Segunda moral: Leon Botstein dixit (e 2)

«At the end of the century, the principal exception to the trend (and a major source of musical tourism to Europe) was Asia, notably South Korea, Japan and China, where interest in Western classical music has blossomed since 1945. Indeed the Asian and Asian-American population has become the leading source of high-quality music students in American schools and conservatories and of a new generation of orchestral musicians worldwide. The ubiquitous term globalization does, despite its abuse, reflect an undeniable historical trend. The political and economic integration of post-war Europe and the adoption of a common currency have created the prospect of increased fluidity of labour, open borders and greater immigration from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. The late-nineteenth-century cultural politics of nationalism are weakening, and an international style of popular musical culture has taken hold: in Europe and North America there is a growing interest in non-Western musical practices. As the pressures of a global economy on local circumstances continue to increase, domestic national subsidies for high-art traditions are under fire as serving too limited population at too great cost (the controversies of the 1990s in London and Berlin about how many orchestras and opera companies should be maintained are cases in point). As the demographics and habits of the younger European audience have begun to parallel those in North America, the interest of new generations in pre-1945 cultural habits is declining; the global spread of American-style commercial entertainment does not encourage a sustained, affectionate eclecticism inclusive of amateurism in the classical tradition and concert attendance.

Pessimistic diagnoses regarding the health of the inherited culture of high-art music in the twentieth century became widespread after 1975 and coincided with the rise of a current of neconservatism and cultural nostalgia. A scathing critique of education and contemporary culture was launched throughout Europe and America. The decline of interest in classical music was viewed as a sign of debased cultural standards; even early- twentieth-century modernism once shunned by previous cultural conservatives was held up as superior and normative in terms of aesthetic quality and ethical and cultural value. But the late-twentieth-century neoconservative account of a decline in cultural standards in musical life represents a dubious nostalgia: the sense that a golden age in music has passed, and with it truly great singers, conductors, and instrumentalists (not to speak of composers), has helped undermine even the museum function of concert life. It is, however, equally logical to view the failure of the high-art tradition to satisfy economic and political expectations defined by mass consumerism as a vindication of today’s standards. The real question is whether the expectations of a mass audience were ever plausible in the first place – that is, whether the idealistic assumptions of American social reformers of the 1920s or communist policy-makers, that high-art music could be rendered central, through education, to the lives of members of the working and lower-middle classes, were ever reasonable.

They may simply have been misguided aspirations. The traditions of high-art music have always required skills and capacities that are not easily generalized. Perhaps an analogy with mathematics can be made: what if the high-art concert music tradition requires, both for listening and active participation, training and understanding comparable to the study of higher mathematics? Most literate and highly schooled individuals (include the prominent neoconservative pundits) are perfectly well served by rudimentary algebra and arithmetic; they have no need to understand calculus, much less anything more arcane like number theory. In the same way, the public gave Hadyn his success in 1790s London may not be capable of transformation into a mass audience. And if that is the case, then the impression of a comparative decline in the fortunes of the high-art tradition may be false. Likewise the economic fundamentals of the music world in which Mozart and Beethoven worked bear little resemblance to the standards by which the classical music industry is now being judged. The twentieth-century may be forced to abandon the illusions of mass democratization in taste, economic rationalization, and market self-sufficiency generated by the brief commercial success permitted concert and operatic life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, the reality remains that in terms of cultural and political values, the will to sustain the level of private philanthropy and public subsidy necessary for a high-art musical culture that depends on patronage has weakened. The perception of economic weakness and lack of sufficient public interest underlines the marginalization of high-art musical culture over the course of the twentieth-century.»

Leon Botstein, «Music of the century: museum culture and the politics of subsidy», em Nicholas Cook e Anthony Pople (eds.), The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 63-66.