I’m working on a somewhat complex series of posts that in a sense distill and clarify things I’ve been thinking about (and writing about here) lately for a while, tied to writing, writing theory and writing books, Hollywood, and modern culture in general.
But that “somewhat complex” means it takes time. In the meantime, I was reading reading up on a ton of things over at Ethan Iverson’s outstanding Do the Math blog, and followed a couple of links from there (on this page) to a couple of pieces on strategy for rehabilitating classical music in contemporary American society.
One of those pieces is by Greg Sandow, and leans heavily on comments by a young American woman (presumably, by her name, Korean-American), who expressed some interesting but problematic opinions about the “white culture” of classical music in America:
Lee’s bottom line was simple but profound. If we want people who aren’t white to go in any large numbers to classical concerts, we have to diversify the culture those concerts display. Which doesn’t just mean playing Latin American (or African-American) composers. It means presenting a not wholly white — not wholly low affect and respectful — face. With, maybe, applause or shouts during the music, which Mozart and Handel wouldn’t have found at all uncomfortable.
Bill Eddins replies at length to the more questionable of Lee’s assertions, not just the idea that maybe concerts should run on what he rightly notes would be more bluntly called “Colored People Time.” And really, that’s sort of silly, as if having a set time for an event to start were a wholly “white” thing: sounds kind of suspect to me, and simultaneously, I have to wonder why the looseness in terms of start time doesn’t upset the many white audience members at hip-hop shows. Black as hip-hop may be in its origins, isn’t the music itself located in youth culture that is generally (across racial lines) more lax about start times? As Eddins notes, people of all colors, including white, are often late for things. (I, personally, struggle to be on time for anything, and my mostly-white writing critique group in Seoul was perpetually starting late.) To suggest orchestras should be more lax about starting their concerts on time because of C.P. Time is pretty much the most patronizing thing you could do, isn’t it?