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Fiddlin’ Dogs of Capitalism

New York Philharmonic.  North Korea.  Discuss.

p.s. Steve Smith is on the scene. WGBH will air one of the concerts live online on Sunday, March 2, from 3-5 pm.

Tuesday Update:  Great picture of Steve at the airport in North Korea.


Comment from Daniel G.
Time: February 25, 2008, 12:11 pm

Ahem… Louisville’s Fine Arts Station, Classical 90.5 will also be airing the concert on Tuesday, February 26 at 8pm. Streaming audio at

Comment from David Beardsley
Time: February 25, 2008, 5:11 pm

from the NYTimes: “The concert was mainly the same as Wednesday’s in Shanghai: Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony and the Tchaikovsky “Pathétique.” The overture this time was from Rossini’s “Scala di Seta” instead of Beethoven’s music for “Coriolan.””

No American composers?

Comment from Daniel G.
Time: February 25, 2008, 5:16 pm

Actually the concert is: Wagner, Prelude to Lohengrin Act III; Gershwin “An American in Paris” and Dvorak Sym. No. 9.

Did I mention Classical 90.5 is carrying it live tomorrow at 8pm :)

Comment from David Salvage
Time: February 25, 2008, 7:13 pm

The key issues are public access to the concert and government profit. Apparently, members of the public will be allowed to attend, and the more of them in the audience, the more acceptable the concert will be. In turn, the less the government profits from the concert, the more acceptable it will be. I am unaware of any direct financial benefit this concert will bring to the government of North Korea. And this concert brings minimal cultural glory to the country, since the musicians are American and the program is American-centric. (This is in contrast to the Beijing summer Olympics. The Chinese government stands to benefit enormously both financially and culturally. Thus, it was right of Spielberg to withdraw his participation.)

It’s the same reasoning that makes anyone roll their eyes when dictators ban Western music. The government doesn’t have the right to regulate the listening habits of their people. North Korea is letting in Western music in this case. As long as the exchange is principally between artists (the Phil) and the public (not Kim Jong Il, though of course he’ll be there), this is perfectly fine.

Of course, should it turn out that the only ones in the hall are government officials and some hanky-panky money deals went on behind the scenes (as when that future Nobel Peace Prize winning South Korean prime minister ended up paying Kim Jong Il for a North-South photo-op in Pyongyang back in the 90s), then the NY Phil loses my support.

And, lastly, if public access is actually high and government profit actually low, why would a maniacal regime actually let this happen – especially seeing as, otherwise, they seem hell-bent on screwing over their people?

Good PR, of course. Do bad people not deserve good PR when they do good things (as the last paragraph assumes the concert is)? The issue of PR brings in a third party: the press. In this case, the North Korean government doesn’t gain the good PR by manufacturing some BS about their country and disseminating it: they gain PR because international reporters honestly report on something that actually is happening. Such reporting is no more objectionable than honest reporting on the atrocities and nuclear shenanigans of the regime just because it happens to contain good news.

Comment from David Salvage
Time: February 25, 2008, 7:19 pm

Better wording for my last sentence:

Reporting is not right or wrong because it contains good or bad news. It is only right or wrong to the extent it provides a false accounting of events. Honest reporting about the North Korean government’s atrocities is fine no matter what the political fallout. Honest reporting about the NY Phil concert is fine as well.

Comment from Eric Lin
Time: February 26, 2008, 12:05 am

Actually, I’ve heard that Kim Jong Il will NOT be at the concert. via WNYC. Of course, I could be wrong.