Return of the Blogger
Now that Halloween has passed I'm dusting the cobwebs off of the blog. (I was cultivating them here for decoration - yeah, that's the ticket.)
Sadly, I haven't been to as many concerts as I would have wanted at this point. When I have gone (Ian Bostridge, Tokyo Quartet) I've been so exhausted as to only be able to listen with a small part of my musical brain. It doesn't seem fair to comment on a performance under those conditions.
Politics weighs on me.
I do want to mention the first Cincinnati Symphony weekend of the year, which happened back in September. Beethoven's 9th, Paavo Järvi, full house. Good stuff, but as frequently happens to me during the 9th, my mind wandered in the finale.
In this case, I found myself scanning the audience for black faces. When I didn't see any - in a city whose population is at least 40% African-American - all of the high flown idealism about universal brotherhood in Beethoven/Schiller's "Ode to Joy" rang hollow. It's hard to imagine any other sampling of 3,000 Cincinnatians being less racially diverse.
The burgeoning citizen in me can't quite reconcile the city's artistic strengths with its economic struggles and the racial tension that thrums in every neighborhood. Can Cincinnati really afford to fund the arts with so many socio-political issues making it an undesirable place to live?* (Ads for one mayoral candidate claim that 11 people move out of town every day.)
At this point I become very torn. I don't like the obvious answer: no. And I don't have strong enough arguments for the arts. Aesthetic worth, cultural health of the community, etc., all pale when half the black population has been officially boycotting the city since 2001. The question of who the arts are for starts to loom awfully large under these circumstances.**
The Butterworth angle.
In a related vein, I'm disturbed these days by the bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's in my cabinet. After the first few times I had syrup, I noticed that Mrs. B was losing her dusky brown color; underneath, the bottle's plastic is clear. Is Mrs. Butterworth so threatening, too strong a black figure to be nourishing America's breakfast table? Or am I being too sensitive in thinking that her racial heritage is being seriously, insidiously undermined?
* Personally, I've been charmed by the Queen City since we moved here. The landscape and architecture are beautiful, even in the run down parts of town I've been in.
** Greg Sandow's new online book-in-progress is titled "The Future of Classical Music?" I hope he gets into some of these issues. The future's short and bleak if they aren't met head-on.