Marin Alsop’s response to the Baltimore riots

The music director issued this short statement:

I am heartbroken for our dear city. With so much need alongside so much possibility, I hope we can use any opportunities we get to set an example and inspire others to join us in trying to change the world.

marin baltimore chi-chi

Photo: recently with my BSO OrchKids with visiting guest artist, Chi-chi Nwanoku.

Last night’s concert was cancelled under curfew. The Baltimore Symphony will give a free concert today (Weds)outside the Meyerhoff at noon ‘in support of our community. It seems we could all use a little music in our lives right about now.’ ‪#‎BSOPeace‬

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  • In neighboring Philadelphia there are 186,000 people living in deep poverty (less than $10,000/year for a family of 3.) That’s equal to the entire population of Salt Lake City and includes 60,000 children who face daily problems with hunger. Conditions are similar in Baltimore, and derive from a racially informed class system. If the Baltimore Symphony wants to help, its going to take a deep and long-term commitment.

  • From a more radical perspective, perhaps the symphony orchestra is part of the problem, rather than the solution. I think of the words of Dieter Flury, solo flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic, who gave an interview to the West German State Radio in 1995:

    “From the beginning we have spoken of the special Viennese qualities, of the way music is made here. The way we make music here is not only a technical ability, but also something that has a lot to do with the soul. The soul does not let itself be separated from the cultural roots that we have here in central Europe. And it also doesn’t allow itself to be separated from gender. So if one thinks that the world should function by quota regulations, then it is naturally irritating that we are a group of white skinned male musicians, that perform exclusively the music of white skinned male composers. It is a racist and sexist irritation. I believe one must put it that way. If one establishes superficial egalitarianism, one will lose something very significant. Therefore, I am convinced that it is worthwhile to accept this racist and sexist irritation, because something produced by a superficial understanding of human rights would not have the same standards.”

    Why is symphonic culture generally most closely associated with countries known for authoritarianism, cultural nationalism, ethnocentricty, and racism? What do people emerging from a history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and police abuse see in the authoritarianism, hierarchies, and classism that surround orchestras? To what extent can these traditions of the symphony orchestra be reformed? If classical music ties its future to symphony orchestras, will it die along with them?

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