My Telling Tales program went very well on Saturday night. I’m going to have more to say about exactly what happened in the near future – but right now I have to go on a bit of a rant.

Rant starts after this sentence.

Should we ever be surprised when people in positions of authority abuse their power?

I found myself wondering this after a recent conversation with one of my composition students. We were discussing a new piece we had just heard on a concert.

How many times have I heard composers say they put something in a piece in order to give the audience a slap in the face, or a nasty jolt, or just to make them squirm? It seems like an inappropriate way to think of treating someone who is, for the time being, under your power. And yet these composers are often the same ones who complain the most about the abuses of politicians, administrators, figures of authority. Don’t they see that their revenge is not in any way an improvement?

I know, these composers don’t think of themselves as being in positions of power – but they are, nonetheless. Any time a group of people convenes to listen, the person producing the music is in charge of their time. You can say, “well, they can just get up and leave,” but any abusive dictator can say the same, and it doesn’t make their actions any more excusable.

So, again, should we ever be surprised? If even composers can’t resist using their ephemeral powers as an opportunity to abuse their dependents, who can we count on to be immune from this disease?

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