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The Slow Movement, Part 2
Comparing the post-elitist world of the Slow Food movement and classical music.

by Holly Mulcahy
August 4, 2008

Over the past 20 years, the Slow Food movement has grown from being characterized as a gimmick created by a small group of culinary elitists to mainstream acceptance throughout much of Europe and the US. Along the way, the movement has overcome a number of obstacles that are similar to those currently facing the world classical music. But the message classical music portrays isn?t as clear or unified as the Slow Food movement.

There is no doubt that classical music organizations are working hard to build support for classical music but many organizations fight amongst themselves to secure a portion of the current audience instead of working together to increase the pool of classical music supporters. Without a clear message from all organizations, the purpose for keeping classical music in our society becomes confused and ultimately lost.

There seems to be a serious disconnect between groups that focus on classical music: conservatories, radio stations, music critics, and orchestras. Everyone is passionate about spreading classical music?s message, but within the passion to share there is a senseless power struggle to become a dominant voice. Everyone wants to be in charge, no one is willing to step aside and share the platform for the greater good.

Some boards don?t want to hear the message about what it takes to form a cohesive group, some managers are so busy cutting budgets that they don?t realize they aren?t crafting a message, and some players become ground down to a point where they have lost what it takes to give the message spark. At some point, all have fought to keep the arts alive but core values have become skewed and scattered, making it difficult for the public to hear any clear message.

When I read about the Slow Food movement, I was struck by the simple core values. While so many different authors, clubs, and nations have all joined the movement, they adopt these core values. There is no confusion about what is important and how each component symbiotically helps the next. There is also a genuine interest in bringing more of the public into the movement.

Looking at the Slow Food USA website, the simplicity of the core values makes the message easy to summarize:

  • Good: Naturally delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals.
  • Clean: Grown and harvested with methods that have a positive impact on ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Fair: Produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

Good, Clean, and Fair is a cycle that shows how food grown with care and knowledge can help the environment, create tasty and healthy edibles, and generate local dollars that circulate through the local economy. Each of the values directly relates and relies on each other. The happy byproduct is taking time to eat and enjoying the process.

And this is where I really think orchestras need to take note. Coming up with a cycle that allows for a more sustainable future is possible, but much work needs to be done. Creating a fair working environment makes happy musicians and happy music makes happy audiences. Happy audiences come back, continue to educate themselves, and bring friends. Those patrons contribute increased dollars that lead toward a happy working environment and the cycle enables the system to grow.

For the Slow Food movement, creating a sustainable existence provides an end result of pure enjoyment of food and appreciation for how it was created. This should be the goal of orchestras and classical music. It will certainly take some work to reach levels comparable to the Slow Food movement but everyone will recognize when the right message is finally shaped.

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