Time for a brief retrospect to a beautiful trip to Freiburg im Breisgau where I attended the initial conference of the recently founded Music Research and Teaching Centre, hosted by Musikhochschule Freiburg and co-organised by University of Freiburg (April 10–12, 2019). The title »Between Ivory Tower and Employability« suggested a topical focus on musicians’ career perspectives, but the event rather turned out to be a self-presentation of interdisciplinary work at the two institutions. This is highly valuable in itself, and I witnessed several impressive lectures, performances, and demonstrations—but a limited perspective and lack of stimuli from outside was also noticeable. In my opinion, the current state of professional music education in Germany suffers from two severe misdevelopments: (1) the extreme difficulty to make a living as an employed or freelance musician, partially caused by the inability (or unreadiness) of universities to help their graduates enter the job market; and (2) the declining educational level and dwindling prospects for domestic applicants, leading to absurdly high rates of international students. Neither of these problems was addressed in the Freiburg conference. The next meeting of this kind clearly requires an open call for contributions, and its range of topics should also investigate and discuss career paths before and after university.
I wrote a few lines on the questionable tendency in classical music journalism to refer to performers as ›geniuses‹ and to conductors as ›maestri‹. Not that anybody asked for my opinion, and I guess that some of you don’t care at all—but that’s exactly why I felt the need to express my uneasiness with that matter. Out now in VAN Magazin. Your thoughts are appreciated.
The latest issue of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (#1 / 2019) features an article and interview by Anna Schürmer on the relationship of social media and contemporary music, with noteworthy statements by Moritz Eggert, Johannes Kreidler, Irene Kurka, and Martin Tchiba, and also including a few thoughts on digital communication and publication from my humble perspective. Thanks for providing the platform!
The recent press coverage of Daniel Barenboim‘s leadership style is somewhat surprising to me. An article in VAN Magazin implicitly claims to reveal truths or new ›insights‹ into Berlin’s classical music scene, while other commenters play down the issue, purport that the discussion has only just begun, or even defend Barenboim in the sense of an outdated cult of genius. However, I am pretty sure that anybody involved with Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Staatskapelle Berlin, or Barenboim-Said Akademie could tell similar stories as anonymously reported in VAN. It is obvious here that somebody possesses too much power—but the main problem is not Barenboim himself but the system that empowered him, provided him with enormous amounts of money, paid court to him for decades, and allowed him to take control of three public institutions. Barenboim must doubtlessly be blamed for creating suppressive working conditions and for establishing feudalistic structures in his environment. Still, the responsibility for these maldevelopments lies with the German government and Berlin Senate who continue to afford an alleged world-class conductor at any cost, as a beacon figure to make the Staatsoper great again. The current criticism seems fair enough, but is pointless as long as large parts of Berlin’s cultural politics hinge so much on Barenboim. His case is only a symptom of the corrupted classical music business which appears, in institutions as well as in education, essentially based on hierarchy, authority, and exercise of power.