The December 2008 Harper's has an excellent article from Suki Kim ("A Really Big Show") that talks about the New York Philharmonic's trip to Pyongyang, North Korea (or what she nails as a "fantasia"). The piece questions the morality of traveling to a country like North Korea and focuses on the unease of an oboist's sixteen course meal with people starving outside, but when it comes to actually addressing these issues, the Philharmonic is as repressive with its answers as North Korea is with its citizens ("If you want to talk to our people, we will select ones for you"). What comes across is Lorin Maazel's (the maestro's) bold statement that "Artists . . . have a broader role to play in the public arena. But it must be totally apolitical, nonpartisan, and free of issue-specific agendas. It is a role of the highest possible order." It's a hypocritical statement, especially given that as he sees it, the role is to make bank: twenty-five wealthy patrons accompany the orchestra, at $50,000 a pop, and Suki wisely closes her article with the publicist, Erik Latzky, announcing that "the DVD of the concert would soon be available for $24.99." I agree more with Suki's first-hand account, which doesn't pretend that the music moved the audience to tears (regardless of what CNN and The New York Times may have reported): as she puts it, it was "just a concert."
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