One law for sport, another for culture

One law for sport, another for culture

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

July 08, 2021

Reader’s Comment of the Day comes from a working musician:

It’s slightly reassuring that our hapless Government are not the only ones allowing football over concerts.

It is unacceptably frustrating to see this last few weeks, sports fans flouting social distancing and at football matches behaving in a loutish disrespectful manner with no masks or consideration for others as they watch the matches, in pubs or at the stadiums. Wimbledon is a bit more civilised in audience behaviour, but they too are observed flouting social distance rules and most don’t even bother masking up anymore yet sit immediately next to strangers.

So why are they allowed to flout the expectations and stay safe, yet concerts (some outdoors as well) and theatre performances are not being allowed to take place…?

So sad to see culture and entertainment frowned about and considered unimportant, with a preference to sport.
Clearly one rule for sport and another totally opposite one for culture.

Mind you, when you look at the culturally ignorant people currently leading our country and learn that they prefer sport over culture, (except for the occasional appearance at an opera to be seen as cultured), many of us are questioning why they were voted into government. They have certainly disgracefully let down performers in this country, and that’s before you look at how they financially ignored the majority of jobbing musicians…




  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    It is very confusing. However, how many if them will be ill in the next ten days?

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      But how ‘ill’ will they be? Probably no more than the hangover they have this morning!

      • Amos says:

        Have you been following the scientific studies relating to the increased infectivity and disease-severity of the latest widely disseminated variant? Currently hospital ICUs in US communities with low % of vaccinated populations, like SW Missouri, are again at full capacity. Given your comments below I assume you haven’t and couldn’t care less.

        • Saxon says:

          “increased infectivity…”

          Um. We really don’t know if the “increased infectivity” is because the variant is more infectious or because people are mixing more than before (rather likely). There is no particular evidence that it has more severity.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    I suspect that there is nothing stopping cultural institutions in ‘turning a blind eye’ to its audience not observing the rules. In much the same way that Sport has or appears to be doing to its spectators. The difference being as well that ‘culture’ takes place indoors and ‘sport’ outdoors. Also, the age demographic is somewhat different.

    It has nothing to do with the philistinism of the authorities, more that after 15 months of indoor inactivity doing what comes naturally comes naturally. For the ‘cultured’ the ‘fright factor’ as witnessed elsewhere here will mean that the return to how things were will be slower, if they ever do return.

    As Roosevelt said in a different context “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” and understandable as individual concerns about personal health are with Covid now a fact of life and, in extreme cases death, we either take responsibilty for our own exposure to it or everyone continues to shield. Clearly, the young, and the ‘uncultured’ are finding this more onerous than others and who is to say that they are in any way wrong. Feel uncomfortable or threatened outside, then don’t go out but those that don’t should not be denied the option.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The most important difference is between outdoor and indoor activities. Infection takes place mostly through aerosols in closed, badly-ventilated spaces. So, if concert halls are ventilated correctly, and people get their jabs, there should be no problem with normalization of concert life.

  • Gustavo says:

    “Panem et circenses”

    Sport and culture simply have nothing in common.

    Sport, especially football, is a physical substitute war that is designed for the mob and is intended to satisfy the masses, not the individual. That is why it is highly attractive for politicians and investors to use it as a propaganda platform.

    Culture, on the other hand, is diverse and individual. It is too complex and diverse to be used by politicians as a powerful propaganda platform – unless you eliminate diversity in culture (as Hitler and Stalin did).

    Even the restriction of the number of spectators to 6000 in the Arena di Verona seems unfair compared to what we saw yesterday in London.

    But let’s stay confident, because culture is something very individual and fulfilling, while football has no meaning at all, and every achievement sinks into absolute insignificance if you turn to those aspects of life that really count.

  • IC225 says:

    “when you look at the culturally ignorant people currently leading our country”

    Boris Johnson literally commissioned a chamber work from Hans Werner Henze.

    • Albion says:

      Who knows, Mr Johnson may appreciate music as one of the finer things in life, like fine dining and soft clothes, he may symbolically grant it even more value, but music to him is not a fundamental value of life itself, it does not impact how he lives. Hence he is not cultured, just affected. There is no affinity between the energy that moves opus 131 and the kind of phenomena that manifests itself as Bojo. It is a superficial niceness, culture without, no culture within, a pretension the english perfected long ago.

      • henry williams says:

        it was good when we had heath as leader he liked music.

      • V.Lind says:

        I think his affectation is that of a bumbling shambles, given that he took an upper second in Classics at Balliol (and would probably have earned a first if he had not been so busy being a lazy bon vivant).

        I have no doubt about his culture, just about his competence and commitment and principles. I suspect he always wanted to be PM, but not to actually do the job. I also suspect that he will last through Glasgow — this is what his wife is after — and then quietly start the moves toward an exit.

      • Maggs says:

        Just because a lot of people dont care for classical music,the theatre and ballet doesnt make us morons any more than going to a football match makes us thugs and hoologans

        • Albion says:

          Ballet & Theatre are not that important, Music is essential. Not caring for it doesn’t make you a thug or a hooligan, but it means that you are boring. If most men didn’t have to work, they would die of boredom. The world isn’t plagued by thugs and hooligans, but by men who are bored, or boring, or both. Ernst Curtius put it this way: “the greatest enemy of moral and social advance is dullness and narrowness of consciousness, to which antisocial feelings of every kind contribute as powerfully as does indolence of thought, that is, the principle of the least possible expenditure of energy (vis inertiae).”

          • V.Lind says:

            I think you may find that the solution to “moral and social advance” has been achieved through theatre occasionally. From Sophocles through Shakespeare to Brecht to Osborne to Athol Fugard.

            Your condescension toward ballet and theatre is repellent. And if music on its own succeeds in making men not dull, why are there so very many closed and limited minds on evidence in any lively argument around here?

            You don’t have to sneer at other arts to justify your commitment to the greatness of music. All it suggests is a lack of familiarity with them.

          • Albion says:

            No sneer intended, forgive the language, I had a headache and felt misanthropic. I don’t know if any form of art advanced society. I think it’s very unlikely that Bach or Shakespeare or Michelangelo could ever make the world morally better. However, I think Shakespeare, & Beckett, & Moliere, & Ibsen, are better read than they are performed, because how else can you take in all they have to say? As for Ballet, I admit I don’t know what to do with it – I enjoy it as it happens, but what remains after? But I think it might be important just for this reason, in the conventional sense of art as something perfectly useless. But there is the other convention, where life imitates art. In this sense, Ballet is limited. Plus I might be a philistine because I often think the Nutcracker is sublime, and doesn’t compares badly at all to the Goldberg variations, either way it is the music I love, the dancing never seems essential, it always feels symbolic to me. When I said that Ballet & Theatre is not that important, I mean that life would be much less without Bach or Beethoven, but it wouldn’t be so bad without Ballet. Am I wrong? No sneering, just the sense that some art forms are even more valuable than others.

            And I definitley don’t imply that good music makes dull men any less dull. I don’t know if any cure exists. What I was implying is that the root of bad taste is dullness. Nothing more.

          • V.Lind says:

            The convention actually being that art imitates (and presumably elevates) life, I think you will find that more people move than even sing. If you look at dance as elevating, encapsulating, interpreting, people’s movement, you might see it differently.

            And if you want to see essential ballet, find a good, classical Giselle. (Not some Akram Khan or Scandinavian reinterpretation, valid and interesting thought they might be as modern dance). Act II of Giselle is one of the most transporting things I have ever experienced on a stage. I literally can’t get enough of it.

            And if you can find the Royal Ballet doing a revival of Ashton’s thing built on Satie’s Gymnopédies — it’s (the ballet) an abstract trio — you will see one of the most perfect marriages of music and dance ever. Sorry, I can’t offhand recall what he called it.

          • Albion says:

            Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll investigate. I actually wish that Bach’s Cantatas could be made into ballets.

            As for the relation between Life and Art, I was thinking more of Oscar Wilde than Aristotle.

          • V.Lind says:

            I’m sure you will find plenty Giselles online.

            The Ashton piece is called Monotones. The best of it is Monotones II but it is not long in its entirety and of course the music is sublime. (I am also partial to the Adam music of Giselle, though that is definitely coloured by the ballet).

            Happy viewing.

  • Brian says:

    It’s much the same here in the U.S. Sporting events (especially in the South) have been packing them in for months while orchestras have been taking the slow and cautious route.

    Clearly the officials at Wimbledom are looking the other way when they specify 50% or 60% attendance, then everyone moves down to the seats on the lower levels.

    What I don’t get is, aren’t people concerned about their own health?

    • operacentric says:

      No, because they don’t imagine they will catch it, and, if they do, that’s it’s no more than a cold for a few days.

    • Saxon says:

      “aren’t people concerned about their own health?”

      Not really, most people have understood that the risks are pretty small.

  • Barry says:

    Following in the footsteps of one set of rules for protestors and rioters and another for people wishing to attend religious services in some states and municipalities here in the U.S.

  • Karl says:

    The audience for sports is much younger and less vulnerable to covid that the classical music audience. In any case the law should be the same for everyone : FREEDOM.

    • Saxon says:

      That isn’t really true. The audience for sport is increasingly older people with leisure time and disposable income (the young and poor have been priced out of lots of elite sport).

  • Joyce W says:

    This is not happening in UK only but in other countries as well. Culture is simply not a necessity for most people. And can you honestly think that in a world where teenagers’ concentration lasts for max. 1-minute TikTok videos that anyone will want to attend classical concerts or operas in the future? I switched my profession from music to software development during corona and I’m much better off now. Music is a nice hobby but horrible profession

    • Cyber says:

      Curious about the career change, were you interested / experienced in software development before? I’ve considered it. My reservations were about the mentality it would take to be successful in software design, I mean the commitment to the kind of problems specific to programming, I thought you would really have to enjoy solving those kinds of problems to gain proficiency. I doubted I would.

      • Joyce W says:

        Programming is way more easier and less time-consuming than becoming a professional musician. It’s also way more lucrative, and you’re constantly creating something new and shaping the world. Even before covid-19 I realized that even though the classical music repertoire is huge, the repertoire we actually perform is quite small. Pianists always play Beethoven sonatas, orchestras play Mahler cycles and Tchaikovsky 4,5&6, opera houses play Carmen and Boheme. If you get a job in an opera house and hope to play the ”Ring”, you might have to wait for 30 years for the opportunity. If you honestly can say that you enjoy playing Carmen & Nutcracker for the next 30 years or Mahler&Beethoven cycles, then music profession is for you. If not, create something that the majority of humans actually have use for, and earn some good coin with it.

  • Bill says:

    I don’t think it’s that confusing. It’s just voter bases. A lot more of the football crowd are part of the Brexit and Tory working-class base. A good number of musicians are more on the left wing. They’re not voting Conservative anyway, so why bother taking care of them?

    But after the lockdown and mask resentments, ‘banning the Euros’ would be political suicide – better to let them get on with it and hope for a big old happy victory to distract from the death statistics and the corruption.

    And all of England’s games have been at home this year, with all the advantages that come with it. How serendipitous!

    • V.Lind says:

      I think you will find England won a big match in Rome last week…God, you people. For music fans, you really don’t know the score.

    • Saxon says:

      Uefa also threatened to move the football matches to Budapest if the crowds were excluded. The government capitulated when the threat was made.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Of course, to prevent unfair treatment, best is to reduce the difference between the two entertainment industries:

  • Miko says:

    As a musician myself, I’m astounded you’re only “questioning why they were voted into Government” based on their approach to the arts.
    Can’t you smell fascism, or doesn’t it particularly bother you?

  • Baffled in Buffalo says:

    I attended a NY Philharmonic concert at which one of the orgiastic major pieces of Scriabin’s, um, maturity was performed–either Le Divin Poeme or La Poeme de l’extase, and about one second after it ended someone let loose a wild, very loud “YEE-HAW!”… I mention it here because it merged the world of circus/sport and concert hall; and also fits the recent theme of what may or may not be appropriate just after a musical performance is over. Here though I don’t think any audience member would think that the expression of the demonstrative person ran counter to the particular spell of the piece. / Re that “don’t break the spell” theme, I very much appreciate someone’s insight that European feelings are divergent from those of Americans–for as an American I was puzzled by the notion that delayed applause after certain pieces was ‘obvious’ etiquette. I had only known of Wagner’s wish for NO applause after Parsifal. / Thank you John B. for the video of the PDQ Bach Beethoven’s 5th sportscast. I had previously known only the audio. I agree it’s very, very funny (and I’m glad there’s _something_ we agree on

  • fflambeau says:

    The photo is striking: all white men, many older. Probably most on alcohol.

  • MRogers says:

    Masks are useless and only cause harm. People are dying from the vaccines, like my neighbor, not covid.