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Why Is America Losing the Culture Race?

Why is America losing the culture race? You probably didn't know there is a culture war, so insulated are Americans from their own destruction. Here's why. If you have an original idea in America that's not a computer widget, browser plugin or an Internet marketing plan, but a painting, an opera, a novel, you're out of luck. There's no place for you in popular culture, spaces filled, please don't come back unless you're Lindsay Lohan. Or maybe you have an idea for an expensive weapon system or a poisonous lawn care product? Step this way. Other countries may love our television shows and movies, our stars and our celebrities, but when it comes to culture, they laugh at us.

America Alone Does Not Subsidize Art

America is the only country in the world that penalizes musicians and artists by providing no significant support to them whatsoever. Unless they have achieved "celebrity," or at least enough social status to attract the interest of celebrities. And celebrities produce, inevitably, garbage. Before one is a celebrity in America, one is nothing, and nothing one does matters. After, though, everything you have ever touched will become enshrined in nonsensical adoration. If George Clooney wrote a Symphony #5 or a Requiem Mass, the New York Philharmonic would not hesitate to play it, for publicity value alone. But would they ever play a symphony composed by some pimply teenager who actually had an original idea? Not unless that kid's dad was connected through the social network of music professionals.

Elitists Only Need Apply

You know whom I mean, the same genius record executives who carefully guided us from the golden age of Horowitz and Columbia Records to the present state wherein there are no real classical record labels. Americans use Mozart to clear the teens out of malls at midnight. They play it over the speakers and the kids vanish. Peter Gelb at Sony Records (now head of the Met Opera) is a perfect example of a corporate head who abandoned countless musical artists. There are no great classical composers any more because no one with real power gives the promising ones much help at all. The ones who could help them are too busy feathering their own nests.

The Point Is People Magazine

What's the point? These painters and composers will never be in People magazine, and don't want to be. And don't think you can walk in off the street and proclaim your talent. An organization like the National Endowment for the Arts is so full of pork that you needn't apply.

Grant Proposals That Are Useless But Profitable

Instead of funding worthy programs, these monoliths simply breed proposals, tailor-made to the "guidelines," veering as little as possible from the tried and true. Their attitude is, "It's better to get money for something irrelevant than no money at all for something original,  worthy and hard-to-fund." Getting money for something original and worthy in America is a lifetime of work in the style of Sisyphus. People apply for grants for projects not that they want to do, but what they think the governing board will approve.

Only The Worst That The Marketplace Approves

You still have an original idea in America that's not a computer doodad, but a statue, a musical, a lyric poem? There's no place for you in popular culture, spaces filled, please don't come back unless you can write to the beat of the Disney demographic drum. Tweet it. Carl Sandburg would be thrown down the stairs at Disney and reproved for his "dry prose." "Can't that idiot Sandburg write a decent sitcom script for once so we can all make some money?" That's what the geniuses at Disney are thinking. You could become an academic, and ride that gravy train of obedience and mediocrity for as long as you can. But, like the army, you must join when you're young, and subsume yourself in the quasi-corporate culture of the university. Some can. Some won't. No, my son, be an artist in America, be free, proud, independent, and then go starve to death. America, the culture that systematically destroys its artists, needn't turn around and ask where they all went.

 

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