After a brief hiatus for the Christmas holidays, La Scena is back with the fifth installment of the ongoing series on el Sistema. These articles are always tremendously challenging – just 500 words to deliver an entirely self-encapsulated idea on some aspect or facet of a huge topic. In this instance, the space constraint was unusually frustrating. There’s a tremendous shortage of scholarly inquiry into the program: the academic publications deem the subject matter too untested to be worth devoting space to (I’ve asked), and the trade publications have an understandable need for articles that are readable and approachable in style, not replete with citations.
So in this one, in those inadequate 500 words, I scratch the surface of an enormous topic, how Fesnojiv’s work (i.e.: Abreu’s vision) is entirely rooted in sociology, psychology, and even economics. The recent Wakin article referenced in the last posting derogatorily calls it the “latest Big Idea” [capitalization his] when in fact it’s a very old idea, as old as music itself. Music was originally (and is inherently) a social idea. Before iPods, CDs, LPs, Wax Cylinders, Player Pianos, and the innumerable other sources of non-musical entertainment in existence today, people came together to make music as a social activity. (The story of how it was co-opted and professionalized by the bourgeois as a form of cultural capital would fill several books. If you’re really interested, see Gramit and Bourdieu.) In my opinion, this is one of the greatest qualities of el Sistema: that it returns music-making to its rightful place, to the hands of the people.
Which begs the question: does cultural capital count as wealth that may be redistributed? 🙂