Listen with our heads or with our ears?

Reply to a thread at SD blog:

With all due respect, trying to instruct anybody in what to think about the MO based on the statements of ‘critics’ is called an ‘appeal to authority.’ That is a fallacy of logic.

In addition, such statements beg the question that the MO PR does have a tendency to try to tell people what to think about the orchestra. It is almost as though they want everyone to listen with their heads rather than with their ears.

Are there elephants in the room?

As I find myself musing over the strange circumstances of the MO/SPCO in the Twin Cities, puzzled by the circular logic proponents of both sides seem to be following, I can’t help but wonder what is missing?  I alluded to this in an earlier post on the Slipped Disc blog, asking if there seemed to be some sort of hidden agenda in place in the workings of the MO stalemate.  Although I stated that I hoped I was mistaken, one response pretty much challenged me to ‘put up or shut up.’  So I decided to think things through some more.  

I devised a worse-case scenario for a hidden agenda.  In this fictitious situation Management and the Board would be working in collusion with the director to humble the players and force them to take pay cuts while retaining their much bigger salaries.  In this scenario the conductor would step aside, as tradition has them do, and wait for Management and a lockout to break the backs of the players.  In the case of the MO, one previous conductor said that this was a good orchestra for players ‘on the way up or on the way down.’  With the current roster, and stipulating that there is any merit in the statement, some of them, with all due respect, have managed to do both.  So, in a dog-eat-dog business-world type of scenario, the objective would be to cull the orchestra of all the spoiled and ungrateful older players who would, when pressed, feel they had no alternative but to stage a revolt.  By doing so, campaigning, even performing, and generally creating a rucus trying to conjure up sympathy for the players, it would be very easy for Management to compile a list of names of those who would be given buyouts if and when they were to return.  

However, in the actual case of the MO, the director took an unprecedented step and wrote a letter to the Board and Musicians on behalf of the players, expressing his personal distress at watching ten years of his and their hard work going up in smoke.  Was this done in collusion with Management?  Unlikely, as their response has been a sort of verbal ‘gulp’ and then an attempt to spin the letter in their favor.  

So everything remains at a stalemate, for the moment anyhow.  We all know this will have an ending that will be spun as ‘happy’, whether it actually is or not.  There is a newly-renovated hall to fill later in the year, for one thing.  But in the meantime, in this haitus between times of being told what to think about the MO (as opposed to actually listening for ourselves), might we not ask if there are major changes in the music environment, going far beyond what we are currently experiencing in the TC?  In short, are there elephants in the room?

I could not resist…

Reply to the Mary’s statement at the Song of the Lark blog:

Mary said:
“They [mgt] needs to take a good hard look at the Strategic Business Plan. Is it a Vision for a Sound Future? We all want the Minnesota Orchestra back on stage and performing. We need a plan that will get us there and keep us there.”

Good point, raising an equally good question — if management is not implementing the Vision for a Sound Future, which should result in a plan to keep the MO in working order and moving forward, then what is it doing? What, or whose, agenda are they following? Maestro Vanska has expressed his deep dismay at the affairs as they now stand in his dramatic letter a few days ago. How can they say they are following his vision if he has been put in such a difficult position by them? Will he be the next casualty of a hidden agenda? I certainly hope not.

And now for the affairs of the day…

The Minnesota Orchestra players are in lockout.  The situation seems to be stagnant.  Management is demanding that the players come up with a counteroffer– the players insist that they need for information in order to do that.

But up steps Maestro Osmo Vanska, who has remained on the sidelines all this time, as the director traditionally does.  He has written a letter to the Board and the Players that clearly defines the effect that this situation has had on him and his hopes for the future:

Is this a brave an courageous act, or is he just throwing himself on the pyre?  Is this bringing clarification to this complex situation, or just adding to the confusion?

Who is actually running this orchestra?  If the Board chooses not to give Maestro Vanska, whose vision they are (one would think) responsible for maintaining, what will happen next?  

Are we hearing the sounds of an orchestra imploding?  I hope not.

A Bad Case of Mahleria :-0

While I thought I would be posting today about the very stressful lockout situation in the Twin Cities, I find that I am unable to move forward without sharing a somewhat eccentric (among the general public) musical event that takes place at least every winter in my life.  I am not originally from Minnesota, and the winters here are brutal and hard to bear.  Even worse, they can last for months and months.  So I have to develop strategies for coping with the day-to-day grind of just getting around.  Of course, I do that with music.  It is inevitably Mahler.

Some time ago, after I had spent a few weeks being driven around the Austrian Alps in winter, I realized that it was one thing to grit my teeth, wrap my scarf around my neck and forge out into the frigid air; it was quite another to think of myself as an Austrian princess, sitting in a silver Mercedes, being chauffeured around the beautiful mountain roads and passes.  And, of course, what other music would one listen to, but Mahler, who loved Austria and its beauty so very much.  So, this is a zone that I go into, and it makes the time fly as I am having dirty mud thrown up onto the windshield by passing trucks.  It always works.  I emerge at my destination as calm and refreshed as though I had been the passenger, with nothing better to do than listen to the exquisite sounds of Mahler’s music and stare at the beautiful countryside.  Well, Minnesota doesn’t have mountains.  But that is another story.  At times, when the clouds are just right, it is easy to imagine that they are the snow-tipped Alps, beconing in the distance.  I know; I’m desperate.  Just bear with me.

Well, as the weather has begun to change, and although autumn is still doggedly hanging on this year, I have already begun my annual Mahler immersion.  Today, I listened to the M8, Tennstedt, London. It is still going through my head, hours later.

And so, for the next six months or so, I will sink myself daily into another of Mahler’s creations.  Some I have memorized, or pretty much so, such as the M4 and M5, so that makes them somewhat trite.  I will listen to them one movement at a time, or intersperse movements from other symphonies.  But the magic is always there.

If there is an evil force in the world, and I believe their is, Mahler has managed to accept it, confront it, and use it in his music.  His music goes from the most silly and ridiculous marches and wails that you can possibly imagine to the most exhausting and extraordinary joy.

So, I’ve been accused of being part of a Mahler cult, who disrupts normal conversations with comments about what I’ve been listening to, or how one orchestra is so much better at playing Mahler than another.  But I can sincerely say that I doubt that appreciation of Mahler’s music, no matter how loud or enthusiastic, is cultish — but I can definitely say that I seem to have a chronic and incurable case of Mahleria…

I promised myself I’d remain quiet…

As the numerous issues regarding the Minnesota Orchestra lockout and it’s players have been argued and discussed online, I assured myself that I have way too much on my plate to spend any time posting to the discussion.  However, in spite of that good intention, I have found myself doing just that.  It has occurred to me that my viewpoint may be of some value in this strange and uncomfortable process that is occurring.  I could also be wrong.  We’ll see…

An breath of fresh air, speaking out about some tangential things connected to the Mo-lockout