Cultural and economic changes are sweeping the planet. The locus of energy systems is shifting from the West to the East. We can detect these shifts via participation rates in consuming ‘classical’ music or banking growth, trade and political energy. China, in particular, is going crazy with all these things roaring along. Which means, lots of failures but also, lots of triumphs. First, the story about the tower that simply fell over in China.
Like the tower that was designed by European architects which had no interior floors in the middle but a floor to roof atrium, which burned down before being finished, another mega-building simply collapsed in Shanghai. This is due to really bad foundation work:
A newly built 13-storey residential building collapsed in Shanghai yesterday, killing one worker. The block of high-rise flats toppled onto its side in the muddy construction site raising concerns that building safety standards are being overlooked in favour of fast construction in China’s rush to modernise.
The building appeared to be almost complete with fitted windows and a finished, tiled facade. Other similar-looking blocks in the same property development were still standing nearby.
A truly flimsy foundation! In NYC, we don’t have this sort of collapse due to very strict building codes. Of course, these can be circumvented. I remember all too well, since I was doing rehabs in NYC in the 1970’s, the building inspectors were so corrupt, we actually had a list of ‘overhead’ costs for each inspector. So when they looked at buildings, you had to have, say, $50 on average, to pay them off. Finally, the corruption was so gross, the FBI swept in and arrested many of them.
This, incidentally, was during the time the WTC was being built. People don’t believe me when I say, the buildings were flawed in the first place and probably had mob influence with the cement deliveries. Anyone looking at the Chinese photos here can see that the ground, which is right next to one of the world’s biggest rivers, is silt. Silt is very poor building foundation sites and one has to have very deep pilings to reach bedrock. Obviously, this wasn’t done in China. Instead, corrupt officials probably green lighted this ridiculous construction. All the buildings here should be demolished.
China, like California, has earthquakes. We know from the recent Sichuan quake that building codes for large structures matter a tremendous amount and one must ‘overbuild’ increasingly as buildings rise in scale. In NYC, the lower parts of many sky scrapers is multiple stories deep in the earth as well as the anchors of the building must reach the hard backbone rock base of Manhattan. The world’s first large collection of sky scrapers was in NYC and this is due to geological and transportation logistics. Other cultures imitating NYC must understand the hidden parts of the building business. Many places like Dubai that went into tower building are now suffering from the side issues of overbuilding as well as instability.
Manhattan is geologically quite stable. Many places going into mass sky scraper building are much more geologically active. Say, Tokyo, for example.
Beijing’s efforts to crack down on gambling by Communist Party and government officials with public funds seem to have made little headway. While longer jail terms and the risk of losing their jobs fail to deter officials from gambling, visa restrictions to Macau – the most popular gambling destinations for Chinese officials – has only driven officials to online casinos. As a result, online gambling inside China increasingly flourishes and the sums involved are become increasingly staggering.
Police in Central China’s Hubei province recently found that government officials and heads of state-owned companies were among the tens of thousands of people gambling on sports and horse races, as well as lotteries like the Mark Six in six online casinos. The casinos have managed to accrue more than 50 billion yuan (US$7 billion) since the illegal operations began in 2004.
The Chinese government officials who lived with me in the early 1980’s almost all gravitated to Atlantic City where they almost all lost all their money. I warned them that gambling is a fool’s game. But then, when it comes to Cave of Wealth and Death issues, people ignore me nearly totally and do stupid things, anyway. Gambling encourages idleness, recklessness and anyone who has a brain for real gambling, that is, can do calculations with cold determination, are banned from gambling casinos. I, for example, have been banned and can’t go into these places. HAHAHA. They all look like caves of death, anyway.
Gambling increases other moral lapses like stealing, embezzlement and taking of bribes. Any culture that encourages gambling soon discovers, this solves no financial problems, it increases them. China may be entering a phase where gambling will be limited. The US is in a mania of gambling and even small local stores look more like casinos with an entire wall devoted to lottery tickets, all of them shiny, bright and colorful.
But aside from all this, the Asian people are now moving very rapidly into ‘high culture’ areas. This is most significant. Below are some examples:
Violin fever has hit this drab rural township with hundreds of residents, young and old, picking up the bow as Donggaocun tries to position itself as the string instrument capital of China.
Once known primarily for its abundant peach harvest, the town, about an hour’s drive from downtown Beijing, has become one of the world’s most prodigious manufacturers of inexpensive cellos, violas, violins and double basses. Last year the town’s 9 factories and 150 small workshops made 250,000 instruments, most of them ending up in the hands of students in the United States, Britain and Germany.
The city fathers have taken to boasting that Donggaocun produces 30 percent of the world’s string instruments, although another town in southeast China, Xiqiao, makes a similar, if slightly more credible, claim.
China now produces half of the classical musical instruments used in schools. A general rule of thumb is, when someone makes instruments, these communities also end up making the music for these instruments. This is how cultures operate. This is why I am against the US outsourcing the creation of everything we used to make here. Mere consumers end up losing a grip on a cultural system. Just as the US is destroying our engineering class by moving manufacturing and design offshore, so it will be with playing the violin.
Public school budgets for classical music are in decline. When I was young, once a week, the government broadcast classical music to all classrooms and we discussed the pieces we listened to. In addition, we went to annual symphonic concerts. This is vanishing now. The focus on tests to see if our youth can read, write and calculate and understand basic science has sucked down most available funding and resources.
The decline of US dominance is obvious when we turn to international competitions. Here is one very recent example, the Van Cliburn competitions:
Two pianists have been awarded gold medals at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In a surprise ending to the 17-day contest, 19-year-old Haochen Zhang from China and 20-year-old Nobuyuki Tsujii from Japan shared the top prize.
Yeol Eum Son, 23, from South Korea, won the second place silver medal. The third place crystal trophy was not awarded. Tsujii, blind at birth, had been a clear audience favorite, and for critics covering the event, he had clearly moved well beyond the inevitable label “the blind competitor” after strong performances of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in the semi-finals and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in the final round.
Hoachen Zhang, the youngest of the finalists, celebrated his 19th birthday in June 3. Cliburn video web hosts Jade Simmons and Buddy Bray, awed by Zhang’s performances, called his preliminary round Petrushka suite (Stravinsky) “perfect” and judged his final round performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, as having “a special feeling that can’t be taught.”
In Japan, they actually make anime about classical music students! Just for example, imagine that happening in the US. In my youth, Warner Brothers produced a series of amazing and hilarious classical musical cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Disney produced ‘Fantasia’, for example. In the movies, we had wonderful films like ‘The Red Shoes’ which inspired many people such as myself.
sponsored by Florian Leonhard
Date of Birth: March 6, 1989
donated by Joji Hattori in memory of his father
Date of Birth: April 13, 1987
donated by the Bournebrook Trust
and PRIZE for best Bach Performance
donated by Robert Masters
Date of Birth: February 17, 1989
donated by Mr & Mrs Albert Frost
Date of Birth: December 7,1992
An American and Australian won the violin competition but both are also Chinese. Alongside this, naturally, composers who are Chinese are creating new music. I really enjoy a lot of the Chinese classical music. And I love Japanese composers who create music for anime. They even put on symphonic concerts which my family loves.
The second half of this video is a Chinese classical group playing traditional instruments.
This story from last week is troubling. I noted the ad that popped up with the story and included it because it shows where our culture is heading:
There are persistent patterns of decline in participation for most art forms. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults – or an estimated 78 million – attended an art museum or an arts performance in the 2008 survey period, compared with about 40 percent in 1982, 1992, and 2002. i ii
- Attendance at the most popular types of arts events – such as art museums and craft/visual arts festivals – saw notable declines. The U.S. rate of attendance for art museums fell from a high of 26 percent in 1992-2002 to 23 percent in 2008, comparable to the 1982 level.
- Between 1982 and 2008, attendance at performing arts such as classical music, jazz, opera, ballet, musical theater, and dramatic plays has seen double-digit rates of decline.
- Fewer adults are creating and performing art. For example, the percentage of adults performing dance has lost six points since 1992. Weaving and sewing remain popular as crafts, but the percentage of adults who do those activities has declined by 12 points. Only the share of adults doing photography has increased – from 12 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2008.
Aging audiences are a long-term trend. Performing arts attendees are increasingly older than the average U.S. adult (45). The aging of the baby boom generation does not appear to account for the overall increase in age.
- Audiences for jazz and classical music are substantially older than before. In 1982, jazz concerts drew the youngest adult audience (median age 29). In the 2008 survey, the median age of jazz concert-goers was 46 – a 17-year increase. Since 1982, young adult (18-24) attendance rates for jazz and classical music have declined the most, compared with other art forms.
- Forty-five to 54-year-olds – historically dependable arts participants – showed the steepest declines in attendance for most art events, compared with other age groups.
Educated Americans are participating less than before, and educated audiences are the most likely to attend or participate in the arts.
- College-educated audiences (including those with advanced degrees and certifications), have curbed their attendance in nearly all art forms.
- Ballet attendance for this group has declined at the sharpest rate – down 43 percent since 1982.
- Less-educated adults have significantly reduced their already low levels of attendance.
The hysteria over the death of pop stars stands in stark contrast to the fall off in participation in cultural events that require a bit more effort to absorb and understand. Jackson, for example, had a stunning voice when he was a child. A wonderful natural vibrato, excellent breath control and an amazing ear for pitch. He used this wonderful instrument to create increasingly debased singing and instead of growing greater, he diminished himself and starved his artistry and his body until both literally vanished.
You Tube is great for finding all sorts of interesting music and dance. Aside from the usual stuff, if we look closely, we can find a small revival in art and music there, odd as this may sound. I sometimes roam about, looking for odd stuff. Here is an example: