Marin Alsop in hot water over ‘required violence’ in BBC interview

Marin Alsop in hot water over ‘required violence’ in BBC interview


norman lebrecht

January 03, 2016

The Baltimore Symphony music director has run into flak back home for suggesting, in a BBC interview, that violence had been necessary to redress social inequality in the city.

‘It’s heartbreaking that we haven’t dealt with these issues, that it requires violence, which I think it does require, to be honest, to change this equation,’ Alsop told presenter Razia Iqbal. ‘Inequality and injustice is unacceptable. Sadly, this has been the most violent year in Baltimore. We’ve had over 300 people murdered. It’s a cry for help.’

The Baltimore Sun has published a hostile interpretation of her remarks and several readers have contacted Slipped Disc with criticisms. There has been a frosty no-comment from City Hall.

Baltimore erupted in riots last April after a young Afro-American, Freddie Gray, died while in police custody.

When I visited in October, the city was still palpably tense. Read here.

Marin Alsop, David Rimelis, Dan Trahey at the premiere of Rimelis' OrchKids Nation


  • John Borstlap says:

    It is a mentality which will help her a lot when conducting the Sacre.

  • Patrick says:

    As any orchestral musician will tell you: conductors are better seen, not heard.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Indeed! Ms Alsop should have refrained from turning the Last Night of the Proms into a political event, unfurling her manifesto as though she were running for President of the USA. Politicking is best left to others.

    • Stereo says:

      Some are better not seen as well!

  • william osborne says:

    Alsop wasn’t condoning violence, but condemning a society that seems incapable of responding to anything else.

    • Pianofirtissimo says:

      Do you agree with her?

      • william osborne says:

        Yes. At the same time, I think violence only moves governments to more extremes to maintain their monopoly on violence. With extremely rare exception, violence only increases suffering and injustice.

        Still, I marvel at Ms. Alsop’s independence of mind. Fairly unusual in classical music, especially for conductors.

        • Daniel F. says:

          What she fails to consider is that the preponderant victims of the violence were themselves African-Americans, especially fledgling community businesses. Who, exactly, is benefited when that sort of violence takes place?

    • Ana Cervantes says:

      Yes, William Osborne. I agree. They were tough words but she spoke from her heart and from her soul — which is partly what an artist SHOULD do, in my opinion– and not looking to please anyone.

    • Janis says:

      Reminds me of JFK’s quip that societies that make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. He wasn’t condoning it, either — just making the bleak observation that nothing else seems to work sometimes. 🙁

  • MacroV says:

    I’m glad that she cares enough about the well-being of her community to comment. One would have to be a moron to interpret her comment as advocating violence, as opposed to regretfully conceding that sometimes only violence like this gets attention and produces momentum for change.

  • John says:

    I guess I’m going to have to re-read this article. The thrust didn’t seem to be about giving her flak for her comments. Rather it seems to expand on her remarks about violence. It seemed to me to be pretty straightforward reportage and a closer look at just what she meant in her remarks. Indeed, the BSO has been a large and positive force in the community, and Alsop has spearheaded a lot of that.

    • Marg says:

      I agree with you and several others here that Alsop is NOT advocating violence. ‘Require” was an unfortunate choice of word. It’s obvious she means that sometimes it TAKES violence to get systemic oppression into public consciousness. In other words, those with the power to effect change are often blind to the need until finally violence erupts on the streets as a last resort. One can see the truth of that in the US history of the last 100 years just in terms of the issue of some of the treatment of the black communities. Alsop is NOT advocating violence. She is making an observation about the Baltimore reality.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    I agree very much with William Osborne and with Macrov in this string. And artists have always spoken out, as they should. As artists. And of course as long as their outspokenness is not a substitute for (depleted) artistry; which surely is not the case with Marin Alsop.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Artists advocating violence should not be trusted. Mostly they are the first to run away when the first shots fall.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    In another topic of today Norman attacks an author for claiming that musicians have most of the time been servants of rulers. And here is one who decided not to be.

  • Doug says:

    See, leftists are not against violence, they are in fact for violence against those who pay the taxes to support their darling programs.

    What, they burned down your business? You deserved it. Back to work, tax slave!

    • Brian B says:

      And the businesses that got torched and the people who got hurt don’t live in Alsop’s part of town.

    • Mon Coeur A Ta Doux Voix says:

      Doug: If ignorance is bliss, you must be the happiest of men. What Marin Alsop is advocating in specific is a children’s program along the lines of “el sistema”, to lift young people so that they can get a sense of the world beyond their closed-in circumstances, to give them joy, and to teach them discipline and rigor. That in fact is what the BSO is trying to do NOW. Then there is the matter of jobs and dignity, which the community (and the police, too much blinded by old methods) are at present under dire pressure to provide. This must be done NOW. That’s what desperate people are trying to bring to the attention of the Powers That Be. Check the activities of scholarly societies, giving more and more conferences of the place of music in social change. Alsop and the BSO are right on!

    • jaypee says:

      Comments that start with the word “leftists” are usually stupid. Yours makes no exception.

  • Ladybug24 says:

    It is so disheartening to read the article posted by the Baltimore Sun. Having admired the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for years – with Marin Alsop; she has proven to be a trail blazer for non-profits in Baltimore city in terms of outreach and education providing students with music education and mentorship who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten it. Clearly, her comments were taken out of context and the Baltimore Sun has joined the ranks of poor media outlets providing uninformed, negative press with a headline seemingly just to grab readers. Baltimore is very lucky to have a Music Director who has done so much for their city and their newspaper should be highlighting this success instead.

  • M2N2K says:

    She was not exactly *advocating* violence, but she was clearly *justifying* it in the context of present day Baltimore. She has a right to say it, but that does not make her statements any less erroneous and her way of promoting such opinions any less counter-productive.