David Byrne on Arts Funding in America: “Stop Glorifying Dead Guys”

12/16/2009 4:20 PM |


In a long, well-reasoned post on his website last week, David Byrne bemoaned the current state of arts funding at the state level in America, making the potentially unpopular argument that too much money is being spent to keep opera and classical music alive, while not enough is being invested in music and art funding in schools. He uses as an example an L.A. Opry Production of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” which is receiving $14 million in funding from the city of Los Angeles, bringing the production’s budget up to a whopping $32 million. The second best part of the whole piece is when he wonders if Wagner had intended for there to be a light saber in future performances of his work, as pictured, but this is the best part:

I think maybe it’s time to stop, or more reasonably, curtail somewhat, state investment in the past — in a bunch of dead guys (and they are mostly guys, and mostly dead, when we look at opera halls) — and invest in our future. Take that money, that $14 million from the city, for example, let some of those palaces, ring cycles and temples close — forgo some of those $32M operas — and fund music and art in our schools. Support ongoing creativity in the arts, and not the ongoing glorification and rehashing of the work of those dead guys. Not that works of the past aren’t inspirational, important and relevant to future creativity — plenty of dead people’s work is endlessly inspiring — but funding for arts in schools has been cut to zero in many places.

He stops just short of complaining that the Adult Art World’s failure to recognize popular music as a serious part of our culture has done and is doing a grave disservice to many of our greatest living artists, at a time when, really, we should know a whole lot better, but you can tell he was about to get there. [via Daily Swarm]

One Comment

  • Does Mr. Byrne not realize that one day he will also be dead?

    So if a music teacher want to take her class to the symphony, what will she do?

    Oh, I see… a David Byre concert. I get it now.