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#OurWorldWithout – championing creativity in crisis

3 years ago

The ingenuity demonstrated by artists of all kinds as they look for new ways to create and share their work is one of the most positive aspects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Standing back, it is fascinating to see what happens when creative people are temporarily deprived of some of the formal structures that traditionally support, nourish and disseminate their work – concert halls, theatres, galleries, educational institutions and systems, and all the supporting organisations around them.

But are those of us who support the development of musical talent really learning anything that we didn’t already know?

The music education world has already acknowledged the need to get better at ‘creative use of technology’. Indeed, we’ve been talking about it for some time. However, the current situation and dramatic increase in online performance has brought new meaning and purpose to the phrase – together with an exhilarating sense of what’s possible.

As music educators, we had also recognised the need to better reflect and support the musical talent that is increasingly developing away from formal structures and in the living rooms and bedrooms to which many learners are currently confined.

In these respects, at least, the pandemic has not put us on a different trajectory of supporting music learning. Instead, it is reinforcing many of the conclusions made by last year’s Music Commission report and showing how we need to move even faster along the ‘curve’ to fully support the progression of learners.

The same report highlights the dangers of separating out informal and formal approaches to music learning. Lockdown is a reminder of the need to stop others from falling into this trap or thinking that formality – whether concert halls, curricula and structured learning pathways or organisational support – is irrelevant.

Music learning demands the application of practical and intellectual skills in a disciplined way. Watching amazing demonstrations of artistry broadcast from living rooms, balconies and gardens via You Tube and other platforms can make things feel, in some way, ‘homespun’. And this is despite the high quality of the performances and regardless of the simple truth that great music – perhaps more than any other artform – needs formality and broader support systems if it is to thrive.

We need to remind everyone enjoying performances from the latest virtual orchestra or online choir that they are actually witnessing the outcome of a uniquely rich and complex cultural ecology which has taken centuries to evolve and which binds whole artforms together through a dense and intricately drawn network of formal and informal interdependence.

In doing so we should echo the warning given by Lord Black of Brentwood to Parliament last week that: ‘music, the bedrock of our creative economy, is in deep trouble’ and help these audiences understand that, unless we act now, there is a real risk that coronavirus will undo our entire cultural fabric within months – or even weeks.

Wherever we work in the arts, we must also do something else that the Music Commission and other artform studies have urged. We must champion the personal, social and economic value of the creative talent that we all nurture and inspire through our work and that the nation will desperately need as it emerges from the pandemic and finally gets back on its feet.

We can start by supporting the #OurWorldWithout campaign launched by the Creative Industries Federation to urge government to protect our creative sector.

Michael Elliott

ABRSM Chief Executive

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