Why are Venezuela's ‘miraculous’ musicians silent about the crisis?

时间:2019-08-22 责任编辑:田候 来源:葡京赌场娱乐 点击:89 次

Venezuela’s (“the system”) is probably the world’s most famous music education programme – and its most misunderstood.

El Sistema is a vast operation that brings hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan children, many of them ostensibly poor, under the umbrella of a classical orchestral training scheme in the name of their “salvation”. It has been covered extensively in the past decade, often by journalists who are given red-carpet tours and press office accounts and the success stories of individual musicians. This has all given the programme an unduly rosy international image, further distorted by a romanticised vision of the power of music.

However, recent studies by academics and researchers – – paint a rather different picture. They point to , limited evidence of social transformation, and other systemic problems. But with journalists and others around the world now in thrall to El Sistema’s miraculous story, these inconvenient accounts are largely overlooked.

Instead, the Anglophone media in particular tends to stick to an idealised image of El Sistema that it began constructing around the time of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra’s rapturously received in London.

And now, as the domestic political tensions around El Sistema dramatically increase, the same dynamic is playing out again.

As Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened and , dissatisfaction with the state-funded music programme has surged. Many Venezuelans particularly resent its iconic figurehead, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, whose high public profile, warm relations with top government figures and long-term silence over the escalating civil strife have alienated many compatriots.

This is a significant narrative kink in one of classical music’s biggest stories. When a government minister was captured on camera telling El Sistema’s employees to , there was a furore online, but it seemed that many mainstream journalists looked away.

El Sistema’s figurehead, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Photograph: GmbH/Rex/Shutterstock

But then, two developments finally caught their attention. First, Sistema musician was killed in an anti-government protest on May 3 2017. Dudamel responded with a criticising the government. Then a Sistema violinist, Wuilly Arteaga, in the anti-government marches, playing his violin in front of lines of riot police.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these developments were picked up by major outlets including the New York Times, which ran a major feature story with the headline .

In a few strokes, the coverage shifted from blithe neglect to breathless over-dramatisation. Reports around the world cast Dudamel as a issuing a “fiery statement” and “denouncing” the government, failing to take account of his long history of silence and many Venezuelans’ deep scepticism about him. That scepticism seems to have been little moved by the Facebook post, which many – including members of Cañizales’s family – saw as .

Dudamel has since returned to his habitual silence, interspersed with the occasional platitude about peace and unity, undermining the notion that he was leading an uprising as opposed to simply managing his image. Meanwhile, Arteaga has left for the US, where he is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame on the Latino chatshow circuit.

Opposition supporters, some holding posters of opposition leader Leopoldo López, rally to mark the 100th day of protests in Caracas. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

After Cañizales’s death, staged a protest outside the Sistema headquarters. The largest banner declared that “El Sistema cannot sound the same”. Yet, with 827,000 musicians currently enrolled in El Sistema, according to official figures, a tiny one-off protest hardly amounts to a musicians’ uprising. What’s genuinely striking is that nearly two months after the protest, El Sistema in fact does sound the same.

It pays to think about what hasn’t happened. There has been no organised orchestral protest, no mass resignations, no refusal to go on the international tours that the government funds for propaganda purposes. No leading conductor or soloist has publicly resigned over the increasing use of Sistema orchestras for political ends. continues to show overseas engagements with El Sistema’s top orchestras.

The isolated actions of a few individuals do not suggest that El Sistema is, as recently called it, “the Venezuelan government’s newest opponent”. With its near monopoly on classical music in Venezuela, the programme still exerts significant control over its musicians – and it remains firmly aligned with the regime. Some rank-and-file members might join the protesters, but its leaders .

Cañizales died in an anti-government protest, but that doesn’t mean he is representative of hundreds of thousands of his fellow musicians. Indeed, Arteaga, the now-famous violinist of the protests, left El Sistema before he emerged as an iconic musical hero; he has for their political complicity and hypocrisy.

The recent attempts to paint Dudamel and El Sistema as heroes of the resistance are simply the latest in a long line of romanticised misrepresentations. A more representative figure would be the first Sistema musician to become a cause célèbre in this year’s protests, horn-player – who made it clear he was not in fact joining in, but simply on his way to a rehearsal.

  • This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the . Geoffrey Baker is professor of music at Royal Holloway, University of London.
  • The Guardian’s story on Dudamel - covering the points Baker accuses the media of missing -