Friday, February 01, 2008

Budget Cuts

Tim Rutherford-Johnson has a post on budget cuts by the Arts Council England. I am not familiar with the situation in England in any detail, but it is possible to recognize patterns that appear to be true across borders, and funding reductions for the arts are as global a phenomena as any:
  • the cuts are made first to the younger and more innovative groups; they affect musicians with the least institutional pull first;
  • working musicians -- ensemble players -- are greatly disadvantaged in comparison with the international class of name soloists and conductors;
  • and when the cuts are announced, the last voices in protest to be heard, if at all, are far too often those from the most select class.
Mr Rutherford-Johnson notes that musicians tend to be quiet rather than to protest, and offers the example of prominent theatre people who have taken a public stand against the cuts. Unfortunately, the source of this relative silence can largely be located in the very character of the working musicians' job -- you work hard, intensely, and steadily, often to exhaustion, and often in rather submissive ensemble and institutional environments, and most working musicians are, by temperament, invested in the essentially conservative act of cultivating a repertoire. When your lifestyle is wrapped up in such an environment, rocking the boat and risking significant change usually takes second place to paying the mortgage, even if the bite of that mortgage is ever-larger and the amount of work demanded from you increases, steadily indenturing yourself evermore into the system. People in the theatre (leaving film and TV out of this), in contrast, have the ironic advantage of working in a far less steady environment with fewer repertoire positions available to assure a steady income for the working actor. The next show is always uncertain and the last one may always be the very last one, so they have less to risk in raising their voices.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting angle, Daniel. That might also cover why relatively 'continuous' ensembles (like the City of London Sinfonia and the London Mozart Players) have been relatively quiet, but an umbrella organisation of musicians who live from one gig to the next, like the London Musicians' Collective, have been more vocal.