The editor of Standpoint, Daniel Johnson, asked me to write a long essay on the present state of the symphony orchestra, more than half expecting that I would tend towards a process of neo-liberal rationalisation – fewer but better.
To my mind, though, there is no general solution. The art has to be seen within specific geographic traditions. What’s happening in America today is an American orchestral problem, Europe will have its own route to follow and as for China…. well, read on.
Here’s a pull-quote.
In a lifestyle of wall-to-wall wi-fi and instant tweets, the concert hall is one of the few places where we become reachable, where we can switch off our lifelines and surrender to a form that will not let us go for an hour or more. The symphony orchestra is our relief from the communicative addiction. It forces us, willy-nilly, to resist the responsive urge. It is a cold-turkey cure for our reactive insanity, our self-destroying restlessness.The more concerts I attend, the more I see how they restore balance to over-busy lives. It may well be that we, as a society, need the symphony orchestra now more than ever before. How we pay for it will have to be reconfigured over the next two or three difficult years
And here‘s the full 2,500-word article.