Is Socialism Good for Music?

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Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is The question today is, “Is socialism good for music?” This is a very complex question and there’s a lot to think about. So, let’s start with the first thing that’s probably going to come to a lot of your minds, which is the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had quite a vibrant music scene and composers like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, and others, were funded by the government and had illustrious careers and wrote great music. Shostakovich, in particular, suffered under authoritarian rule. It was great that the artists were funded. There were phenomenal performers such as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Sviatoslav Richter as well as many orchestral musicians who could make a decent living. But at the same time,

Authoritarian rule was a heavy hand telling people what they could play and what they could compose.

The music had to glorify the state. So it was really a double-edged sword. What about today? Is there socialized music today? Socialism is essentially something that is publicly funded.

Germany has 133 symphony orchestras that are publicly funded.

That’s in addition to private orchestras. They have a vibrant classical music scene! Now, not all of them have budgets as high as the Berlin Philharmonic. There are different tiers of orchestras just like there are here.

In the United States, orchestras are endowed with private donations

and are always struggling. Many go bankrupt and there are fewer and fewer of them as the years go on. So, Germany has something going that is vibrant for the classical music scene. Is there any socialized music in the United States? Can you believe there are 140 publicly funded bands?

There are 5,000 professional musicians paid for with our tax dollars right here in the United States.

In fact, the government spent 1.5 billion dollars in a recent four year period on military bands. There are 140 military bands in the U.S. The Air Force, Marines, the Army, and the Navy all have music programs. They spent over $155 million just on instruments and equipment in that same recent four year period. So, there’s a tremendous amount of money going into music in this country, and that’s basically a social program for music and musicians. It’s all about how money is spent and how it’s delegated along with the rules that come with it. The Soviet Union was very harsh, glorifying music for the Communist Party. And in Germany, it’s glorifying the great traditions of Western music. And here it’s about the military. So, there are different ways that public money can be utilized in music. I’d love to get your opinions about the different ways public funding can help music and what your thoughts are about what I’ve outlined here today. I’d love to hear from you. Again, I’m Robert Estrin here at Your Online Piano Store.