The Symbols are Important
This is the new Paris Symphony Hall. One of the most beautiful performance spaces I have ever seen, and one of the most acoustically perfect spaces I've ever been in. And a beacon of belief in art and music and theatre. One of the nicest things about living in France for all those years was the sense of respect they had for artists, and the self respect that gave me. In all my years there (sometimes successful years, sometimes struggling wildly) no one ever questioned my reason for choosing this offbeat life. They were curious, interested, sympathetic and respectful. They believed art and artists were profoundly important to a functioning society.
I was lucky enough to be in Paris when they completed this huge symbol to their belief in the arts. My first chance to be there was to hear Mahler's 5th, and I swear I could pick out the sound of individual violin players. And it's not just a performance space. It's a community space dedicated to music and performance: teaching, workshops, children's shows, family events, lectures, contemporary and traditional music. Parts of this building are being used all day every day.
In North America we have to justify the existence of the arts by compiling charts and excel sheets to point out how much money they make, and how many people they employ, as if that gives it a reason to exist. That's important, but not at all the real point of the arts. As the performing arts are casually disappeared from our lives during the pandemic, I like to think on this space, and the belief that it embodies: the belief that we are not machines for living, not cogs in a great economic plan to increase our countries GDP by consuming more, but instead we're all part of this great mystery of life and existence, and we are exploring it together, and art and music and theatre are tools to do that. Tools that we've been working on for millennia. It would be a profound mistake to lose them.