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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I Wish You Rieu!

I was spending an evening in front of the television and ended up watching AndrĂ© Rieu's jubilee concert at the central 'Vrijthof' square in Maastricht. A spectacle, as usual - a child prodigy, a soprano singing higher than high, three male singers singing louder than loud, a Ukrainian-Russian ensemble piece in order to propagate peace, a laser show, animations on enormous screens behind the stage, confetti showers, two past and one present town mayor, Rieu dancing with a hundred years old nun  - all the ingredients were there to make the jubilee a jubilee as we televise jubilees nowadays.

I wrote about Rieu earlier in this blog (for example here and here), trying to make clear that I admire the man although what he does is not necessarily my taste. While sitting in front of the telly I again enjoyed watching the show. Of course also because I studied in Maastricht, so looking at the audience and hearing Rieu speak the local dialect took me back to the years when I was around twenty years old and tried to figure out how to live an independent life at the other end of the country amidst total strangers. Recollections of all kinds, happy ones and less happy ones, as things go, if only because at least one class mate and one good friend have past away in the meantime. Would they have liked the Rieu concert? I'll never know, I guess - but you never know.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Market Failure Argument

I was at the Arts Council Groningen this week, to talk a bit about their role in arts funding. I had decided some time ago that I would not meddle into cultural policy making any more, but what is meddling? They asked me to tell a story, and as I love telling stories, I accepted.

As usually I tried to make the point that arts funding policy should look at a more inclusive way towards everyday life out there in the ordinary life world. Arts funding policy is, due to traditions, unnecessary exclusive. Decision making, for example, is often exclusively in the hands of a very homogeneous group of 'insider specialists'.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dr. Jan and Mr. Raes

The directors of the Concertgebouw Orchestra are called Jan Raes.

One of them, Jan Raes, was a member of a small committee who wrote a report for the Ministry of Education about music education in primary schools. On the basis of that report, the ministry decided to invest 25 million euros in music education the next few years.

Jan Raes and his committee wrote in the report: "The snowball lies on top of the mountain, it just needs a little push". With this rather idiot metaphor Jan Raes meant that music education was really developing well those past few years and only needed a bit of money to get into excellent shape again.

A couple of weeks later, the other director, Jan Raes, published with his nine fellow-directors of the Dutch symphony orchestras a report on the future of the orchestras. In that report, he sketches a grim picture of music education in primary schools: it has nearly vanished. In this report, the other Jan Raes mentions the 25 million euros from the ministry not as the final little push in order to get music education in primary schools back to excellency, but as a first beginning to revive music education.

I wish I could witness the discussions between Jan Raes and Jan Raes after they found out how they differed in their estimation of music education in primary education."We're nearly there, you fool!", bellows Dr. Jan. "Not at all - it is nearly extinct", shrieks Mr. Raes. After which they start throwing snowballs at each other from the tops of their respective mountains.

In the meantime, the poor education officer of the Concertgebouw Orchestra witnesses this raging war between Jan Raes and Jan Raes, and no doubt wonders which one to believe. I don't envy her position.