Monday, December 22, 2008

Your Opinion, Please

You may or may not have noticed that I am fond of polls. (If you haven't, please check to make sure that all lobes of your brain are in their full upright and locked positions.) I like writing them. I like voting in them. I like reading the results (vote, damn it!). In college, I won two penny-ante gift certificates to a mediocre local restaurant by voting compulsively in the (dull as a comatose actuary) online poll sponsored by the college development office. Those two bagelwiches changed my life.

Seriously, though, there is something profoundly reassuring about polls. They dice the world into neat little bite-size pieces. They elucidate your options. They allow you the luxury of making a choice without the pain or inconvenience of its consequences. Polls are decision-making lite: all the taste, none of the calories.

So I couldn't help but pay attention when I spotted the poll on local musical talent in the Indy Star's online cultural section. Apparently, 23% of internet readers think Indy is a rock 'n roll city. 22% think the indie rock scene is the best. A mere 2% opt for folk music. Eight categories were listed in all. Classical music was not one of them.

Are you surprised?

*Get to the point

I wasn't surprised. The fact of the matter is that no one listens to classical music. At least, no one capable of using a mouse. The only people under 40 I ever see at classical music concerts these days are people who would rather be playing it.

Then there's the advertisement I saw on the back of a theater program this weekend. Sponsored by Citizen's Gas, it shows a spunky little girl in a hat posed beside the following text: Lady Macbeth. First Chair. Lucia di Lammermoor. Prima Donna. Painter. Poet. President. With the support of Citizen's Gas, in other words, this little girl could fulfill any artistic dream (I fail to see how natural gas facilitates one's operatic career, but perhaps this is dull-wittedness on my part.) Nowhere on the advertisement is there any mention of who will be watching or reading or listening or buying the output of our heroine.

Is it just me, or is something ugly underway here? No one reads anymore, but everyone writes. No one buys art, but everyone paints. No one buys tickets to the symphony, yet music schools churn out a thousand wanna-be french horn players every year.

Of course, I have two music degrees and a blog, so I'm not really in a position to condemn. Still, why isn't "audience member" included on that little girl's list of dreams? Who does she think is going to come see her sing or honk or emote or read or splatter paint on canvas? Are we so deep in the thrall of ourselves that we no longer value the arts -and arts they are- of reading, watching, listening, sitting still?

*I am all the audience I need
*I am my own Grandpa
*Wanna hear my bassoon solo?


Jaya said...

Natural gas-powered buses get me to my gigs. They may not be my dream gigs, but it's a start. (My dream gig does not involve buses.)

Anonymous said...

Everybody writes? Nah, just the people you know.

Everybody paints? Nobody I know. Nobody buys art? Business is actually up at my mom's gallery this year.

No one buys tickets to the symphony? What?!

Do you honestly think there is no audience for any of this stuff? You need to get out more.

You might huffily reply that you said nobody under 40. Whatever... I had a lot of trouble reading this because you never say what you mean. I'm not sure what your thesis is. You hint at a lot of ideas that would take much more work to explicitly unpack. Some of them might be worth exploring, but you'll likely run into epistemological problems with the limits of your own knowledge before you reach any meaningful conclusions.

Or, you could continue with these broad strokes, making sweeping generalizations about social trends that say more about your flawed perspective then they do about society.

Usually I avoid commenting on blogs because it annoys the authors and causes them to change the comment settings. Specifically, girls with blogs who majored in creative writing. But, you asked for my opinion.

Anne said...

Ah, but the beauty of the blog is that you don't have to explicitly unpack your ideas. You can simply pull them out of your suitcase and go lounge around by the pool.