Random Wednesday: Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, Brain Memes and Random Videos

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Last week it was noted here that in the U.S. orchestral world, increased labor tensions and lockouts seem to be the flavor-of-the-month this year.

Rumblings of a conspired effort of some kind are abound.

The prevailing theory among a few musicians is that some kind of managerial conspiracy is happening, purposely designed and executed to undermine full-time orchestral musicians at a national scale. While there has yet to be any real, hard-core evidence supporting this claim, it has not stopped some from asserting or suggesting it publicly as truth.

Confusing the issue too is determining who the conspiratorial players exactly are and how deep it supposedly goes. So far this important point has been relegated to opinion and conjecture.

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In an impassioned plea for the American worker, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Bruce Ridge puts the fault solely at the doorstep of the League of American Orchestras (LAO).

The fact is that there is no crisis in classical music…the crisis is in arts management.

Non-profit symphony orchestras are governed by boards, most of whom are wonderful people who truly love music, their orchestras, and their communities. But, most of them now come from the for-profit world, and they hire “industry professionals” to manage their non-profit organizations. The board members tend to take their education for running a non-profit from the “industry professionals.”

If that industry professional can present evidence that orchestras everywhere are failing, then they can increase their salary simply by somehow managing to keep the doors open, which usually means reducing the cost of the work force and eliminating concerts, which in turn reduces revenue generating opportunities.

This is a short sighted approach of course, as orchestras depend on the ability to attract and retain the finest musicians in order to fulfill their mission; a mission which, by the way, is not measured in financial terms.


As a LAO board member and veteran orchestral musician himself, Robert Levine counters this assertion.

It seems inherent in human nature to look for someone to blame when bad things happen. Bad things have been happening in our field of late (or at least to a higher-than-usual number of orchestras), so those on the receiving end – who are mostly, although not exclusively, musicians – look for an enemy who has set out to hurt them.


As a member of the League board, I find these accusations bothersome strictly on a personal level, as they assume a level either of malevolence or gullibility on my part that I don’t think my record merits. But more important than my hurt feelings is just how implausible those accusations are by assuming that orchestra boards and managements are not much more than mindless pawns.


Yet, in a later article Mr. Levine questions the chain of events in Minnesota emphasizing the unusual nature in which they unfolded, calling it “a very curious pair of incidents.” Reading between the lines, he appears to suggest a collusion between the managements of the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, third horn in the Minnesota Orchestra, appears to back up this notion, suggesting that conspiratorial communications transpired between the managers of different organizations and that they timed the current lockouts to coincide with the major reconstruction of their concert hall.

Before getting too excited about what this all might mean, I would suggest taking a step back and waiting for future events to unfold. While it may be difficult to comprehend the validity of a nation-wide conspiracy as some might suggest, it is not out of the realm of possibility that some collusion at a smaller scale may be occurring in one respect or another.

This season and its events will be an ongoing story to be aware of, with our eyes and minds wide open.

Random memes

The topic of Internet meme humor has been a subject explored before at Horn Matters, and today it is a series that evolved from one idea about a bad friend into another about the fallibility of human thinking.

The so-called “Scumbag Brain” meme features an exposed brain superimposed on a stark background. Dialogue captions describe internal, self-conflicting psychological experiences like sudden realizations, mistakes, awkward dreams and persistent memories.

Taking this a step further into the horn world, we get the following:

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Related to this cheekiness, be sure to check out these hilarious critiques of album artwork for The Rite of Spring.

Random videos

Premysl Vojta performs the Richard Strauss, 2nd Horn Concerto.

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The Berlin Horns share pictures from a recent tour.

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Ryan Reynolds pulls a one-man band act in this performance of the Chanson from Carmen, and (quite cleverly) gets an ad in for his Tuning Sleeve.

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Somebody seems a little frustrated.

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