The bankruptcies of classical music orchestras around the country show the failure of a tops-down, academy-nonprofit approach to culture. The theory was that the academy would train musicians, but while doing so, also create an audience for the music. Music culture became the property of elite institutions. Side-by-side the college training grounds were the nonprofit organizations housing the orchestras. Decisions as to quality, taste, and marketing were made completely separate from the market, which was looked upon as a corrupting influence.
In the long run, this way of creating and presenting music didn’t work.. Classical music, a vibrant, major part of the culture fifty years ago through giant figures like Leonard Bernstein, Mario Lanza, and Van Cliburn, has in the wake of the pop music explosion been left far behind. It didn’t compete because it never tried to compete.
The same phenomenon is taking place in a big part of the literary world, with the MFA training of writers, the thinking being that the writing school graduates—not the mass public—will be literature’s audience.
Literature has thrived through spontaneous generations of culture. One example might be the Harlem Renaissance, which I’ve just begun reading about to find a candidate or candidates for the All-Time American Writer Tournament ongoing at