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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Of course we here at TMS have always been in touch with Western Civilization, but this is an interesting account of how some institutions lost their way: Rediscovering Western Civilization.
We begin in Part One by critiquing a landmark of modern historical deconstructionism: the claim that the very idea of Western civilization is a modern invention devised during World War I as a way of hoodwinking young American soldiers into fighting and dying in the trenches of Europe. This thesis, propounded in 1982 by the historian Gilbert Allardyce, was cited by key players during the original Stanford controversy. Those scholars used Allardyce to show that elimination of Stanford’s required course on the history and literature of the West was not a major break with the past.
In the decades since the Stanford dustup, the Allardyce thesis has been invoked to justify the replacement of college and K-12 Western Civilization courses with World History, or with heavily globalized versions of European and American history. The Allardyce thesis shows how a wildly improbable bit of scholarly radicalism virtually unknown to the general public can nonetheless sweep the academy and transform American education. The Allardyce thesis is also an early and influential example of the sort of debunking continually churned out by historians nowadays, yet almost never itself subject to critical scrutiny. It’s time the debunkers were debunked.
Despite the report being focused just on the United States, I think it is a useful perspective on similar policies and strategies in force elsewhere.

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Wenatchee the Hatchet has a long essay musing on "whiteness" in music theory and the role of non-white guitar composers like Leo Brouwer.
Music education that's geared toward the idea that students will be making a living recording music actually seems like a more pernicious myth than the myth that Western music notational conventions are somehow "white" when we have more than enough classical music composed by black composers to prove that's not the case. For that matter, when there are classical composers from Asia and of Asian American descent who use the Western musical notational systems; when the first published musical work in Western notation by a Native American was back in 1863 with Thomas Commuck's Indian Melodies hymnal; I don't think it's even historically fair or accurate to say Western musical notation is "white".
Go have a look.

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Here is an update from Salzburg. They are planning to go forward with the Whitsun Festival, but the Easter Festival is canceled:
On March 10, the Austrian government published an order by which outdoor events with over 500 participants and indoor events with more than 100 participants must be cancelled through 3. April 2020.
For the Salzburg Festival, this currently means: On the basis of the current risk assessment (current as of 5. March 2020), all events of the Whitsun Festival (29. May to 1. June 2020) and the Summer Festival (18. July to 30. August 2020) will take place. If the risk assessment should change substantially, events would be cancelled only if they were prohibited officially by the government authorities.
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The Guardian has an interesting piece up: The best classical music works of the 21st century. As the century is only 20 years old and a sober evaluation takes several decades, this is highly speculative. But worth a look. There are some familiar names like Max Richter. Here is an excerpt from a larger piece, The Blue Notebooks.


That is well into Górecki territory and sounds rather like Vivaldi in super slow motion. There is also Steve Reich's meditation on WTC 9/11 which uses similar techniques to his Different Trains.


There are twenty-five works in total with familiar and unfamiliar names. The number one choice is  Hans Abrahamsen's orchestral song cycle Let Me Tell You (2013). Here is an excerpt.


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Wow, a Shostakovich festival I didn't know existed:
The annual Shostakovich festival at Gohrisch in Saxony, where Shostakovich composed his eight string quartet, has won the right to premiere 10 newsly discovered Shostakovich manuscripts, some dating back to his teenage years.
The performers include Tchaikovsky winner Dmitry Masleev and Chopin winner Yulianna Avdeeva .
The festival opens July 1.
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These are very trying times for all music institutions. Opera Australia is in a real bind:
Opera Australia may be forced to sell off one or both of its properties in Surry Hills and Alexandria to stave off the threat of bankruptcy caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Chief executive Rory Jeffes revealed management had been in crisis talks to keep the company afloat after it announced it would cancel the remainder of its Sydney Summer season, including its flagship Opera on the Harbour event that was to open on March 27.
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The [Dallas] opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors is a groundbreaking program helping to overcome gender inequality among the world’s leading classical conductors. As we reported during another successful Hart Institute residency in November, only five of the 100 busiest conductors in the world are women. Industry insiders say there aren’t as many opportunities for female conductors and so a group of leaders in Dallas decided to do something about that. They created the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors, a two-week residency designed to identify promising female conductors and invest in their growth.
The Hart Institute is a point of pride for Texas arts lovers and the kind of program that can actually achieve what Facebook’s algorithms were supposed to address.
And yet last Monday, when the opera’s director of artistic administration David Lomeli posted a photo calling for applicants, Facebook removed the post and informed Lomeli that the opera can’t gear its communication only to female applicants.
This is very likely a laudable initiative, but we should also take into account that there are long-standing discriminatory practices in education that are most certainly NOT laudable. At one US college there are seventy scholarships available just for women and only one for men.

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Alex Ross has a very topical piece at The New Yorker: Coronavirus Concerts: The Music World Contends with the Pandemic.
The ad-hoc concerts are a welcome stopgap, helping musicians to keep working and listeners to stay engaged. Yet they shouldn’t be seen as any sort of wave of the future. We are already too sedentary and technology-addicted in our relationship with the arts. The monopolies that rule the digital realm possess unheard-of power, and non-celebrity artists increasingly struggle in a marketplace where audiences no longer expect to pay for recorded music. 
Perilous times for working musicians lie ahead. “Force majeure” clauses in artist contracts—releasing companies from liability in the event of disruptions—mean that many opera singers and freelance instrumentalists, not to mention actors, dancers, and backstage technicians, will go unpaid for the duration of the pandemic. The tenor Zach Finkelstein has written about the force-majeure issue on his blog, predicting that “many household classical music names will likely be insolvent or in dire financial straits by this coming summer.”
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For our envoi, what better choice than the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra conducted by Andés Orozco-Estrada:




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