Sunday, April 6, 2008

A bang or a whimper?

This isn't going to be one of those posts about the supposedly sacrosanct position of classical music in Western society. I don't have the time or energy to mount an argument as to why classical music should get public financing at the expense of other forms of music, because honestly, I can't rationalize that disparity, except to say that I think it's important to keep creating big-budget, large-community, unprofitable art like classical music, just because we can, and that very act of making something that is of no real use or benefit to the commercial market is a powerful statement about our values, and our value as a species.

However, when a national broadcaster abdicates a significant part of its mandate to support the culture of its country on specious grounds of profitability, the gloves have to come off. The CBC's ridiculous decision to terminate North America's last remaining radio orchestra is a final, public slap in the face to Canadian music from an anti-intellectual, anti-cultural government that is trying to stamp out creativity in my native country. The CBC's new management have been systematically shutting down outlets for classical music, especially contemporary, for going on two years now. Radio shows of broad popularity have been cancelled, classical music moved to inaccessible late-night time slots, and now they cut an orchestra with an infinitesimal budget, part of whose stated mission is contribute to Canadian culture by spurring the creation of new music by Canadian composers. The CBC Young Composers' Awards, which the CRO served admirably for years in the orchestral category, died a quiet, shameful death a couple of years ago, leaving emerging Canadian composers with one less high-profile way of getting some attention.

Read this, and note the bureaucratic doublespeak in the CBC mouthpiece's answer, rife with material from the Department of Redundancy Department. "Existing music organizations"? To my knowledge, the CRO is an existing music organization, or was until a few days ago. This is not a budget decision, it's a political one originating with the philistines in both the CBC management and the government that appointed them, yet another shot across the bow in a long line of attempts to eliminate quality and originality from Canadian art, thereby reducing the demand for it, and providing grounds for cutting off funding. Be sure to follow up your reading with this, a run-down of other attempts to stifle artistic and intellectual diversity. (I particularly love Bill C-10, an attempt to legislate the censoring of homegrown film productions by revoking tax credits, while allowing foreign productions to do whatever they please, as long as they spend their money north of 49.) Protest this. Write letters. Sign the petition to save the CRO. Make some goddamn noise, and vote these uninformed bumpkins out of office at the next opportunity.

I have yet to fully process why this single issue makes me so angry, given my geographical and temporal remove from Canada. I've been away for a long time, I'm comfortably settled in Finland, and love the work I get to do here, and the local community that has accepted and supported me. But Canada has always been, and always will be my ultimate home. I will not argue that classical music holds some inviolable, all-hallowed place in our culture. It was always a tradition planted in shallow soil in North America, and constantly under threat as a result. But in Canada, it's a small, thriving industry, one that could blossom into a powerhouse like Finland's given the right attention and funding. To see our national broadcaster abrogate its responsibilities so flagrantly, to watch the government my countrymen voted for trying to dismantle my art form piece by piece, makes me deeply sad.

1 comment:

Elia said...

People should read this.