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The election in Britain and why it's relevant for musicians

If you haven't been following the British election, you should be.  It has a become a fascinating and unexpected event where, it appears, social changes long brewing and often talked about are finally becoming manifest.

Paul Mason's analysis on his BBC blog hits the nail on the head, and points up why as I musician I've taken keen interest in this election:

Those who wonder whether the social media will "affect the outcome" of the election are asking the wrong question. It is affecting the outcome of everything, from having an idea, buying a pair of jeans or going on a date.

He uses a tech distinction as metaphor to explain why the political and financial powers-that-be in England (as in the U.S.) are utterly baffled by giant social changes they somehow never saw coming:

The more I think about this, the more I come to this conclusion. It's people with Blackberrys who don't get it.  They've had privileged access to high-speed transglobal comms for the best part of a decade but they have never downloaded an app....People with iPhones get it; young people looking at very limited job prospects get it.

This, to me, is of a piece with the American RIAA and MPAA nearly destroying their own industries and massively alienating people due to their inability to fundamentally comprehend why and how the world is changing around them. (All those mega-aggressive file-sharing lawsuits from the RIAA?  Trying to put the genie back in the bottle.)

As a musician, the relevance for me is in paying attention to and understanding these social changes.  For instance: people, not corporations or other institutions, now have substantial control over content creation and distribution.  Think about that for a minute, just that one observation.  The implications could not be more fundamental, and represent a vast difference from the cultural world we left behind in the 20th century. 

To give another nod to Jack Delaney, from Dustin's post below: "The presenters have a responsibility to meet people where they are.  And where they are is...looking for a relevant experience.  They're not looking for the same kind of concert experience that their parents and grandparents went to."  Nor are they looking for the same kinds of leaders, the same kinds of solutions to problems, and etc. etc.  My sense is that, as a musician, one can either acknowledge, be aware of, learn about, and engage with these changes (which I find to be great fun, incidentally), or not--but neither response will alter the reality of them.

Just ask the Tories and Labour in Britain, who suddenly face the reality of having to split the pie more than two ways.



Good programs: Wind Ensemble jukebox

Jack Delaney, conductor of the Meadows Wind Ensemble (and a mentor of mine), is going to let the audience pick which pieces they want to hear on the next MWE concert (via Art and Seek).  It's a novel experiment that will immediately engage the audience, and connect them to the players and the music in a new way.  Also impressive are Delaney's comments regarding the need to change the concert experience.

"You know, we can stay in the ivory tower and be snobs and say that all those people that don't come to our shows don't get it.  That's arrogant and stupid.  The presenters have a responsibility to meet people where they are.  And where they are is really, really sophisticated, really, really bright, technologically savvy and looking for a relevant experience.  They're not looking for the same kind of concert experience that their parents and grandparents went to."

This kind of thinking is rare in academia (as rare as the arrogance Delaney mentions is prevalent), which is tragic because when today's music students graduate they will enter a world where concert music is largely irrelevant.  Why shouldn't they be equipped with, or at the very least exposed to, the tools and ideas needed to tackle that problem?