Last night, I wrote my own letter to the CBC addresses mentioned in the previous post. Rather than make this about my preferences, or love of Classical Music, I wanted this to be more about the identity of CBC as it relates to Canada, and how it could help to make this a better country, and how the changes they are proposing (and I wanted to make sure I kept it as a proposal, giving them the option to do as Coke did when it brought out New Coke, gracefully back out ) are hurting the country. Here’s how it came out:
Dear Mr. Stursberg,
I write to you as a new and proud Permanent Resident of Canada. My wife and I moved to Vancouver from Boston in 2005. We had fallen in love with Vancouver, one of the most admired and beautiful cities in the world, and we chose to live here, partly because of the physical environment, but also because of the exciting and authentic cultural life here. I’ve been continually impressed and encouraged by the kindness, intelligence, and thoughtfulness of my new country.
Today, I find myself writing you with great shock and horror about the decisions regarding both the removal of Classical Music from CBC Radio 2 and the disbanding of the 70-year old cultural institution and last of its kind in North America, the CBC Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Stursberg, these decisions are wrong, and do untold damage to both the people of Canada and the country which I now call my home.
Classical Music — which is, I believe, a ridiculous name, suggesting stuffy concert halls and audiences of doddering old fogies who want the same old chestnuts of Beethoven and Brahms played back to them over and over — is not ‘just another kind of music’. It is the kind of music — let’s call it ‘Art Music’ — that makes you think, that is complex and challenging. It is not always a ‘song’, with vocal part. It is sometimes for ensembles other than ‘bands. It is not 4 minutes in length, and may have complex harmonies and rhythms, with no part for a drummer. That kind of music, that breaks out of the mould of the mundane, the pre-digested and disposable, is precisely the kind of thing that Canada’s airwaves should continue to offer. It’s music (and Canadian performers) that deserves to be in the lives of the people who live here,
The musical life of Vancouver is particularly eviscerated by the changes proposed. If Art Music on CBC 2 and the orchestra are gone, there will be nothing to take it’s place here. Unlike Toronto or Montréal, there are no commercial radio stations that carry Art Music here. The disbanding of a major orchestra situated here, on top of silencing of Art Music from our airwaves is a double-blow to the cultural life of this world-class city, so poised on greatness as we prepare to host the world for the 2010 Olympics. Should our radio be a bland purveyor of pop culture, while we now pretend to be a major player on the world’s stage?
Art Music (or, if you insist on calling it Classical Music), is something the children of Vancouver should be able to get without having to pay a ticket to see the symphony. It should not be an elitist, snobby treat that is only for the rich, who can afford the steep cost of tickets. They should have the opportunity to hear it at no cost. Challenging cultural experiences, like Art Music, that enrich our lives and minds, like Education and Health Care, should be a right of every Canadian, and certainly not just the ones living in the largest cities (and Vancouver as well!) I believe that we are a better people with a shared cultural heritage. Yes, there is other music brought by other cultures in this country, but we all benefit from a radio channel, at least, just 1 radio channel, that carries some of the greatest music ever written, and more than just a token 3 hours at mid-day, when children are in school, and workers are at work. In a truly great country, great art isn’t a privilege; it is for everyone, and shouldn’t require them to fork over some cash just to be exposed or introduced to it.
The CBC already has a channel dedicated to popular music: Radio 3. Please, maintain that channel, and put all of your creative thinking into it. But this misguided, focus-group driven destruction of some of Canada’s greatest cultural resources should halted. It’s a tragedy that can be averted, if you simply listen to the hundreds of thousands of people who I know are writing you at this very moment, just like this new Canadian. They, and I, have the confidence in you as thoughtful and visionary leaders, to stop this disaster from hitting our lives in Canada.
I’m not thrilled about that last sentence, but I have to admit that many who have commented on this state of affairs have called it a disaster, or a catastrophy, so I suppose those terms were ringing in my ears as I wrote it.
I didn’t want this letter to be an angry missive demanding their resignation. Somehow, that seems very un-Canadian. This is a country where people think twice before hitting a stranger (unless, of course, it’s in a hockey rink). I wanted to offer these people a reason why the noble thing, the wise thing, and the thing they’d be ultimately applauded for, would be to reverse their previous decision. I’d like to think that they’ll read it, but maybe I’m being too idealistic. In any case, tomorrow is the march on the CBC offices in Vancouver. We’ll meet at the Robson side of the Public Library at 10AM. I’ll write about that tomorrow night.
Curiously, tomorrow is also the day of Massive Tech Expo, the event where I found my first job (and place to live) before we moved here, so I have a lot of good memories (and perhaps, expectations) regarding the day. Let’s hope the Massive mojo is still at work.