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Saturday morning quotes 8.41: Anyone listening?

May 14, 2022

Sometimes we wonder whether anyone out there is listening. Sometimes we feel like the earnest musicianer depicted in the illustration above must have felt; sometimes we feel as though the art form that has consumed countless hours of our time and attention is falling on deaf and disinterested ears. Obviously, we know there is a listening audience for our music—our weekly digital distribution statistics affirm a surprisingly large and growing global desire for quiet, intimate historical sounds that cause the listener to feel something. But over the past few years, the entire global population has undergone a serious recalibration, and we have all been instructed by absurdly unaccountable algorithms to stay at home, be suspicious of our neighbors, and just buy happy-making stuff that is not-so-subtlety suggested by out-of-control surveillance capitalism. It is unsurprising that many of the enormous number of small businesses negatively affected by the health scare have simply evaporated never to return. And that certainly holds true for performing musicians who are still facing significant barriers to concertizing.

A glaringly obvious example of how to deal with a global outbreak of an infectious disease can be found by studying the 1918 influenza epidemic (history revised or strenuously ignored by promoters of the new paradigm). Sensible precautions were taken in 1918, but the world did not shut down. Public concerts continued because music was and is necessary, and there were very limited alternatives available for listening to recordings at the time. This was the era of Elgar, Fauré, Hindemith, Poulenc, Puccini, and Stravinsky, all of whom continued to compose, travel and concertize despite the threat of influenza. Popular songs like “After You’ve Gone” and “Fidgety Feet” were published in 1918, and were enormously successful because they were played live and in-person by musicians unafraid to share a little spit. Fortunately for all artists at the time, their chances and choices were not directed and/or limited by the unchecked power and authority of the technology sector and their enablers.

“Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.  We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.  Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.  Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness hard and unkind.  We think too much, and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities life will be violent, and all will be lost…You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work that will give youth a future and old age a security.”

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator, 1940

A gauge of whether anyone is listening is the time-honored measure of bums on seats at the concert hall. Early music as a concert genre has given up the ghost, and its remains are fated to be recalled whimsically, if uneasily, as a musty odor emanating from the sepulcher of current correctness. Early music as a subspecies of classical music was in a tailspin well before the pandemic put the kibosh on all concerts, and the downfall of such a specialized niche market of the entertainment world has been abetted by overcautious hosting organizations and hyper-vigilant academic institutions. But live concerts were given the coup de grâce by unwitting performers falling over themselves to appear pure of heart and mind—not to their audience, but to their corporate, institutional and academic sponsors.

Public health agencies have issued confused and sometimes contradictory directives we are told we must follow in future. But thinking persons will understand the nature of regulatory capture of public agencies by corporate entities and the resulting public policy that aims to advance corporate goals over the public good. The phenomenon has been well-documented over the years in the UK and the US, along with timely and very pertinent observations concerning transparency of data that appeared in a respected medical journal. The upshot is that overzealous public health policy has a serious effect on live entertainment, and has severely dampened enthusiasm for early music concerts, already a diminishing phenomenon. It is important to understand the lessons of history and consider the motivations and the mechanics behind the creation of current public health policy.

“…Two-thirds to three-quarters of global pharmaceutical profits come from the United States.  All that money creates this huge machine that can lobby, that can hire PR, that pays doctors to be key opinion leaders, and that money itself distorts our healthcare system.”

Dr. John Abrahamson, broadcast interview.

The solution to ever-changing rules and untrustworthy leadership? Experience the ultimate in historical accuracy by making music for yourself, your family and your friends.

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