Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sounds From Space

With arts organizations underway for the beginning of their seasons, and several in the midst of negotiations, not many economic sour notes have been reported in the press as of late. Fall is the season when organizations put on a happy face, and endeavor to bolster their subscriptions by portraying themselves as not just viable, but World Class, at least for as long as employees are paid in parity with others. What happens when salaries are lowered is anybody's guess. Wrong notes, missed entrances, intonation mishaps, less blend?

For those who have been following Detroit Symphony over recent months, the news is pretty grim. The two sides are locked in a bitter labor dispute with management proposing pay cuts of about 30%. Base salaries would shrink from $104,650 to $73,800. That's correct. You read those figures right. And even the mighty Philadelphia Orchestra is battling ways to avert bankruptcy after announcing an eight million dollar operating deficit: "In the coming months, a committee will fashion a new strategic plan for covering everything from what the ensemble plays, to where, for whom, and how often."

Which makes me wonder why everyone's spinning their wheels over a new business model when a solution could be gleaned from this morning's New York Times: Boeing Plans to Fly Tourists Beyond Earth. The flights, which could begin as early as 2015, would most likely launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the International Space Station. All it takes is just a bit of forward thinking to shuttle a symphony orchestra into orbit. I admit, with Boeing connections here in Seattle, and a local billionaire cosmonaut who donates millions of  dollars to a falling meteorite, this community might have the upper hand. If an orchestra has a vision and a mission, why not ear-mark those campaign dollars for a concert series in space? Granted, it might need to be a chamber orchestra at first, or smaller crew to fit into the International Space Station. Naturally, the performances would need to be transmitted back to Earth in both audio and video.

Of course, nothing prevents ├╝berwealthy donors from constructing an orbiting concert hall. Launch those musicians, please, but warning: due to the necessary low air pressure, a conductor full of hot air might burst. What could be more ideal than performing "The Planets" on a space adventure? There's plenty of space music available already. How about commissioning a new work entitled "Symphony for the Planet of Apes?"
illustration from

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