Music directors review the US election

Music directors review the US election


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2020

Franz Welser-Möst (Cleveland): ‘My wife and I went to bed around ten-thirty, but neither of us could sleep and got up again. I’ve watched and followed CNN and Fox News on TV and the Internet. I ended up sleeping for about two and a half hours. It’s been my turn since five in the morning – and watch this thriller end…. I am depressed for many reasons. Mostly because President Trump stood up and said he will call the court to have the count stopped. Like it or not, suppressing votes is a highly undemocratic act….

‘There are people in our orchestra who voted for Trump in 2016 – and now they are again. But politics is no longer discussed in the orchestra either. Democracy lives from the exchange of different opinions. Only this exchange simply no longer takes place. Many families and friendships perished. And even at work, where political issues were sometimes discussed in the past, people no longer talk about them. I think that’s dangerous for a democracy.’ More here.

Garrett Keast (Berlin): ‘As a conductor who wants to work in the US too, you are very dependent on philanthropy there and have to spend much more time cultivating corporate sponsors than is the case in Europe. It’s OK doing these things, still, you have to be careful what you say and not to offend anybody. One definitely doesn’t want to talk a lot about politics and the arts.

‘But I do think that a Biden presidency would be stronger for the arts. His careful, smart approach would help the economy.

‘And with the coronavirus, this is one of my biggest disappointments: I don’t see in the Trump presidency a big plan to come to terms with the pandemic. That would hurt the country and slow down the recovery and the comeback of the arts. We need to have our society working on improving the arts. It’s a scary time.’ More here.

Any further contributions?


  • Rogerio says:

    The stock market is up. What’s not to like?

    • Rogerio says:

      I can up- or down-vote my own comment. In the early part of the voting process I can subtly influence one side or the other. And then I can also switch my vote to reinforce my manipulation “going foeward”. I call this “Election Tampering”. And it is awesome!

    • Simon says:

      Assuming this isn’t trolling, the stock market =/= the economy. The value of a stock equals its expected discounted future cashflow (i.e., the expected value of future dividends, discounted by the amount of time into the future you have to wait for said dividends). The stock market indices are up because its largest firms (the IT giants Amazon, Google etc.) have increased in importance and are generally very profitable. This benefits shareholders, but not necessarily the wider economy. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that the stock market-real economy disconnect has pernicious effects for labor market outcomes.
      Needless to say, the real economy is not doing so great, and the growth pre-corona was merely a continuation of the trend started in the Obama presidency. I don’t think that presidents have that much of an influence on the economy’s growth rate, but if you want to play that game, Trump isn’t doing great.

      Of course, none of this is taking into account Trump’s disastrous coronavirus policies, locking children in cages, rolling back environmental protections, etc.

    • Smiling Larry says:

      “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.”
      Princess Leia

    • violafan says:


      Remind me, did Mexico pay for the wall?

    • MezzoLover says:

      This is like saying “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” in the face of the increasing social and economic inequality that ultimately led to the French Revolution in 1789.


  • Gustavo says:

    What do composers say?

    “I am indifferent to politics. I am a composer from start to finish. I am satisfied with any government that allows me to write music peacefully, that publishes everything that I am writing before the inks get dry and that performs any note coming out of my pen.”

    – Sergei Prokofiev –

    • Prokofiev fan says:

      Interesting. And how did that work out for Prokofiev? Died the same day as Stalin, under the dictator’s thumb.

      • papageno says:

        True dat. They couldn’t even get Prokofiev’ coffin out of the house because of the throngs of Stalin mourners.

  • Roman says:

    Two world of classical music used to be more politically free in both the UK and the US I believe, mostly because it consists of older people who are not so radical in their views. In corporate world with mostly young employees you were not supposed to express any conservative views or criticism of democrats a long time before Trump. It is definitely differs from corporation to corporation, but I’ve seen people fired for a brief mention that they lean in some questions towards Republicans/Boris Johnson way before Trump came into power.

    • Philomena Phagotto says:

      “…but I’ve seen people fired for a brief mention that they lean in some questions towards Republicans/Boris Johnson way before Trump came into power.”
      I don’t believe that for a second. Maybe it was your own misunderstanding or something, but I don’t believe one mention cost anyone a normal job.

      • GCMP says:

        Really, and this is the best of all possible worlds?
        Why is the election as close as it is? Many Trump supporters are afraid of the left. Plenty of companies want “diversity” and expressing any opinion that might be remotely contrary is grounds for retraining, dismissal, etc.
        And it sounds from Franz Welser-Most that he expects things to go back to “normal” but only because the democrats appear to be winning – I am afraid we will have to judge their actions rather than their words. When they talk of truth and reconciliation commissions, it hardly suggests friendship and bipartisanship and respecting political differences.

      • Firing Back says:

        Fired, probably not.
        Ostracised, definitely.

        Just look on social media at the little woke gaggles – especially among the British music people (musicians, bloggers, journalists, executives, etc).

        They have preachers-in-Chief (I’ll happily give some names if anyone really wants to have a peep…) and a hive of acolytes. No one dares step out of line or else they’re cyber-screamed at and shunned. God forbid anyone speaks in favour of Brexit or the government.

        • V.Lind says:

          Well, having subscribed to The Spectator (I like to read from a diverse range of views, and I read The Guardian because of its accessible website and, until recently, Michael Billingsley) I can tell you that precisely the opposite is true in their BTL comments. On the whole they are far more literate and less shrill than you get in the blogosphere, let alone on US talk radio or Fox, but they are equally ungiving.

          Anyone who ventures a column that I would consider reasonable on one of their bugbears — and the odd columnist occasionally dares, to the credit of Fraser Nelson — is roundly excoriated by the commentariat. Vociferously. And I find it more alarming in clearly educated Englishmen (they are predominantly English, and men) than I do in second-amendment slaverers in the rust belt.

          Whatever else, I had always thought of the English as tolerant and reasonable. I detest wokery, though I do accept that initiatives must be taken to correct the injustices of the past (and in some cases continuing) that have left the imbalances of the present. But I wish people would just grow up. I have long deplored the infantilism built into certain American thinking — best encapsulated by the pretend culture of their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military — but it is disheartening to see it taking on life in the UK, too.

          It is time that the Brexiteers recognised that almost half the country voted against it, and they are not all to be despised. But it is time those people, including opposition parties, accepted that Brexit passed, four years ago, and it will be a fact of life, regret it though they might. Sensible people on both sides can agree that the negotiations have been shambolic, in the hands of successive incompetent governments, and should be looking to use the democratic process to contribute ideas toward a better set of solutions — or shut up.

          It is a very great pity that that is very unlikely to be case in the coming weeks in the US, where half the country is going to start foaming at the mouth, no matter who ends up winning this truly poisoned chalice. I don’t think I am wrong, after having heard the rhetoric from the respective leaderships in the past 48 hours, in thinking one side will do so much more rabidly than the other.

      • Roman says:

        I am talking about Silicone Valley and big tech’s branches in London. If your conservative views are known in the company and you don’t belong to minority yourself, you’re 100% fired. Technically they don’t fire you, but ask you to leave, providing a very decent compensation to be silent, but there is still no option to hold the position. You either leave with a lump sum, or they fire you for poor performance (every manager has a list of fails of each employee just in case). I’ve seen it several times happened to people I worked with and I am talking only about people who were willing to share their stories with me.

        • Nat says:

          I work in Silicon Valley and not only is this totally contrary to my experiences, there are a number of local tech CEOs/luminaries that are either on good terms with conservative luminaries or are themselves Republicans. Perhaps your anecdata simply reflect the fact that people who get fired for cause from jobs with six-figure salaries tend not to be very self-aware.

  • Mark (London) says:

    Well it’s Ohio . Trump lackies

    • Cubs Fan says:

      You might want to check the electoral maps. As is usual in the US, large urban centers voted for Biden. Cleveland sure did. Ohio has had devastating problems with Oxycontin; the Obama/Biden team did nothing to help. Trump has.

  • Singeril says:

    As a musician, one doesn’t dare express conservative beliefs or support for a Republican in the workplace or elsewhere unless they want to find their career greatly curtailed.

    • Firing Back says:

      If one expresses any view outside of the ‘left’ or woke agenda, the shunning by fellow people in the music industry puts the Jehovah’s Witnesses to shame.

      There’s freedom of speech in the music industry – but only as long as you agree with the left hive that shouts the loudest.


  • Papageno says:

    I’m OK with Biden presidency. I just can’t stand the thought of Vice President Kamala Harris.

    • V.Lind says:

      When did anyone last think of a Vice-President? If Biden wins he will be the first Vice-President to assume the presidency — and not immediately subsequent to his term — since LBJ. And he got a non-elected start. As did Truman.

      How happy are you with Mike Pence?

      I reiterate: I doubt that anyone on these two tickets will be on a ticket in 2024.

      • Firing Back says:

        “How happy are you with Mike Pence?”

        The question should be: ‘How happy is “Mother” with Mike Pence?’

        And that’s where it – he, Pence – becomes terrifying.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        “I doubt that anyone on these two tickets will be on a ticket in 2024.”
        You may be right in your prediction, Ms. Lind, but on the other hand, Trump is a fat, old, out-of-shape slob with a bad diet, and Biden, if elected, will be the oldest president in US history.
        “When did anyone last think of a Vice-President?” I have done so a LOT recently.

      • The View from America says:

        “If Biden wins he will be the first Vice-President to assume the presidency — and not immediately subsequent to his term — since LBJ.”

        –> Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, elected president in 1988.

        • BruceB says:

          GHWB was elected right after his term as VP, though.

          As was LBJ, right? He became president upon Kennedy’s assassination, then was elected on his own in 1964.

          So GHWB went from VP to P, but I have no idea when/if anyone did that after skipping a term, the way it looks like Biden will.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Richard Nixon:
            – VP 1953-1961 (President: Dwight Eisenhower)
            – Republican Presidential Candidate 1960, lost to John F Kennedy
            – Elected President 1968, served (…)1969-1974

            Let us hope that Biden’s term will end better. Who knows, maybe Biden will also become a character in an opera.

          • V.Lind says:

            Trump in Saudi Arabia will make for a good musical farce. It did at the time. Remember the crystal ball thing? And Trump “dancing” with a sword? And bowing and scraping? Comedy at every turn.

      • Jake says:

        The last vice president to subsequently become president was George H.W. Bush.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Papageno, when did you start playing dog-whistles instead of Magic Flutes?

    • Bill says:

      “I just can’t stand the thought of Vice President Kamala Harris.”

      Hmmm…I wonder why…

    • Music fan says:

      Based on your name, I assume your male. Nothing frightens a weak man like a strong woman, so I understand your antipathy for Senator Harris.

  • papageno says:

    I remember just after the 2016 election, French cellist Gautier Capuçon played an encore at Walt Disney Concert Hall, “dedicated to Hilary Clinton”, and the whole house clapped.
    Needless to say, he’s on my shieeet list ever since.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    “Democracy lives from the exchange of different opinions.”

    It’s hard to exchange opinions when they are rooted in vastly different sets of facts. I believe misinformation lies at the heart of the current political divisions.

    In personal interactions with Trump supporters, I have repeatedly had stimulating exchanges of opinions outside politics. Sometimes I feel that way in discussions this blog too.

    • William Safford says:

      “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
      –former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      I’ll take what you wrote one step further.

      It’s hard to exchange opinions, when one side’s opinions are based on lies and falsehoods.

      An enormous problem in the United States right now, is the current ascendancy of such lies and falsehoods in the Republican Party, from the President on down.

      The apotheosis of this was when Kellyanne Conway invented the term “alternative facts” several years ago.

      No, they are not alternative facts. They are lies, falsehoods, misrepresentations of the truth.

      We have seen this before in our history. There was the Know Nothing Party in the 1850s, after the collapse of the Whig Party and before the establishment of the original version of the Republican Party:

      A central core of the Know Nothing Party that is happening again in the Republican Party, is the embrace of lies as part of their tribal identity.

      It did not last very long.

      A major problem today, is that lies are profitable. It is the business model of Faux News and other right wing propaganda outlets. Lies have become tremendously profitable, as well as politically powerful.

      I hope that this Know Nothing-ism in the Republican Party can be expunged. It is dangerous for the country and for the world.

      • V.Lind says:

        It’s so bad that Twitter, which allows just about anything, is either marking the Prez’s tweets as inaccurate or blocking them altogether. And network newscasts are cutting in on his unsupported accusations of fraud, not just letting them pass. He is making a bigger fool of himself than usual, and even the republican party is keeping schtumm about his ravings — seeing, perhaps, the way the wind is blowing.

  • For better or worse, most comments here are as ridiculous as those from the Trump supporters here in the US. I guess ignorance and prejudice are equally distributed across the globe, which may be the best we can hope for.

  • Rob says:

    What about the Bitcoin Symphony Orchestra ?

  • Bone says:

    I just hope those darned Trump supporters will stop burning and looting long enough to hold hands and sing Kum Bah Yah with the mostly peaceful protestors.
    And I predict President Biden will do a wonderful job before being shipped off to a retirement facility so Kamala can rework society into a Venezuelan utopia.

    • V.Lind says:

      You people who seem to think the Democratic party is “socialist” understand neither socialism nor American politics.

    • MacroV says:

      In fact the Biden supporters are quite peaceful, while the Trump supporters are carrying guns and shouting, depending on the state of the race in their locality, “Stop the Count” or “Continue the Count!”. Plus “let us in!” though there are party representatives inside the venues and random people off the street have no standing to be let in.

    • William Safford says:

      You think you’re being ironic and sarcastic.

      Yet it is the alt-right and the supporters or the loser orange enemy of the people who are doing the lion’s share of burning, looting–and all the murdering.

      Biden will do the best job that he can under the circumstances. With a Republican-controlled Senate and its obstreperous Republican leader and others who will stonewall every attempt to correct all the evil perpetrated by the Orange Loser and his henchmen for the last four years, Biden has a lot on his plate.

      That is without getting to the pandemic, the right-wing domestic terrorists, the incredible foreign relations messes left behind, and so much more.

      If needed, Vice President Harris will be waiting in the wings. We have not needed to have a Vice President ascend to the Presidency since President Nixon resigned over 45 years ago. We have not needed to have a VP ascend to the Presidency for a death, since President Kennedy was assassinated almost 60 years ago.

      Let’s hope that President Biden completes his term without incident.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I totally agree with you, William.
        (Please allow me to make one small correction in your comment: in the third paragraph, for “obstreperous”, substitute “traitorous”.)

  • MacroV says:

    Back to Cleveland, and a Trump/Biden divide, all I could think of is: Now parents aren’t talking to their children, husbands aren’t talking to their wives, teachers aren’t talking to their former students…

  • William Safford says:

    It is sad that there are members of the Cleveland Orchestra who support the Orange Loser, if for no other reason than the fact that he is anti-u n i o n (except for police u n i o n s–divide and conquer!).