Monday, April 30, 2012

I came across this article in the LATimes today.  I sometimes have difficulty making an argument verbally; I'm much better at writing, where I can take my time and clearly organize my thoughts.  Therefore, sometimes when I get in a discussion or argument with someone, what usually happens is that I have all these half-formed ideas that I want to get across but I'm unable to do so.  And then an hour or so later, I think of all the things I should have said but couldn't.  When this happens, it's very frustrating, and I remember it for a long time. 

So this brings me to this time when I was in Italy in 2003 (yes, I remember being frustrated in an argument from almost 10 years ago!).  I was studying Italian in Perugia, and I was hanging out with some fellow American students in the program as well as a handsome Dutch friend we made in Perugia.  Let's call them Michelle and Daniel.  I think that Michelle was somewhat smitten with the handsome Dutchman, even though he wasn't interested in girls.  But his good looks and his distinguished foreigner status held some sort of sway over her.  Or she was just caught up in something that I feel is common among some liberal Americans:  the idea that Europe is somehow more liberal and enlightened than America.  That they are somehow more intellectually advanced than we are.  And unfortunately, I think some Europeans also think this way.  Daniel seemed to be among them.

Keep in mind that this was during the early years of the first Bush administration and at the start of a very unpopular war that brought ill will towards all Americans, whether we supported the war or not.  Basically, Daniel and Michelle were saying that Americans had slavery and racism and were anti-immigration and that Europeans didn't have a problem with these issues.  Coming from a DUTCH person.  What about Indonesia?  What about South Africa?  What about the ENORMOUS problems they've had with Muslim extremists and the integration of immigrants into the Netherlands?  Of course I couldn't think of any of these things at the time.  Almost every European country has had colonies and immigration problems, same as us. 

But what I really wanted to say was, people are essentially the same everywhere.  They will always be afraid of the different, the other, the foreign.  That fear and suspicion is part of our evolution and has enabled us to survive for thousands of years.  If we were openly trusting of everything new, we would put ourselves at great risk to those who actually DO mean us harm.  We HAVE to make generalizations.  If one of the tribe got killed by a tiger, and we were unable to make the connection that we should avoid large, orange-and-black-striped cats, and then simply welcomed the next tiger we saw (hello, kitty!), we would have been annihilated by tigers a long time ago.  So I guess what I'm saying is, that article about immigration fears in Europe just proves my point from all those years ago, that they are no different than we are; and that while obviously we shouldn't shun those different from us, their fears are deep-rooted and part of me can't really blame them for that. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

I heard this article on the radio yesterday.  Come on Vatican, I know you're still stuck in the 16th century, but could you maybe at least try gaining towards the 19th or so?   And then, "Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage."  (

TOO MUCH OF ITS WORK ON POVERTY AND ECONOMIC INJUSTICE???  Have they ever even HEARD of Jesus Christ?  Exactly how much did he talk about abortion and same-sex marriage?  Uh huh.  Now how much did he talk about poverty and helping others who are less fortunate?  Forget talking about that, how much did he DO to help those who were less fortunate?  Yup.  Regardless of the church's stance on these abortion and same-sex marriage, poverty and economic injustice should definitely come BEFORE them, in my humble opinion.  And also, the church needs to allow women priests. I know it moves at a glacial pace, but I would really love it if that happened sometime in my lifetime.  OK, this blog isn't really a place for me to discuss religious matters, but having grown up at least marginally Catholic, this just really bothered me and I needed to vent.  I might take the post down but I needed to get this off my chest first. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I've seen this article circulating on facebook. While I think it brings up some interesting points, I don't think it brings up any solutions, or really addresses the root of the problem.  One of the biggest mysteries to me is, why are there SO MANY young musicians out there who love classical music so much that they want to devote their lives to a career in music, and yet there are so few people willing to support symphony orchestras or even attend concerts?  I really don't understand this.  And while it would be nice if we received more support from the government, maybe that's not the answer.  Although I would love to have a job a in a good orchestra, maybe these organizations need to change if they are going to survive.  Other parts of the music industry (record labels, for example) are facing similar challenges; it remains to be seen how music will be purchased and enjoyed in the future.

At any rate, no one is going to even know what classical music if we continue to slash it from education.  In my experience, children love making music of any kind, and are often very open to all sorts of music (much more so than adults).  I think the answer lies in continuing El Sistema projects and making an effort to include music education in public schools.  I also think in the future salon-style concerts and other, perhaps yet-to-be-discovered, concert venues will be the answer unless symphonies can find a better way to engage their communities.

One other aspect of musical life not mentioned in this article:  elitism within (not of) the classical music community.  Whereas I think that there is actually less elitism in classical music than people give it credit for (it's generally less expensive to buy symphony tickets than tickets to a major sporting event or pop concert), there is elitism amongst musicians.  The more I play music and continue to be in the bottom of the pile (not in a major orchestra, not playing major recording sessions) I see the classical community as having many rigid tiers, like 18th century British society, and I think that this tiered system is affecting our success as a genre as well as the public's perception of us.  The 99% vs the 1%?  Look no further than the Los Angeles freelance community, where the same 1% of musicians get the vast majority of recording work, not even allowing the rest of the 99% to even get a foot in the door (and the union only solidifies these rigid tiers, if you ask me).  To me, there is sometimes, among some (NOT ALL, in fact, not even most, but it's still there) musicians with orchestra jobs or regular session players, an attitude of superiority.  There is a divide amongst those who perceive themselves as talented, above the rest, and those who do not.  I even see it in young students, who think that playing the violin well somehow gives them license to play by different rules than everyone else, and that their music is a gift that they are bestowing on to an audience who should be grateful.  This attitude needs to change.  The way we make money from our music needs to change.  The way the often completely isolated classical music community interacts with the world around it needs to change.  I'm not sure precisely how, but I do think it involves a lot more community activism, more music education, and a ton more flexibility.