Sunday, February 13, 2011

Musical Faustian bargains [Updated]

Surprise Quizz: what is the more offensive element in the picture on the right?

That Abreu and Dudamel show up on the same stage than Chavez?

That Abreu and Dudamel seem to have a frozen circumstantial smile?

That Chavez wears red tennis shoes?

Or should we be grateful that Chavez is speech-fying and not singing as he does in his Alo Presidente?

Yesterday Antonio Abreu got one of his dreams, a formal training facility for his now world famous youth orchestral system.  For this he has had to kiss so many frogs that maybe Chavez is not so bad a frog after all.  Abreu has had some success: of the cursed 4th republic the lone institution at this point that chavismo has not tampered much with is the youth system, though at every opportunity that Chavez has had to crash the party he has done so.  Even though that by his usual standards he was rather muted yesterday: after all he was right to suspect that some of the world cultural cameras were filming Dudamel and thus were filming him.  For those who understand Spanish, and the stomach for it, I will embed the youtube clip published by the Venezuelan news agency and Aporrea:

I suppose that I cannot blame Abreu from trying to save his life work (though as long as Chavez is alive and president Abreu will preside an endangered system, and one definitely used increasingly for propaganda).

However the one I can start putting some blame on is Dudamel who by know should know better.  After all he could have certainly claimed some international performing conflict and come later, say for the formal first concert and leave the inauguration festivities to Abreu.  If he needs to please Chavez on occasion he can show at some other minor festivity, or something.

Or if he approves of Chavez he might as well come out with it and get his picture in some nice propaganda frame like the one on the right form yesterday festivities.

I suppose that in his musical education Dudamel was not informed of the sad story of many famous German musicians and directors that were unable to break up with the Nazi power for a variety of reasons and who, like Karajan, had to carry all through their lives that weight.  Whatever reasons they had, these German musicians, once they expurgated from the repertory Jewish masterpieces, were free to do and to play pretty much whatever they wanted through the war, remaining  the cultural symbol of Germany and thus becoming the cultural symbol of Nazi Germany.  Fortunately for Dudamel and Abreu chavismo is ignorant enough that I do not think for the time being they need to purge from the repertoire in Venezuela  Appalachian Spring or Rhapsody in Blues.

I have one little piece of advice for Dudamel: time to stop.  You helped your mentor enough, he has now his concert hall for his orchestral system.  You paid him back handsomely for all that he did for you.  Abreu is old enough and he probably will have little career prospects, or desires, in a post Chavez world.  Your duty now is to prepare yourself for the post Chavez leadership  and thus your duty is to distance yourself from Chavez and manage never to be seen with him on stage anymore.  After all, as the very busy director of the LA orchestra you can find surely plenty of excuses.  the youth orchestral system will be served best if you stay from now on in the background.   Do not make Abreu's Faustian bargain yours!

PS: and if someone thinks I was too gentle on the whole thing, read the piece from Gustavo Coronel.  I forgot to mention that I did get the picture from there though I had to trace it to Telesur which obviously does not subscribe to E! Police fashion show.....

UPDATE: in a recent column Marianela Salazar confirms that indeed Dudamel is pro Chavez.  I suppose that since his origins are rather humble there might be some sympathy for Chavez' causes for a Dudamel who probably had had to neglect some other aspects of his eduction to dedicate himself to his art.  It is certainly some gap in his education that allows him to forget that if Dudamel is a great tale of rags to riches it is because the orchestral system was created BEFORE Chavez and that himself is a product of the "cuarta republica" not "republica bolivariana".  Certainly no pre Chavez president would have dared use Dudamel for propaganda the way Chavez does.


  1. Anonymous12:16 PM

    100% agreed

    however, it could be that Dudamel has learned from Abreu not only the musical knowledge, but his pseudo Ni-ni, and brownosing posture. The fact that he's already brave enough to be photograph with him speaks volumes in my book.
    what is surprising is that he does need this, unless, he will carry on with the system once Abreu passes, and hence that would explain his posture


  2. Daniel,
    you know what? for saying things like this post of yours, I've gained some bad looks -to say the least.

    I don't care. Dudamel is a musical prodigy, but I don't respect him anymore because of this kind of behavior.

    chavez (así en minúsculas!) es un encantador de serpientes. Petty minds fall for him.

  3. This reminds me very strongly of

    You have to watch that film.

  4. This quote from Dudamel is pertinent:

    "In El Sistema we are not just creating musicians, we are constructing a country. Our musicians are not separated from what is happening in the world, but they are focused on contributing to the future."

    Dudamel gives the image of a uniter, and not a divider.We need a division between Chavismo and the opposition in order to get him out.You cannot fight what you do not oppose.

    Just by coincidence today I heard from a family member who is close to Dudamel.The word is that he feels that he is a musician and has to work so............

    My opinion is that those who have a highly developed consciousness might forgo this dire necessity because they would know that a dictator is only as powerful as those who support him and ultimately we are going to have to face this fact.

  5. Firepigette

    I am not sure I buy that argument. I am tired of too many artists that compromised too much because allegedly their art could not be compromised and needed to be worked on, you know, for the betterment of the world, even if dirty money was required. Even Onechot is seen recently in a governmental ad for solidarity with the victims of the rains. I suppose that he felt the governmental criticism he got from his video on crime and, well he needs to sell his CD and Videos, no?

  6. Kepler

    I thought about mentioning that movie but I do not think we are at that stage. Then again, after those red tennis, we might be at that stage.

    At least I am glad that someone did remember that movie, which was my intention :)

  7. Daniel,

    Totally agree.I don't buy it either.


    I know what you's like you are hitting a sacred cow.He is the darling of so people many now.

    I admire his talent.I do not admire his integrity, and for me integrity trumps talent any day of the week.

  8. Boludo Tejano2:19 AM

    Thugo's red tennis shoes remind me of El Chavo del Ocho, of an adult dressed up as a child.

  9. Anonymous2:58 AM

    El Maestro Abreu ha marcado positivamente el destino de cientos de miles de jovenes y niños de Venezuela y yo soy uno de ellos, es por ello que me siento en la obligación moral de defenderlo esta vez como pago a todo lo que él hizo por mi.
    La sala Jose Felix Rivas y la Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Venezuela tienen un protocolo que se sigue desde el momento de su inauguración mucho antes de la inauguración de Teatro Teresa Carreño mismo, por el cual han pasado los presidentes, Carlos Andres Perez (2 veces), Rafael Caldera, Jaime Lusinchi y el actual mandatario, no mencioné a Luis Herrera Campins porque fue el unico que no respetaba el mencionado protocolo y se presentaba en cualquier momento haciendo correr a todos para darle el recibimiento que se merecia.
    El Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu asiste a todos y cada uno de los conciertos de la orquesta principalmente si es el concierto aniversario que se celebra el 12 de Febrero, tambien Dia de la Juventud, El Maestro se sienta en el primer asiento de la Sala Rivas, salvo que el primer Mandatario de la nación asista al concierto en cuyo caso El Maestro Abreu cede el puesto y se rueda a su izquierda.
    Si en este caso el Mandatario en cuestión decidió dar un discurso, cosa muy común en él, que otra cosa podía hacer Jose Antonio Abreu mas que pararse como máximo representante de la Orquesta que es, muy dignamente, sin aspavientos, no defendiendo nada, que defendería a toda costa, por cierto, sino siguiendo el protocolo de rigor.
    Que esperaban, pregunto, que Jose Antonio le quitara el microfono? que diera un discurso politico? El Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu es un musico no un politico, no le pidan que haga lo que los dirigentes de la oposición no han sabido hacer.

  10. Nancy

    Me vas a disculpar pero tu defensa no es realmente ni apropiada ni necesaria.

    Primero esta muy claro en mi post que se entiende que Abreu esta defendiendo su obra de toda la vida y que esta acostumbrado a calarse cualquier presidente. No se que tan bueno es tu entendimiento del ingles, leve asumo por tu necesidad de contestar en español, pero cuando digo "kissing frogs" eso significa calarse todos los poderes en su existencia.

    En otras palabras el asunto del texto no es criticar a la defensa de Abreu del sistema sino preguntarse hasta donde puede llegar dicha defensa. Nadie esta hablando aquí de quitarle el micrófono a Chavez sino de asegurarse que por otras vías haya lo mas posible distancia entre lo uno y lo otro. Por ejemplo, dejarle un par de metros mas entre Chavez y Abreu hubiese sido un comienzo.

    Segundo. Tus antecedentes históricos no son pertinentes porque Chavez no es un presidente cualquiera. Si fueses una lectora mas asidua del blog, cosa que dudo, sabrías que no es la primera vez que escribo sobre Abreu y Dudamel y la Juvenil y el sistema. Sabrías que yo ya me sentaba en la Felix Ribas en tiempos donde todavía estaba en construcción el Teresa Carreño y que debíamos calarnos el ruido de obreros durante algunos conciertos a los que llegábamos caminado sobre escombros.

    O sea que yo vi como todos los gobiernos se comportaron. Si bien ellos tuvieron sus abusos ninguno contra la cultura como lo hace el chavismo fascista de cogerse el Teresa Carreño para proselitismo político cuando le da la mera gana al micomandantepresidente. Espero que estés en capacidad para entender esa diferencia entre lo de hoy y lo de antes.

  11. Boludo,


    and with his newly acquired cheeks he turned into 'El niño de papel'

  12. 1979 Boat People1:36 PM

    Middle East has started it and when will be the "day of rage" in Venezuela, LatAm?

  13. Nancy,
    comprendo tu punto de vista, tu mentor y maestro!

    Mira, el Maestro Abreu ya está de salida y sentirá que su deber es la continuidad de su obra y trabajo -que por cierto- nadie discute.

    Cumplir con el protocolo era su obligación, es parte de lo que Daniel mas arriba llama como 'besar sapos'; yo digo como mi abuela: usar la mano izquierda, ser diplomático, ser político... en cristiano: ser hipócrita para superar una situación.

    Entiendo todo eso. Pero no lo condono.

    Un caso aparte es el Maestro Dudamel. Su sonrisa denota mas complacencia que otra cosa. Tal vez Dudamel sí es chavista, no lo sé. Si lo es, bueno, ese es su derecho! Pero hasta donde yo sé, también existe el derecho a criticarlo por eso.

    Siento mucho que los virtuosos se vean en este tipo de situaciones y no tengan la fortaleza de carácter, como para demostrar que las artes no se pueden comprar.

    Como muchos otros en este foro, conozco de los usos originales del TTC. Como Daniel, asistí a muchos conciertos brincando bloques y cemento. Ví crecer ese Teatro de a poquito y llegué a ver espectáculos como los que se disfrutan en las ciudades mas importantes del planeta.

    Desgraciadamente, ese recinto quedó para actos proselitistas, donde el público -en vez de lucir sus mejores galas- suele disfrazarse de franelas escarlata.

    Tal vez esta última parte es lo que mas me molesta. El maestro, el sistema, la orquesta, quedaron contaminados -por decirlo elegantemente- del aire viciado que se respira ahora en ese recinto.

  14. Liz-

    "Petty minds fall for him."

    A memorable statement; thanks.

  15. As to your quizz, Daniel: Chavez is the most offensive on the stage. Besides, the man has no class! What the *&%# is he doing wearing sneakers? Lord have mercy!

  16. Interesting perception, as always, Daniel. I stop to think about your comments on Dudamel's formal education and his public persona and wonder, could Dudamel be so oblivious that he does not realize what he is falling into? I would like to think not and think of him as some kind of artistic messiah, but whenever I hear him talk I get the feeling he is disconnected from reality. He is an amazingly talented conductor with great dreams of social reform through music but the one who plays hard politics, as you notice, is Abreu.


  17. Corazón,

    This insistence on "class" is really disgusting. I find Chávez's wearing those shoes rather silly, but then what is this "class" concept some upper mddle class and middle class Venezuelans are so obsessed with? Have you tried to pin down what you actually mean by "class"? Is it really just "taste"? Why is that important?
    I don't go to a concert with those shoes, but that's my decision and I would not care a fig if someone shows up there in shorts and shoeless.
    This is the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes when I go to Venezuela...and this is one of the things that help Chávez gain popularity among those "que no tienen clase, uff"
    Sorry, guys, I love classical music but clothing is completely out of issue when it comes to musical experience, it has a lot to do with snobism.

  18. 199 Boat People2:26 PM

    Bare foot walking/running anyone?


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