Tell Tchaikovsky the News

When a great, powerful, wealthy nation invites the entire world to become part of its family, there is no area of life that is not affected. You may have thought about Hispanic, Muslim, and Indian immigration and how it changes the texture of our lives. But have you thought, for example, about the influx of Chinese piano students?

If there is truth in the stereotypes, the high I.Q.s and nimble fingers many East Asians are blessed with would seem to favor them in classical music performance. And if Americans are going to abandon their Western musical heritage in favor of hip-hop and Third World music, then let the Asians have classical. Let those who are willing to pay the price enjoy the fruits it brings.

But should American music conservatories be paying the tab for the musical training of foreigners?

According to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 percent of all new students in the full-scholarship Curtis Institute of Music come from mainland China (not our old friend Taiwan). But reading the article more carefully, it appears that at least a third, if not half, of the new students are East Asian, including people from Korea as well as East Asians who grew up in the United States.

Who can resist a full scholarship and the green card and citizenship that will eventually be granted? I wonder if Americans can comprehend the motivation people from countries like China have to work, work, work so they can make it in America by obtaining a position like this.

I recently met a young American who also considers himself a musician. His concept of being a musician, though, is not to practice the works of the masters for years with the slim hope of making a living teaching and performing. Rather, he works lousy day jobs, shares an apartment with several friends, and in his spare time creates rambling collages of sound with angry, incomprehensible lyrics. Performances of the music go together with indulgence in controlled substances. Now, this young man, too, is high-I.Q. and nimble-fingered. But to me, he looks like a lost soul. His parents worry about him, but have no control over what he does. And, really, from his point of view, why should he go the conventional route and get an M.B.A. or a computer degree? Why would he want to join the military and be sent to Iraq? He is a sensitive soul. What future is offered to someone like him in America today?

Of course the Curtis Institute, as a contemporary liberal American institution, is falling over itself to bring in Chinese students – eager to lure them from the other institutions that are doing exactly the same thing –  without the slightest notion that its identity as an American institution might warrant some restraint in international recruiting efforts. In China itself, classical music is now seen as a necessary trapping of modernity, and seems to have a strong emotional draw on young people. Daniel Pipes has argued that “You Need Beethoven to Modernize.” It is interesting that this seems to be true even when the West itself is losing interest in classical music.

This Herald Tribune article expresses more clearly the “outsourcing” mentality – the idea that a country like China could “save” classical music from the neglect it suffers in Western countries. “Jobs Americans won’t do,” you see. The question that is not addressed is, why won’t we do them, and can and should we do something to change the situation?

I have nothing but respect for brilliant musicians, regardless of nationality. But what does it say about people of European descent when we are unable, or unwilling, to maintain by ourselves the tradition the classical music represents? Are we to import our workforce for even this?

Of course, I may be “barking up the wrong tree” in regretting the lack of American sovereignty in the area of classical music. Though we have had our Leonard Bernsteins and Aaron Copelands, classical music has always been a Europe-centered genre, though important to the bourgeois sector of American society. Today, the classical world strives to be transnational, as demonstrated in the musician biographies on concert programs, which oddly list the highlights in the individual’s music career but never state the performer’s nationality. Also, America has mixed feelings about classical music. “Middle Americans” have tended to hold it at arm’s length. My mother, I understand, learned about classical music through a college course. Excited with the discovery, she brought several classical records home to her parents when she came home for break. To her dismay, they made fun of her “high-class” aspirations, and the records remained unopened in their shrink-wraps until years later, when my grandmother had to move out of her home.

The same kind of people who are good at classical music tend to be good at mathematics and science. In the United States, many fields in science, technology, and mathematics are also becoming dominated by Indians and East Asians. It took me a 30-second Google search to find an example: take a look at the graduate students in the University of Michigan’s Department of Statistics. Five Wangs, five Zhangs, three Zhous, three Guos, one Brown, and one Smith.

Do white Americans really think that when the ethnic takeover of these fields is complete that these fields will still be open to them? Do they think that those Indians and Asians who have already become professors and administrators do not grant preference in admission to students from their own countries?

But then, we are living in a United States that is poised to elect Barack Hussein Obama as its next President. Obama is almost a non-entity in himself; until he began to rise in the Democrat primaries, there was no particular reason to see him as a likely candidate. But now that he has arrived, we can see that something like this was inevitable. He offers a solution for the confused American spirit which wants to prove itself liberal enough to elect a non-white President. And for the first time in history, all of the institutions of the society are backing one candidate, including the opposition party, who for the first time have been unable to convince themselves, let alone voters, that they deserve the presidency. And the abdication by the Republicans of the duty to wholeheartedly oppose the Democrats and their leftism is the real reason it is now seeming almost certain Obama will be elected.

Nicholas Kristof, in his most recent column, illustrates the delusional thinking underlying the support of many whites for Obama. It is wrong, says Kristoff, to vote for a candidate on the basis of his color, but it will still be good to have a president of a particular color.

Kristoff shows his naivite in depicting a conversation with a Chinese friend about Obama:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

Have Americans always wanted to be liked this much? Everywhere I look I see the almost gluttonous pleasure Americans take in helping refugees, minorities, immigrants, by inviting them into our society and paying the bill (or, more often, letting others pay the bill). The Obama phenomenon, though completely different, is in accord with this. So many are convinced that proving we’re not “racist” by electing a black (mixed-race?) president will gain us the goodwill of the world. It doesn’t seem to occur to Kristof that his Chinese friend’s comment that America is “amazing” may not express an entirely positive meaning. The Chinese would never dream of handing their society over to non-Chinese. On the other hand, if America is going to do so, they’re going to make sure they get as much as possible.

Where do we go from here?  We have to separate ourselves from the madness, first. Later, we may need to actually physically separate ourselves from the liberal society. To paraphrase the group Show of Hands, one place to start is by learning our stories and our songs (classical or not). You’ll be hearing more of and about those at this site.

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19 Responses to Tell Tchaikovsky the News

  1. Old Atlantic says:

    “Do they think that those Indians and Asians who have already become professors and administrators do not grant preference in admission to students from their own countries? ”

    You can already see it in the link you provided and elsewhere. It’s part of what caused the problems on Wall Street, trans-Pacific nepotism brought in the don’t care or can’t do to fill well paying slots.

  2. Terry Morris says:

    Stephen,

    Why can’t I copy and paste from your articles?

    Anyway, I’ll let you in on a personal secret (don’t tell anyone! ;-)), one of my favorite pastimes, though with everything else I have going on I rarely find time to do it anymore, is to take the telescope out on a good clear night and listen privately to Beethoven as I search out relatively hard to find deep-space objects such as M-81 and M-82, etc. The two (classical music and “stargazing”), I find, compliment one another very well, both declaring the glory of God and his handiwork. If you enjoy one or the other, or both, I highly recommend that you put the two together. You’ll be hooked after a single session, I can almost guarantee you.

    But speaking of vocations that Americans are now turning over to Asians and other foreigners, I wonder how scientific fields of study such as Astronomy are faring these days?

    A very thought provoking entry. Nice job!

  3. Interestingly, though, there seems to be a revival of popular forms of classical music – coming from the grass roots rather than the academies.

    Andre Rieu, for instance, suddenly jumped in popularity here in Australia, to the point at which you could buy his CDs at the front counter of petrol stations.

    There’s also a new batch of young female singers with at least some popular appeal, including Hayley Westenra and Katherine Jenkins.

    I can only hope that the success of these performers encourages some young Westerners to work their way into the academies.

  4. stephenhopewell says:

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    Old Atlantic – I have never heard that trans-Pacific nepotism was a factor in the Wall Street problems. Have you talked about this on your blog?

    Terry – I have no idea why you would be unable to copy and paste my articles. I am simply following WordPress protocol in making the blog. Thanks for sharing your secret…to my other readers (both of you), please don’t spread this outside the blog. It sounds wonderful. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to use a telescope next, but will keep it in mind. I have been seriously enjoying Beethoven recently, though.

    Mark – I’m not familiar with the artists you mentioned, but it can’t be a bad thing if there is any revival of interest in these musical forms.

    SH

  5. Interesting piece.
    Although many of the Asian musicians have great technical skill, iI question whether that all that makes a great musician, especially when it comes to interpreting Western classical music. In my estimation anyway, classical music is an expression of the Western heart and soul, and it may be played by non-Westerners but it does not quite come out the same.

    To the examples Mark provided above, Hayley Westenra and Katherine Jenkins, I might add Paul Potts, the young Welsh tenor who made quite an impression on American Idol. I do not watch the show but I have seen videos of his performance on YouTube. I am gratified to see that many young people, who don’t fit the old idea of ‘classical music snobs’ or elitists, seem to enjoy opera. I think there is (and I hope there will always be) an audience for our traditional music forms, whether ‘high art’ like opera and symphonic music, or more demotic art like ‘folk’ music.
    -VA

  6. Rick Darby says:

    Stephen,

    I too am unhappy that young Americans seem to be sidelined in carrying on the great tradition of Western music, the occasional counter-example like Hilary Hahn notwithstanding. There is a chamber music series that I attend where the players are mostly young and very talented (some are graduates of Juilliard and Curtis), and more than half of them are Asians. That doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the performances, but it is sad that we seem to need to “import” developing classical musicians.

    It’s not entirely new, just the source has changed. In the 1930s, we got some of the world’s best musicians in the form of Jews escaping from Nazism in Europe.

    VA, I simply can’t agree that Asians necessarily lack heart and soul when playing Western classical music. Listen to Midori, Kyung-Wha Chung, or Cho-Liang Lin (violinists).

  7. stephenhopewell says:

    VA, thank you.

    I am not experienced enough with classical music to have formed an opinion on Asian interpretation of it (there are definitely areas like opera where Asians aren’t going to cut it); but I think surely the Asianization of the music is bringing a collective change to it which may not be negative in any obvious way but will take it away from its roots in the long run. This is my view on Asian immigration too; Asians (at least East Asians) are often model immigrants as individuals but when it takes place on a mass scale it does disrupt our culture. Also, I suspect we will see a more separatist “Asian” culture emerging in America although it’s not yet clear what form that will take.

    Rick, thanks, I have had similar impressions though don’t get to see much live classical music these days.

    In my view the great American musical creation is the Broadway musical (along with film, an area where Jews really did contribute to the mainstream culture).

  8. AlmostMusicPhD says:

    Thank you for being willing to talk about the Elephant in the living room! I am an Opera Singer, working at middle age to get a Doctorate in Music, to merely find a job teaching in the collegiate sphere, since I would not submit to the ‘Gay Mafia’ and bend over (literally!) or the Jewish cliques in the performing world, in digust seeking to avoid the slavish fawning on PC Causes that most in this field hold with a tenacity reserved for the devoutest Shi-ite.

    Classical pianists are a dime a dozen, frankly, Lan-lang is the newest Sarah Chang, who is the newest Andre Watts, etc. Performing monkeys, in other words. Accompanists (since, as a singer, that is all I ever need or use in collaboration), however, are a different matter. Those ‘Others’ who are not versed in the Art, Theology, History, Philosophy. Poetry, RELIGION, etc. of Christendom, CANNOT ‘collaborate’- they are as devoid of souls as their pagan philosophies. I know, I have performed with many. The ‘spirit’ is missing from them, when doing the works of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Poulenc, or Faure.

    Wagner spoke of ‘Die Heiligen Deutschen Kunst’ over 150 years ago. It is true; but more than that, there is a ‘holy French Art,’ and a ‘Holy British Art’ etc. And ONLY those who come from, are nurtured by, and partake of those cultures can TRULY, honestly, RIGHTFULLY bring the voice of a People’s soul to their fellow-man. IT used to be a ‘given’ that Italian tenors sounded best in ITALIAN opera. DUH. But now, every ‘l’ and ‘r’ impaired Oriental makes us cringe in being unable to pronounce Bel canto diction. And that’s progress?

    I am one man, but I am not alone. After a few beers with colleagues, the same comments come out. Many of us are seeking employ in small Christian liberal arts colleges, with the hope that we can eke out twenty years teaching our kith and kin about our Heritage, WITHOUT having to ‘cast pearls before swine.’ But, if the Curtis figures are any indication, we are in the last generation, that will exit, ‘not with a bang, but with a whimper.’ And art will die with the last of us. Kind of like the ‘Glass Bead Game’.

    IF segregation, divine intervention, or assasination doesn’t stop them, then God have mercy on us all. The Soviet Gulag was just a warm-up, folks. No one hate worse than Satan’s minions.

  9. stephenhopewell says:

    AlmostMusicPhD, thank you for your comments as a professional, and so from the heart. This kind of response makes blogging worthwhile.

    Interesting comments about the distinction between concert pianists and accompanists.

    Looking into the piano situation more, it seems that the Chinese approach piano like they do figure-skating or any international prestige activity – identify talented kids and get them practicing 8 hours a day from age 5 on. We can’t beat them at this game. Although, Beethoven and Mozart went through the same kind of thing and who is to say it was wrong?

    As you say, it comes down to recovering our heritage, and our “holy art.”

    I’m glad you have found like-minded colleagues, and wish you success in your job search.

  10. Old Atlantic says:

    On Asian quants and Wall Street crisis

    http://news.wallstreetandtech.efinancialcareers.com/ITEM_FR/newsItemId-3753

    “Healy says 40% to 50% of candidates for US quant positions are Chinese. ”

    I hadn’t read the lyrics of the Roots song so closely before. Its really radical relative to PC.

  11. Old Atlantic says:

    I found the above link from this search:

    Chinese quants Wall Street

    There are many other good hits on that search on Google.

  12. Old Atlantic says:

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/quants-gone-wild—subprime/story.aspx?guid=%7B2355DCA3-E101-4832-93FF-FFAE8A75F7A4%7D

    ““QUANTS GONE WILD” – THE SUBPRIME CRISIS”

    One of the prime problems in the subprime meltdown was lack of communication. Chinese quants don’t tell the managers what the problems are in the models or that the traders are manipulating them to make big bonuses but creating big risks.

    “The “best & brightest” quantitative analysts on Wall Street became so technologically advanced that many of the principals running investment firms simply didn’t understand the arcane risk models their “quants” developed – and sadly neither did the quants.”

  13. Old Atlantic says:

    Sorry to load you down with my comments. In game theory and economics, there are situations with multiple equilibria, i.e. different equilibriums of behavior. If you dose the system with a large group of foreign nationals, then you switch the equilibrium. Self sacrifice for the group switches to get what you can for yourself. The result is that even people of other groups are following this new equilibrium ethic. We switched from an ethic of virtue (for Wall St at least) to vice.

  14. stephenhopewell says:

    Thanks for looking these up, OA. Fascinating. And unbelievable. I am always amazed to keep discovering how many ways things have gotten very bad. Well, we have to learn all we can.

  15. Old Atlantic says:

    Thanks for the kind comments. Also this came out at Vdare on AIG

    http://www.vdare.com/letters/tl_111108.htm

    Its an H-1B House. They didn’t care at all. A once great company lost all its sense of loyalty and ethics.

  16. oldatlantic says:

    The following from GNXP sheds light on this and also your thread on how individualistic we should be.

    http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/11/smart-people-play-nice.php

    The comments are good too. We are being shifted from a cooperative altruistic equilibrium to a non-cooperative looting equilibrium. Diversity is a factor pushing that shift.

  17. stephenhopewell says:

    Thank you for the links, OA. These are helpful references.

  18. l.hall says:

    To address just the musical aspect.. I grew up in a very very rural area of Tennessee. I taught myself how to play the piano with my sister’s beginners books (my mother wanted a church piano player). I went to college on a musical scholarship. My experiences with trying to share my love of Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Beethovan with my family were dubious at best. They were fine with me playing hymns and gospels.. but classical? Leave that long haired hippy music alone. Never mind that much of the music I was trying to share was meant to glorify god.
    Now, I am trying to teach my child to have an appreciation for ALL music, from the great classics to the modern ramblings. Good article.

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