Open secrets

I’ve been following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #metoo hashtag on social media recently, and keep reading the same comment, usually (though not always) voiced by men: “Why didn’t they speak out? If everyone knew, why didn’t they do something?”

I’m not an actor, but as a member of another profession for which there are exponentially more aspiring workers than there are jobs, I think I know why.

It’s an open secret that certain top figures in the classical music world are sleazebags. Everyone knows who they are. I can think of at least one well-known cellist who was reputed to have been grossly inappropriate with younger players. Another was universally known to have raped someone. Everyone knew, and there were no consequences for this person, ever.

Musicians aren’t monsters, and to be fair, I’d say the majority would at least warn  colleagues about known lechers. I remember a few times, early in my career, when kind colleagues would tacitly make sure I was never left alone with a person who was known to harass and/or grope young women. I now do this myself, for example by offering rides home if someone is about to get in a car with someone she shouldn’t. I didn’t contribute to the #metoo campaign last week, but of course I’ve had my share of unwanted male attention, both verbal and physical, and I don’t know a woman who hasn’t. It’s clear that the discreet warnings and pre-emptive chauffeuring are woefully inadequate responses to a serious and widespread problem.

Why does this happen? Why won’t we confront these creeps? Call the police? Kick up a fuss? Because we don’t want trouble. Troublemakers don’t get hired again, and most of us have worked way, way too hard building our careers to want to do anything that would jeopardize them. If you won’t put up with a person in power who leers at you and pinches your backside, someone else will be found in five seconds flat. Such is the nature of a profession with a neverending supply of young up-and-comers.

I’m glad that the Hollywood establishment will no longer (so it claims) tolerate the revolting behaviour Weinstein got away with for so long. I’m also heartened to see several groups, such as She Bangs The Drum, finally giving a voice to people who for so long were afraid to speak out about the epidemic of harassment and assault in the music profession. I feel emboldened to be more direct the next time I witness something that’s unacceptable, and I hope widespread systemic change is coming, and soon.

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We’ve still got music

I should remind myself not to look at social media right after an appalling tragedy, because reading the same meaningless platitudes (“thoughts and prayers”) again and again makes me feel so hopeless and powerless and enraged. But for me, a day without social media is like a day without oxygen, so of course I looked. @carnegiehall had this to say:

And I thought, OK, we can do that. It’s what we’re trained to do.

My next thought: who’s listening? Most people don’t like or listen to classical music, so who is this really for?

I scrolled further, and there was @stevenisserlis with this quote from “On Music” by Thomas Moore:

Which says it all, really.  What we do, classical music, might not speak to everyone, but in times of distress, we who make it have the privilege of being able to take comfort in it. Music is our life’s work, the soundtrack and very fabric of our lives. It’s there when words fail. I can’t find solace in “thoughts and prayers” because I do not and cannot believe. But we have music, we’ve still got music.

And once more I turn to Bach’s cello suites…