Art and Oppression; and Bringing Classical Music to the Masses
Over at The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia eloquently discusses how art is affected by oppression:
Great art flourishes when people are free – when they are permitted to tap into the Godspark that resides within them, and this is true, even if they must work within some sort of guideline or restriction. Sometimes it is the restriction, itself, that helps to open floodgates of greatness. Camille Paglia once said (paraphrasing from memory, again) that homosexual artists were never as productive, creative or subversively great as they were when they were in the closet; once out, art suffered with a flatness and lack of urgency or energy. In Rome, one finds evidence, everywhere, of passionate, creative genius unleashed down the centuries both in service to and sometimes contra the restrictive Catholic Church, which may have had prudish ideas, but still encouraged and patronized art, often for art’s sake – but always with some sort of accountability.
When people are free, they create art. When they must operate within some stricture, or have accountability, the art still flourishes; often the demands of accountability help art to answer something, respond to something, direct itself.
Art only dies when the human spirit has been subjugated and trampled on, and submission has become a second-nature.
This strikes me as a more promising route for symphonies working to broaden their audience: rather than expect conductors to be eloquent thinkers, invite members of the community to discuss the music to be performed. Heaven knows there are plenty of expatriates in Washington who could speak perceptively about the oppressive conditions faced by Dmitri Shostakovich.