“Properties of Scale and Reflectivity”

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; Frank Gehry, architect

Here are excerpts from three recent articles touching on the residual effects of the lockdown on the “classical” art world.

From Matthew Aucoin in the New York Review of Books: “This crisis will wreak havoc in all sectors; for the world of the arts, it is already a devastation. Classical music has long been an art form centered on live performance, ever more so since the collapse of the classical recording industry, and it’s hard to imagine when music lovers will again be willing to form the human petri dish that is a concert audience.”

From Melissa Chan in the Los Angeles Review of Books: “As with everything else, the pandemic has upended the classical music world. Soloists…are literally playing solo, with neither an orchestra to accompany them nor crowds to applaud them. Orchestra members feel even more adrift with anxiety. They cannot practice together and — especially in the United States, where the government does little to subsidize the arts — some of their groups face extinction…New York’s Metropolitan Opera acted early, once the economic effects of the pandemic first began to become apparent. By mid-March, it had laid off all of its union members. This month, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra furloughed its entire orchestra and 100 of its administrative staff. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has also announced layoffs and pay cuts. The Oregon Symphony has already laid off all its musicians…And through all this upheaval, musicians, like everybody else, have had to grapple with the isolation that comes with lockdown.”

And in a review of a closed due to virus art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Susan Tallman in the New York Review of Books writes: “we are left with an expansive website (the museum has posted images of all works in the show, installation shots, and some film clips), a weighty catalog, and memories of works seen in person. This is, of course, not ideal: many of the things shown depend on properties of scale and reflectivity that cannot be experienced in reproduction.”

Her phrase “properties of scale and reflectivity” resonates, human beings assembling in the architecture of the magnificent concert halls and museums and theaters around the world to watch, listen and react as a community, as one humanity—this is what will need to be recovered when everything reopens. Here’s wishing godspeed.

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