A cluster of anniversaries — 30ths for Aldeburgh Connection and Tafelmusik music director Jeanne Lamon, the 90th for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra — has made me think of how arts organizations are like complex ecosystems of birth, growth, decay and death.
Celebrating life through anniveraries is the most fun. It’s safe to say that most of us prefer the comfort of seeing familiar faces on a stage, but, like us, these faces are not forever. We need to be mindful of tending new shoots.
Is the next Aldeburgh Connection out there, setting up its first, tentative public performances? Is there a bright, energetic and talented violinist about to arrive in Toronto to change the course of a well-meaning, but perhaps slightly aimless young ensemble?
If we start with the premise that the arts are a vessel for our culture, we also have to recognize that this culture is in perpetual flux and evolution.
These days, the greatest change is in how we interact with culture.
Anyone growing up in the West during the 20th century would have been introduced to theatre, literature and music through print and broadcast media — interviews, discussions, reviews and, on radio and TV, live and recorded performances.
Now that all of North America counts only a handful of full-time classical music and theatre critics, and the arts have all but disappeared from TV, older fans and listeners and patrons feel slightly adrift.
Younger arts mavens have turned to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the good-old website to get the word out, share insights and reactions.
It’s a helter-skelter kind of discourse that operates very much in the moment, scattered over many social media in the digital universe, working through an expanding circle of friendships and word of mouth, largely uncurated by tastemakers.
It’s messy, because it is, I think, far more democratic than coverage filtered by people at media conglomerates. It doesn’t matter whether I or anyone else feels personally comfortable with this, it is the way arts conversations appear to be headed in this century.
In Toronto, Gallery 345 is building weekly audiences through social media. The Sneak Peak Orchestra, the Toy Piano Composers and the JunctQín Keyboard Collective, just to name the people I’ve spoken to over the past month, are ready for a what-the-hell adventure in trying to share their musical art and enthusiasm.
Some will fail to make a go of it, for any number of reasons (often, financial). Others will persevere and grow, in a very different kind of culture. We can’t possibly imagine what our cultural future will look, sound or smell like, but we can offer encouragement wherever possible.
Here’s some great music from the 20th century — the opening movement from Claude Debussy’s Violin Sonata — from 21st century presenter, Les Amis, featuring violinist Lynn Kuo, violin, and Marianna Humetska at Gallery 345 earlier this winter: