Sunday, November 05, 2006

Is the cello half-full or half-empty?

ArtsJournal does an interesting thing making excellent use of this technology: they invite people working in a specific sector to participate in a focused online discussion, a short-term blog. This seems to have all the useful advantages of online discourse (like the ability to easily point readers to sources) without the disadvantages which can render open online chats pointless.

So for instance they got several knowledgeable people to discuss the state of classical music in the U.S. It makes the most sense to read if you click the "older entries first" button. I wasn't aware for instance that the New York Times recently declared this to be a golden age for classical music in America...At least some experts in the field seem to agree: "Virtually all of recorded history is at our finger tips. There are more opportunities to hear live performances than ever before. More opportunities to play music in any of the thousands and thousands of community groups that have sprung up in recent decades. The level of performance generally across the land seems higher than ever..." The chairman of a big-city chamber orchestra asserts that "no one has put forth a credible argument that there has been a real decline in the percentage of the population that appreciates the classical music art form."

However they also report serious troubles at a lot of major symphony orchestras, which are struggling to fill seats as people are less interested in subscribing and have more choices. That reminds me of the sad story of the San Jose Symphony which was well described in this report; it's quite unusual (and scary) for a non-profit institution of that size and history to actually go belly-up. One ArtsJournal commenter places those difficulties in the context of that all "producers of "popular" culture are scrambling to reinvent the ways they do business." He provides some excellent examples which, without using the term, amount to the "long tail" trend in action (which I'm now finding just keeps popping up in all sorts of disparate contexts).

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