Populism and plagiarism

Alex links to a peculiar story about a White House aide and erstwhile newspaper columnist, Timothy Goeglein who has just resigned over allegations of plagiarism. It’s a shame that readers of the Fort Wayne New Sentinel won’t be treated to more gems like this:

One of the true delights of summertime is area, regional, statewide and national music festivals. They call us to put our phones on forward and to take a step back, reflect and listen deeply. What kind of music do we love, and why?

As one might expect from such an opening, Goeglein has some thoughts on contemporary music:

In the world of contemporary classical music, no names rate higher than John Corigliano, John Adams and Richard Danielpour. They are names that classical music lovers know and respect. But how about creative individuals who strive for excellence in all the arts and whose achievements often go unreported and unfunded because they are seen as less avant garde?

The idea of Adams, Corigliano and Danielpour as vanguard is amusing enough, but the really funny thing is that Goeglein gets it so wrong that he’s almost right. Adams et al are extremely successful composers writing music of wide commercial appeal that wins major label recording contracts and big opera commissions. What’s more, they’ve carefully incorporated mass appeal into their aesthetic. Adams composes like he does because he wants big audiences, and he’ll tell you as much. Which is fine: but if you’re going to embrace the marketplace, then you’ve got to accept the commercial risk too. There really isn’t much argument for public funding here (and I don’t know if Adams gets any these days). But neither is there for Goeglein’s “unreported and unfunded” populists for exactly the same reasons. Public arts funding is not there to support those enter the commercial marketplace and fail, it is there for those artists for whom the marketplace is irrelevant or even a hindrance. There are other measures of quality than box office sales.

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