Robert Estrin - piano expert

Is Socialism Good for Music?

Discuss with Robert about this very interesting topic

In this video, Robert talks about the interesting relationship between socialism and music.

Released on July 17, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi I'm Robert Estrin and this is The question today is, is socialism good for music? Now this is a very complex question, and there's a lot to think about. So let's start with what 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, Khachaturian and others, they were funded by the government and had illustrious careers and wrote great music. Shostakovich in particular suffered, though, under the authoritarian rule. So while it was great that artists were funded you know, had Shearing and Richter and so many great pianists, violinists, orchestras, that were funded and musicians could make a living, but at the same time, the authoritarian rule was a heavy hand telling people what they could play, what they could compose, it had to glorify the state. So it was really a double-edged sword.

Well, what about today? Are there any socialized music today? Well yes, there is. If you talk about socialism as something that's publicly funded, which is really what socialism is in its most basic form, Germany has 133 symphony orchestras that are publicly funded. A vibrant scene. That's in addition, by the way, to private orchestras. Now, not all of them are funded like the Berlin Philharmonic, there are different tiers just like there are here. Of course 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 there that is really vibrant for the classical music scene.

Well, is there any kind of socialized music in the United States with Germany with 133 orchestras? Well, can you believe that there are 140 bands, there are 5,000 professional musicians paid for with our tax dollars right here in the U.S. of A. In fact, the government spent $1.55 billion with a b in a recent four-year period on military bands. That's right, 140 bands, military bands. The Air Force, Marines, the Army, the Navy, they all have music. They spend over $155 million just on instruments and equipment in the same 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.

So it's all about how the money is spent and how it's delegated and what the rules, what strings come with it? The Soviet Union was very harsh, glorifying music for the party. And in Germany, it's basically glorifying the great traditions of Western composers. And here, it's about the military. So there are different ways that money, public money, could be utilized in music. I'd love to get your opinions about the different ways that public funding could 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.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Jerome Danoff * VSM MEMBER * on July 18, 2019 @2:31 pm PST
There are lots more than military bands. There are orchestras, jazz bands, choruses, and other musical groups supported by the military, and I think it's great. They provide hours of free concerts for the public. There is no other way to fully financially support musical culture and keep the music alive. Isn't it better to have some of our tax dollars contributing to entertaining people and building morale than to just teach young people to kill?
John D. Beach * VSM MEMBER * on July 17, 2019 @6:02 am PST
The concept that the legitimacy or fairness of competition is based on the unique ability of the individual to achieve without the persuasion, perversion or pollution of political power. Since virtue is its own reward, the effort expended to hone one's skills and increase one's ability to excel in a field ought to "move the bar higher"---in that field--- rather than be an expression of the power of the state to bring praise to itself.
Robert - host, on July 18, 2019 @5:15 pm PST
Absolutely! The challenge is always how to fund the arts because they aren't necessary for survival and they don't make a profit. That's why some countries invest in the arts. Others depend upon primarily upon donations.
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