by Alan Fletcher
Composer, commentator, President and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School
Recent catastrophes like the lockouts in Minnesota and Atlanta at least brought to the fore questions about how to fund these organizations, what can be cut and what can't be cut, what one community can manage (rather than a cookie-cutter approach), what a community needs and thus will stretch for.
When I hear that classical music and its cousins in other arts are endangered because they haven't recognized that no one wants a formal, intense, sustained experience of concentration -- on anything! -- I am reminded of a hoary business school case study. I think the company was Procter and Gamble. The issue was a study showing that, say, 80 percent of all householders prefer high-suds detergent. Clearly, to stay alive, manufacturers had to have more and more high-suds products. Statistics proved that success depends on making only high-suds things. But the case study proposed that, while the whole world runs after the high-suds market, a great idea would be to champion low-suds soap for the 20 percent who will buy it.
I think, in an age of sound bites, tweets, ill-informed criticism, multi-tasking, and ever-decreasing attention spans, that an art form that stands instead for deep listening, repeated engagement, willingness to risk the experimental, recognition that to be prepared and thoughtful is a precious and rewarding thing -- that art form may prove, as it has for many centuries, very lively and hardy. And enduring.