I believe it wouldn't.

    I am obviously not saying that we should create difficulties to inspire great music, but the difficulties and conflicts exists and change human history all the time. I wish there were no earthquakes in Japan, but they existed and Japan as a country evolved a lot learning to overcome them. Should we give credit to the earthquakes? Obviously not, the credit goes for the humans who learned how to cope with them.
    Last edited by julianoq; Sep-24-2013 at 18:27.
    Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Sorry, Julianoq--it wasn't my intention to be critical (though I see it sounded that way). I just meant to bring up the institutional issues that Eschbeg followed up on. I agree that painful national and international strife can inspire powerful music. The same is true of the thousand natural shocks that the flesh is heir to, including Beethoven's deafness. I've always been especially moved by works like Beethoven's 31st piano sonata, Shosty's viola sonata, and Sibelius's 4th that were written in the (sometimes, luckily, mistaken) expectation of imminent death.
    Last edited by Blancrocher; Sep-24-2013 at 18:37.

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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    I think Haydn's political environment was rather fertile, i.e. cut off from mainstream society with the artistic freedom to do whatever he liked.

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    Senior Member julianoq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winterreisender View Post
    I think Haydn's political environment was rather fertile, i.e. cut off from mainstream society with the artistic freedom to do whatever he liked.
    I agree! It was an advantage but also a difficulty.

    A lifelong resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, "forced to become original".[6] - Wikipedia

    But I think this couldn't be replicated these days, in the age of the internet it is almost impossible to have this level of isolation from the modern trends!
    Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

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    Senior Member Ramako's Avatar
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    It's not just having patronage available - look at the example of England in the 18th and 19th centuries. We had terrible composers! And yet we patronised music so well that Handel moved here and Haydn wrote to Mozart saying how much better it was in England because the English paid so well etc.

    While I agree adversity can help, one thing to consider is how much Naziism did to damage German culture. We have very little music from that time in Germany, while Schoenberg moved to America, many of the composers for the Hollywood 'golden age' were Germans who left Germany, Schenkerian analysis took off in America because Schenker's disciples escaped the Nazis, and that's not to mention Einstein etc. I guess too much adversity is a problem.
    Last edited by Ramako; Sep-24-2013 at 21:53.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramako View Post
    It's not just having patronage available - look at the example of England in the 18th and 19th centuries. We had terrible composers! And yet we patronised music so well that Handel moved here and Haydn wrote to Mozart saying how much better it was in England because the English paid so well etc.
    In many cases, it probably depends on how knowledgeable or tasteful one's patrons are. Haydn was lucky in his patrons in this regard, as are many musicians from the past and present who are commissioned to compose works by talented musicians. It sometimes seems like half my cds have Mstislav Rostropovich on the cover, and not a few of those are the result of his giving the benefit of the doubt to an up-and-coming talent. Some of my favorite guitar compositions wouldn't exist but for Julian Bream paying composers to do work for him (and possibly lending a helping hand). The fact that musical funds are generally administered by people with musical interest at a remove from either the public or the government--though not, I understand from Julianoq on another thread, in Brazil--also helps to keep up the level of quality (in my view).

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    Senior Member julianoq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    The fact that musical funds are generally administered by people with musical interest at a remove from either the public or the government--though not, I understand from Julianoq on another thread, in Brazil--also helps to keep up the level of quality (in my view).
    You are right. Here, sadly the music money (and it is a lot, here we have insane taxes and very low return from the government) is being used to make artists quiet. The people who chooses where the money goes are far from unbiased, they are chosen by the government. As a result, quality musical production is very low. Like on sports (tennis: Gustavo Kuerten, swimming: César Cielo, music: Villa-Lobos, etc) the only few successful cases comes from talented wealthy families who can finance themselves until they are famous. Then the government comes to "support" and take pictures with you.
    Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

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