Artistic Citizenship From Beyond the Iron Curtain?

In 2000, Russian French horn player Arkady Shikloper and American French horn player Tom Varner joined forces with the Vienna Art Orchestra on tour. Why? It wasn’t only because of an artistic desire to integrate two distinctly different jazz traditions. These musicians shared a commitment to “putting their musical abilities to work” for the advancement of mutual cultural, humanistic, and political understanding.  After the Cold War and the continuation of a “cold” relationship between the United States and Russia, these two jazz musicians and the Vienna Art Orchestra demonstrated in action “what kind of musician is it good to be” both artistically and ethically. In MM2, we call this “artistic citizenship.” There, we raise the following questions: Do music makers (amateurs and professionals; youth and adults) have a social-democratic responsibility to put their music to work for positive community transformation, including taking steps toward peace and political reconciliation? What kind of music maker is it “good” to be in relation to the natures and values of any musical-social praxis? In the vast complexity of, say, US-Russian relations during and after the Cold War, what role did musicians play, or should they have played, in helping to resolve international misunderstandings? Watch this Youtube video and consider these questions for yourself. (Great thanks to French horn player Dan Remme for bringing this group to our attention.)

Can you think of other examples? If so, let us know and we’ll post them on this blog site.

For a further discussion of the nature and values artistic citizenship, see David’s article in the Music Educators Journal and our discussion in MM2 (e.g., pp. 268-270).