Threats against the MG Philharmonic

Image: Roman Odintsov


The Minas Gerais Philharmonic runs the risk of being extinguished, and its beautiful Sala Minas Gerais, of being reduced to just another cultural center in the world. showbiz

Although the state of Minas Gerais is governed by a party called Novo, it is, in fact, the old neoliberalism that dates back to the triad of Augusto Pinochet, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. An enemy of democracy, its monoglot policy of privatization leads to the destruction of the common good. Therefore, in the neoliberal context, what can we expect from a physical space of excellence for art, such as Sala Minas Gerais?

Or, even, the most important artistic project in Minas Gerais in the 21st century: the Minas Gerais Philharmonic? Even though it is one of the best orchestras in Latin America, what, in fact, does the Minas Gerais Philharmonic mean for a neoliberal secretary of [the] culture industry? We are now experiencing a crisis in music in Belo Horizonte – remembering that krisis, in Greek, means judgment, moment of decision.

Despite the predictable antagonism – from a neoliberal government whose official goal is the destruction of public institutions – a critical and self-critical questioning, among us musicians and art friends, about the other reasons why we have reached this situation in which the Minas Gerais Philharmonic runs the risk of being extinct, and its beautiful Sala Minas Gerais, of being reduced to just another cultural center in the world. showbiz.

In fact, with the end of the Minas Gerais Philharmonic and the appropriation of the Sala Minas Gerais for business purposes, the neoliberal project is quite simple: art goes out and, in its place, the culture industry enters. But is it just the politicians' fault? What support did they have for a greater approximation of musical and symphonic art?

There are three central problems that we recognize in this crisis: (i) orchestras that prioritize cultural industry repertoires outside of concert halls; (ii) the conceptual confusion between art and [the] culture industry; and (iii) the insufficient number of good musical training projects in Brazil.

The first question does not concern the Minas Gerais Philharmonic, but other orchestras in Brazil, whose programming, over the last few years, has been replacing concerts in symphony halls with shows in the open air. However, even orchestras that never joined the culture industry – among others, the Minas Gerais Philharmonic itself – end up paying the price.

It's a clear case of what happened. With the good initial intention of the Showcertain (those shows which replace concerts) – even if justified with the ideological misrepresentation of such popularization, as if this would bring symphonic music closer to the public, which is nothing more than a fallacy – the orchestras opted for performances in stadiums, squares or beaches with stages detachable. As a result, a culture of contempt for the most worthy spaces for art was established.

Symphonic sounds were amplified by noisy speakers – generally annihilating the timbral potential of the musical instruments themselves. In place of the subtle colors of symphonic sounds, the flashy colors of light beams come into play. With sound neglected, visual sensationalism is prioritized. Thus, in an evident alienation in relation to the languages ​​of the art of sound in time, the nebulous ceremonial of showbiz spreads all the pyrotechnology intoxicated by the smoke of dry ice.

Apart from the unhealthy environment, when the orchestra converts to the culture industry, also due to the rigidity of the pounded drums – with its vertical, aggressive volumes and above the highest decibels – the result is a culture industry fake and invariably worse than itself showbiz.

The repertoire of these orchestras that joined the culture industry became increasingly thanks to . Among others, the preferred genres – largely originating from the neoliberal culture industry with a Yankee-American hue – have been the gospel (which has even taken over MPB), the university countryman (who is neither countryman nor university) and the funk (a cultural invasion that now monopolizes the environments once dedicated to Brazilian popular arts).

As we have seen, music is no longer the protagonist, giving way to the pyrotechnology of the showbiz of the culture industry, resulting in the understanding, on the part of the culture [industry] secretaries, that closed rooms that accommodate smaller audiences – even with a full house – are simply unnecessary. This process, of converting concerts into shows or in communication shows without artistic care, drastically influences politicians' decisions regarding the operation of orchestras in Brazil.

In fact, it doesn't matter whether concert halls have good or bad acoustics. We no longer understand what it means to hear silence, nor contrasts, agogics, dynamics, timbres or phrasing. Finally, many politicians prefer noisy speakers and pyrotechnologies with lighting effects worthy of a nightclub – this way, they actually feel more at home. If the environment of the culture industry is familiar to them, in turn, the environment of the arts is foreign to them. And it’s partly our fault – as we said, not just because of the programming of Showcertain, but also due to the lack of projects aimed at musical training – we will return to this other issue later.

Unlike the showbiz, music as an art requires concentrated listening, such as symphonic and chamber music, opera and ballet performances or other collective and individual events, including music in a popular tone, with voices and instruments. We only really hear when we are all heard. An environment with good acoustics is important so that artistic parameters can be heard, not only the timbres and intensities, but also the silences, as well as the dynamics and articulations of the phrases (phrasing), the textures (monodic, homophonic, polyphonic or accompanied melody), experimentation with extremes of tessitura (from the lowest to the highest) and variety in rhythm and agogic.

Time in music is existential and heterogeneous like the world of life – amidst the dynamic structural principles of unity, contrast and variation. “Form is the possibility of structure”, as Ludwig Wittgenstein said – therefore, never prefixed. In fact, “the form of a work of art is nothing more than the complete organization of its content, its value, therefore, totally dependent on this”, as Bertolt Brecht said. This is why the separation between form and content, in art, makes no sense. There is no inventive freedom in content without at the same time inventive freedom in form.

In the culture industry, with its pyrotechnological rituals, with exceptions here and there, the inflexible meter (without rhythmic inventions) still prevails with a constant pulse without agogy (homogeneous time is rigid like a clock, without accelerando nem delaying, that is, without changing the tempo), nor articulation (the notes are always played with the same intensity), nor dynamics (there is no crescendo nem decreasing), no contrast, variation, extremes of tessitura, textural experiments or silences – there is not even concern with the timbre and sound configuration, as everything acquires the same standard speaker effect.

As we have said before, the ritual of the culture industry depends on sophisticated audiovisual pyrotechnology with sounds and lights, however, amid all kinds of noise. Listening is disturbed because non-musical elements dominate the scene in the spotlight – everything matters, except the music. In the culture industry, form is no longer the possibility of structure: the format of the phonogram or video clip is prefixed.

The standardized way beforehand, preventing the experiment, also makes inventive freedom in its content unfeasible. In short, replacing concert halls with shows culture industry is not just a problem of cheap populism (despite the very expensive prices of tickets and production of shows), but also the restriction of artistic freedom.

When the first concerts converted into shows – the aforementioned paraphernalia of flashy lights with noisy sounds – the prudent criticism had been the following: “okay, congratulations, it came out beautiful, but you need to compensate with such a modus operandi: care must be taken to ensure that there are at least 30 worthy symphonic concerts for each of these Showcertain aspects of the culture industry – otherwise the population and politicians will only identify orchestras in these open spaces, typical of the showbiz".

Even more tragic is when the politician does the math. Due to an alienated appearance that says nothing about the essence of the language, he believes in the orchestra's greater success in these open spaces: the audience can be larger and it allows programming, in particular, populist and flashy repertoires. So, why would a politician invest in a real symphony hall?

In Bahia, for example, to this day there is no symphony hall. When it was on the verge of having one, a PT governor estimated that it would cost more than a hospital and, therefore, shelved the project. In other words, it is concluded that the shows with microphones and speakers are better for political purposes. What was supposed to be art is now reduced to an arrivism. Current governments – from the identitarian pseudo-left to the extreme right – rarely understand the importance of a specific space for an orchestra, both for it to develop and for it to perform with all its potential, including social projects aimed at musical training.

In this way, the fault – we reiterate – also lies with the conductors and managers themselves who fall into this trap of Showcertain. In fact, it has been a shot in the foot: we, the musicians who are able to work outside the culture industry, are digging our own grave – we are fighting our battles on our adversary's terrain. Will there be an audience? Now it will, but later the concert halls and even the orchestras will be closed, because, in the political calculation, it is concluded that there is no point in maintaining symphony halls or orchestras. Or, at most, just take the culture industry orchestras, once or twice a month, to an Ibirapuera Park or any other Show on the beach that everyone will be happy – everyone took the neoliberal bait!

These are the cases, among many others, of Showsome Bahia System, On the Rock Trail ou Sinfonia Rock Iron Maden on Stage. There are those who congratulate the success, because, in fact, these are incredible events – remembering that “event” = “is wind”. It is no surprise that the enterprises of the culture industry are captured by the super well-produced spectacle of the neoliberal apotheosis in its massive agglomeration of elite – yes, elite, because the culture industry is, in general, quite rich in Brazil, invariably paid with public budget.

Still, with regard to programming Showcertain, we always advise: “be careful, because by the time the politician does the math, he will no longer want the symphony halls”. All said and done: this is exactly what is happening now in Belo Horizonte. Once again, that's what it comes down to.

Our fault also includes the (neo) Pentecostal militancy of a large part of the musicians in Brazilian orchestras, who vote for Novo and other extreme right-wing parties. In fact, (neo)pentecostalism and neoliberalism are one and the same – in other words, these countless colleagues do not understand that widespread privatization makes their own survival in the profession of musician extrinsic to the culture industry unfeasible.

The second question concerns the repeated confusion between culture and art. Who cares about working critically and conceptually on the differences between art and the culture industry in Brazil? Nobody. The musician, to survive, prioritizes his own salary. We are even working and trying to maintain the orchestras, but how can we dialogue with the governing forces in our country? If today there is a deafness towards artistic issues, it is partly the fault of ourselves, the musicians and conductors, as we confuse art with culture and do not even differentiate popular art from the culture industry. We do not have a mere conceptual discussion here, but one about the nature of language – essential to the survival of our craft.

It is clear that, in Brazil, municipal and state departments and even the Ministry of [Industry of] Culture let the arts fall into ruins. We need to understand that the arts are not cultural goods: culture is ordinary; the art, extraordinary. Or as Jean-Luc Godard would say, “culture is the rule, art the exception… The rule wants the death of the exception”. In a word, culture does not shelter, but suffocates art.

On the part of maestros and musicians, therefore, the argument of such “cultural relevance” is terrible for the survival of the Minas Gerais Philharmonic. To say that “we fight for culture” is to give arguments precisely to those who want to destroy the orchestra.

The economic elite, in fact, argues that the Minas Gerais Philharmonic must withdraw from the Sala Minas Gerais so that “Minas Gerais cultures” are favored – the most absurd fake news. In terms of [the] culture industry, however, the argument of those against the arts ends up being stronger. They even give a pejorative and false criticism to the Minas Gerais Philharmonic, that the orchestra represents the so-called “economic elite” – which is nothing more than a most cynical ideological misrepresentation, an inversion of reality, since they, businessmen, are the ones who They are the elite in fact.

But this fallacy ends up convincing the majority. What is this culture that economic elites defend? The so-called mining cultures? Of course. They defend the culture industry linked to their own neoliberal enterprises. Therefore, our position in defense of the arts – and not culture – is less risky. We have to defend symphonic art, Brazilian music from all eras since Minas Gerais music in the 18th century – and not the current culture industry with a Yankee-American hue.

We have to defend composers from all times and places, as well as today's Brazilian instrumentalists and singers, who play and sing without a microphone in concerts without speakers – and of course, without dry ice or nebulous pyrotechnologies. As said, already thinking about a Viet Cong tone, we have to fight the battles in the field of arts, not culture.

Furthermore, we need a large Funarte active throughout the Brazilian territory, which is a free, sovereign agency untethered from the culture [industry]. Arts management is essentially different from culture [industry] management. Nowadays, artists barely eat the crumbs that fall from the table of those in the culture industry.

When we initially drew attention to the problem of conversion to the culture industry by orchestras, the overwhelming reaction on social media was one of virtual cancellation, contrary to our criticisms, as they said that we would be against such popular culture. Neoliberal morality, in its politically correct stance, censors as prejudiced any critical-epistemological attempt for a better definition of the culture industry. However, as it is obvious, evident and found everywhere (in other words, ubiquitous) – let's look for a definition: the culture industry is not popular art.

Today, the musical genres of the culture industry are axé, singers who present children's television programs, disco, easy listening ou muzak (so-called easy or ambient listening, office music, Shopping center, supermarket etc.), funk, gospel, hip hop, j-pop, Korean pop, pop, rap, rave, reggaeton (or reguetão), university countryman, Show de DJ, techno, world music etc. In other media, we also have equivalents: neoliberal painters and their funny prints, the architects of temples of (neo) Pentecostal sects or the thanks to pseudo-classic facades that reproduce the atmosphere of American-Yankee consumption – not to mention the simulacra of the Statue of Liberty –, the cinema superheroes of Marvel e DC, Hollywood & Bollywood, the cultural agenda of Shopping Centers, best sellers de coaches and pseudo-religious self-help (whether in verse or prose), cyberliterature, y, influencers, streamers and almost the entire program in the most respectable press.

According to Theodor W. Adorno, “with the consciousness of the ruling class already coinciding with the general trend of society, the tension between culture and thanks to ”. More than that, with neoliberalism, culture and thanks to they became one. O thanks to predominates from the ideology of pseudoperiphery propagated by identitarianism to ideologues streamers, all synchronized with the middle class mentality and linked to the propaganda of banks and beer fake.

Nowadays, the diversity of neoliberal musical genres in the culture industry is nothing more than a hoax. Not infrequently, disposable phonograms or videos funk. hip hop. gospel and university sertanejo, for example, are industrialized according to the guidelines of the same and only marketing – like a multinational that targets the variety of its products to different consumer profiles and niches in each country – precisely configuring the “immediate production/consumption identity”, defined by Karl Marx.

Our classification does not exclude gray areas: an art material can serve the culture industry and a culture industry material can serve art. Both artistic poetics and strategies of marketing can be dynamic. However, it is always disastrous to submit language projects to the marketing – in general, the status of art and even popular art is lost. Because of this last hypothesis, it is necessary to check carefully: the genres of the culture industry are created in the offices of marketing in large centers, without original links with specific communities in their singularities. No genre of the culture industry mentioned should be confused with art or popular art, even if it is a simulacrum of a local color – like axé, for example.

So that they are not confused with the culture industry, these are genres of Brazilian popular music since colonial times in their rich multifariousness: folguedo, lundum, batuque, cute, cantiga, moda or modinha, viola moda, chula, xiba, Ethiopian batuque and other African dances from different nations, Bahian, donda, cateretê, samba and later samba canto, choro and chorinho (initially called tango or even polka), coco, repentista and other performances of embolada, chotice, waltz- choro and caipira waltz, caipira duo, pontoio, congada, fife band, baião, frevo, maracatu, forró and even the genres later released by the culture industry itself, bossa nova being the most important among them. It is clear that, before neoliberalism, there was art in music linked to the culture industry. In some cases, exceptional art.

Initially, until around the 1960s, the culture industry still included artistic elements in its production. But always gradually less – hence we can infer a gradual distancing of the culture industry in relation to the arts. Coincidence or not, with the means of production transforming ideological conditions, since the advent of neoliberalism, the culture industry has drastically moved away from the arts (especially music) and established its own genres or remodeled old ones. According to Karl Marx, “it is not the consciousness of human beings that determines their being, but, on the contrary, it is their social being that determines their consciousness”. In a word: the culture industry is today the social being predicted by Marx, the one that determines the consciousness of society.

Starting from the condition of resistance inherent to art, orchestras must prioritize concert halls and opera and symphonic ballet theaters – and not the shows of open-air culture industry. In no way, however, does this mean that we must crystallize ourselves as hermetic or inaccessible institutions. Quite the contrary, orchestras can be divided into different chamber formations and must meet all the demand for concerts in the most diverse places where musical training becomes viable in society, including folk or popular music – after all, Brazil has almost 300 years of history of reconstructable musical repertoire. Orchestras need to listen to society's demands – but critically, without losing sight of the dignity of art.

Finally, we have the last and perhaps most important question: in Brazil, artistic projects with public resources must be linked, essential, to educational processes. With this, we build a more fruitful project for the future, because, if we think about 20 or 30 years from now, we will have a new generation of politicians, who, with greater probability, will have experienced some quality artistic education.

Who can reverse the current situation that is not at all favorable for the arts? Culturalist pedagogues? We understand not. This task falls to us, artist pedagogues.

We have to be at the forefront of artistic education projects – or in our specific case, we have to be responsible for the musical education of new generations. The foundations of these possible processes are weakened. So let's be clear, if universities act in the training of professionals, we are referring here to pre-university training that reaches a wide audience of children and adolescents - including those who in a few years' time may have a pen in their hand and develop policies favorable to the arts.

We must have the humility, as artists, to recognize that the blame for the current crisis is largely ours, as we are not enabling educational processes in art – which fulfill the mission of transforming society for the better.

So those who turn to their own private affairs (in Greek, idiotikós) or restrict their own performance as musicians of the praxis (musical interpretation-performance) without care or attention to the reality of the country – those so-called who just want to play nice to receive a salary – that is, colleagues alienated from social issues and the larger issue of educational training through art , that they don't complain later, when our jobs disappear in Brazil.

This homework is up to all stable musical bodies – even the Minas Gerais Philharmonic took a while to start its educational activities – in addition to training projects linked to university extensions and other social projects with artistic education. Artistic and musical education should be a priority in Brazil. We must fight for this flag on all fronts.

*Paulo Eduardo de Barros Veiga, violinist, He has a doctorate in literary studies from UNESP in Araraquara with a post-doctorate in music from USP in Ribeirão Preto.

*Lucas Eduardo da Silva Galon, composer and conductor, he is a professor at the Department of Music at USP in Ribeirão Preto and coordinator of the USP Música Criança project in São Joaquim da Barra.

*Rubens Russomanno Ricciardi He is a professor at the Department of Music at USP in Ribeirão Preto and conductor at the USP Filarmô of the book Against neoliberal identitarianism – an essay by Poíesis Crítica for the support of the arts (countercurrent).

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