With the dire effects of rampant climate change all too evident throughout Australia this summer, we are all having to take stock of how we can reduce our carbon footprint. Classical music is not exempt from this, claimed Jasper Parrott of HarrisonParrott (a talent agency that boasts of having booked “tens of thousands of performances around the world over the past 50 years”).
In his recent piece for the Guardian (“Classical music must play its part in tackling the climate crisis”), Mr Parrott makes much of the importance of international touring to the classical music industry, and calls for “challenging assumptions” and “real changes” about how our industry operates. The problem is, what should those changes be? And will the self-interest of both performers and/or audiences work against real change? For example, Mr Parrott suggests some solutions, eg., more eco-friendly concert halls, train travel instead of flying, and so on. However, we at Classic Melbourne think the situation calls for a more radical approach. How necessary is all this shifting about of musicians and audiences, particularly when it involves, for instance, a large symphony orchestra?
There are alternatives. Modern audio recording techniques are superb; and in the evocative series Opera at the Met, the Metropolitan Opera of New York gives viewers the strong sense of being in the audience at the opera being filmed.
It’s true that there is no experience quite like hearing classical music played live. But this may be a matter of re-education for us all; why assume that the local product is not comparable to visiting artists? There are degrees of excellence to be found throughout Australia; certainly, our major orchestras are comparable to the best of those overseas! Similarly, many local individual performers are as worth hearing as the reputed best in their fields. There could be noteworthy exceptions, such as the Australian World Orchestra, whose cohort represents many famous orchestras brought together for a specific concert program during the year.
Classic Melbourne believes we all may need to change our thinking. Already, there are choirs for both adults and children looking at climate change. The ABC’s excellent series Don’t Stop the Music showed how young musicians could be supported. By devoting funds to such programs, the government could do its part in tackling emissions targets and ensuring the survival an industry which gives us so much pleasure.