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August 18, 2012 / C. J. Sperling

Pussy Riot: Classical Silence

As Norman Lebrecht points out on Slipped Disc, concerning the dictator style persecution of punk-feminist band Pussy Riot in Moscow: “From the classical music community, not a peep has been heard”.

That’s an utter shame for a community that oh so often talks about “humanity”, “higher values” etc. pp.

Is such talk only done when nothing of importance is at stake? Is such talk avoided if some of the 1%, or politicians, or churches, could feel offended? Are those values applied selectively? If yes, on which criteria?

Many classical musicians seem to have lost all connection to the people. Which is somewhat ironic, as it’s the people who pay them – directly through tickets, indirectly through tax-funded subsidies. Wonder why public funding becomes harder and harder to get? Wonder why classical music loses relevance?

Mozart, living in imperial Vienna, chose Beaumarchais’ Figaro text for his opera. Does any classical singer nowadays think of the risk Mozart put himself in when he connected his name to lines like “Will der Herr Graf / ein Tänzchen mit mir wagen”? That’s roughly what those brave musicians dared. And what seemingly no currently known classical singer feels like supporting even by word, ’cause, y’know – he/she might lose some gigs. So: what do classical singers sing when they sing Figaro? What do they feel? Same about conductors and directors: what do they interpret? What do opera lovers hear? What do critics write about? What do they all pretend?

In the trial, a member of the band wore a t-shirt that featured the words “¡NO PASARÁN!”. Which known classical musician of our times is standing by his – our – values to such a level?

In our times, moral values are not defended by classical music, but by non-classical. At least when something important is at stake. And when it’s about one’s own country and not within the state-granted jester’s license of art.

It’s a shame.

Not only for Russia.

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PS – Recommended video: “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters. (Not aimed at classical musicians, FYIO)

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PPS – to get a grasp of just how big the difference of classical vs. non-classical artists is, here’s a list of some prominent non-classical Pussy Riot supporters: Kate Nash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Cornershop, Faith No More, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, Patti Smith, The Beastie Boys, Refused, Zola Jesus, Die Antwoord, Jarvis Cocker, Pete Townshend, The Joy Formidable, Peaches, Madonna, Genesis, Tegan and Sara, Johnny Marr, Courtney Love, Iiro Rantala, Propagandhi, Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Corinne Bailey Rae, Peter Hammill, Kathleen Hanna, Björk, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono.

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