In my previous post about Chamber Music America I mentioned that I had encountered some strange ideas in the jazz blogosphere with regard to grants and funding. I was surprised to find that not everyone thinks it's a good idea. We're not talking about the political right and left (at least I don't think so) as much as we seem to be dealing with a nostalgic regret over jazz having become detached from it's popular/folk music roots, apparently with the assistance of grants.
I really don't want to dredge all that up, honestly. But I responded to a recent blog post on the NPR website regarding this topic and thought I'd mention what I see as being a fundamental misunderstanding about the market for jazz or any other cultural art form in the US. Intertwined with the aforementioned lament about jazz having become an art-music there seems to be a lingering sentiment that in order to get closer to those lost roots jazz ought to be, if not dependent upon, at least tied to some degree to the so called "free market". In my view that argument is fundamentally flawed in as much as there really is no such thing as a "free market". At every level, starting with the largest of corporations, the government offers every manner of subsidy, tax break and pork-barrel spending imaginable. In spite of all the anti-socialist rhetoric from the right it's apparent that even they don't believe in free markets. So why should I? They would tell us that we in the arts need to survive in that imaginary free-market world, as if we all didn't know that the deck is heavily stacked against us.
I don't agree with everything our government spends money on. No one does. But that is in fact the true nature of our economy. And so we must continue to fight for what's left of our culture and demand that the nation's artistic and musical traditions not be left to die a slow death in the name of the almighty dollar. Despite the arguments pro and con regarding public and private support of the arts, within the political and economic structure that we live in, the music will not survive without such assistance.
Given the tone of my post I should point out that I dislike rants and negativity. However, if I see sentiments such as the ones I've described, I can't help but weigh in, especially when they come from inside the jazz world. But I don't want end on a depressing note. Let's look at the greater context. For example, in spite of all difficulties, it's amazing to me to realize how much good and positive work is currently being done by so many people under so many different sets of circumstances. I'm going to make it my business from time to time on this blog to mention and promote those people and projects that uplift my life in the hopes that they might do the same for you.