The Ceiling

Last week (October 25, 2009), we analyzed the passage of traditional, rural Venezuelan music to urban forms – the result of a generation of talents working with passion to distill and synthesize the substance without losing the original virtues. In the last thirty years, our music has become the subject of serious study in an environment enriched by the formidable support of our National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras [El Sistema], whose strict classical school, based on excellence, stimulates the dialogue between traditional and symphonic instruments. Current Venezuelan music shows impressive achievements. The instruments and principal genres have been rescued from oblivion, and a considerable list of CD releases shows its recent evolution – the great soloists have formed a school. We see a conceptual flourishing that generates music in all directions, revealing not a museum folklore but a true language, free of ties, that circulates seamlessly between tradition and modernity. However, the path opened by these pioneers is stunted by a ceiling that seriously affects its growth, limiting creative flight and destroying the hope of moving to the next stage of a necessary evolution.

We have reached a point where the grave deficiencies in Venezuela’s cultural management are reflected in the limitations of artistic content and impact. What is this barrier? To sustain activity and perfect its repertoire, any musical group must have enough rehearsal time. The greater the artistic innovation, the greater the investment – Venezuelan music is worth the effort, and there are many dreaming minds. Serious projects require much more than a simple rehearsal schedule – production details accumulate into formidable managerial challenges. Advanced musical projects begin with the work of composers and arrangers, then pass through an infinity of stages right up to the sound design of the hall – refinements that tight schedules and tight budgets never permit. The musicians, after their initial illusion, land in hard reality: the market is microscopic, there are no organized venues, and there are few cultural managers. But there are large, eager, neglected, lost audiences. In the absence of a national circuit of venues organized in synchrony, by season, enabling profitability and the perfecting of performances, no-one will dream of projects that surpass the party band format that repeats the same repertory ad nauseam without rehearsal. In spite of considerable musical innovation, the zero profit limit is enforced by these deficiencies (and by the absence of the great cultural radio that exists in so many countries, disseminating concerts and supporting tours). This market ceiling curtails excellence and condemns any production, large or small, to a premature death after a couple of performances in the capital. Quality suffers, new ideas are not created, sound fails. Export potential is inhibited by the high demands of the great festivals of the world that do not tolerate amateurs. The headless monster of reguetón advances. Musicians have already done their part, walking the long distance to their audiences. It is time for our cultural management to satisfy the demands of local talent that urgently requires the construction of new venues and the revival of dead concert halls in a great national circuit. The public and private sectors could help – in music there is work for everyone.

Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland

About pauldesenne

Composer / Writer
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