A Comparison of European
and American Arts Journalism
July 23, 2005
is interesting that the stated focus of this collective blog was to compare
American and European journalism, and that almost no one said much about that.
The first problem is the Anglo-American orientation.
Not a single critic from the continent was included.
This is ironic because both
have 23 times more full-time, year-round orchestras per capita than the
, and about 28 times more opera houses.
numbers create some astounding results. In
any given week, there are probably more orchestral and opera performances in
than the rest of the world put together. So
why leave them out of this discussion? The French government spends more per
capita on culture than any other country in the world.
, with a population of only 5 million, is a dominant force in the world of
list of examples could go on and on.
Anglo-American orientation of the blog creates a kind of WASP provincialism that
seems to characterize the demographics of American classical music.
do not think European music journalism has higher standards than
’s, but there are contextual differences that are significant.
The first is that the intellectual and political climate on the continent
(and even in
) is much more varied than in the States. The
parliamentary system of government allows for a wider spectrum of active
political thought. Parties ranging
from Fascists to communists and everything in between usually have at least some
small voice. Through the
traditions of philosophers such as Adorno, Heidegger, Sartre, Habermas, Derrida,
Foucault and many others, the range of accepted political discussion is much
wider than in
. This also affects the range of
political expression among musicians. Political
artists such as Henze and Nono are well-known examples.
, by contrast, the left’s political spectrum was severely reduced during the
McCarthy era. It had been quite
vital during the 30s and 40s.) Naturally,
the wider spectrum of European political discourse affects music journalism in
ways that are probably obvious, and varies significantly from the cultural world
’s two party system – which at times is almost like a one party
, for example, some of the country’s major papers are actually party organs,
such as Die Zeit, owned by the Socialist Party (which currently governs
the country) or Die Tageszeitung which is owned by the Green Party.
Die Zeit is
’s intellectual paper of choice, a weekly with a position somewhere between The
New Yorker and The New York Times.
, several of the papers have an openly acknowledged party affiliation.
This is quite normal for Europeans.
significant determining factor is the geographic density of cultural activity.
In the Ruhrgebiet of Germany, there are probably ten full-time year-round
orchestras and opera houses within about one hour’s journey.
In Baden-Wurttemburg, where I live, professional orchestras are
everywhere. Freiburg, with a
population of 80,000 has a full-time opera including a ballet, a full-time radio
orchestra, and a full-time spoken theater, as does
, with a populating of 500,000 has two full-time symphony orchestras, one of
’s best opera houses, an entire complex of spoken theaters, and a world famous
ballet (though it has fallen in recent years.) Constance,
are even smaller than
, but also have full-time orchestras.
Any of these cities can be reached from my remote town in a couple hours.
There are five State Conservatories of Music (Musikhochschulen) in Baden-Wurtemburg.
They are lavishly funded, even in these hard times.
I know it is hard to believe, but since the training is largely one on
one, the State spends more training a musician than a Doctor!
, medical classes are often quite large.)
plethora of cultural activity strongly affects music journalism, because even
papers in small towns need to have large cultural sections to cover all of the
activities. Rottweil, the small town
near where I live, only has a population of
20,000, but the local paper, The Schwarzwalder Bote, has at least
a full page covering “high” culture every day.
(Entertainment and media news is in a separate section.)
It reports on the various concerts, operas and plays in the region and
also addresses productions in the big houses.
Try to imagine this sort of thing happening in the States.
Even major cities like
, etc., etc. etc. hardly ever have genuinely professional opera productions.
is one reason the genre of Regie Theater exists in
. A mere opera production in
, or Scandanavia might be a commonplace banality if it were not given some sort
of special spin.
of these institutions are entirely funded by the State, in stark contrast to the
form of cultural plutocracy in
funded almost exclusively by the wealthy. The
system is in many respects a manifestation of Anglo-American class traditions,
and makes the demographics of this blog especially ironic – as if Europe were
. It is exactly the continental
perspective that would be of most interest.
So where are they?