Monday, August 29, 2011

Thailand in Miniature: The Music Scene

The classical music scene in Thailand is a perfect microcosm of the political miasma that reigns in this country, and it is instructive to look at both.  From Mahidol we can learn many lessons about the beast that gnaws at the heart of this country ... though I must say that we will learn very little about music.

The can of worms that is the College of Music, Mahidol, was opened very very gingerly by me a few days ago ... not because one wants to upset any oxcarts, but because it is good to acknowledge publicly that a can of worms exists.

Since that day we now read that pupils and alumni of the school are madly petitioning in the good doctor's defense, which goes to prove what I was saying before: that Dr. Sugree's detractors and his supporters are equally vocal (though the latter clearly have a lot more money.)

All this is essentially the Thaksin story in miniature: great ideas, persuasive salesmanship, amazing showmanship, powerful personality on the one hand, and vacuous intellect, blatant disinformation, megalomania, and falling for one's own hype on the either.

And in both stories there are elements of hope as well as horror.  Buried within Thaksin's highhanded authoritarianism, disregard for human rights and self-serving corruption were many good things, best of all the seed of an idea that this could one day be a land of equal opportunity and fairness in which the government serves the governed, instead of raping them.

And concealed within Sugree's curious fiefdom are similar grand hopes, such as the idea that Thailand could one day have a music conservatory that churns out Trisdees and Ekachais in every new crop of students.

I have to admit that when I read the news of Sugree's resignation, I composed an email which I intended to send to the president of Mahidol.  In this letter, I suggested that it might be time for Mahidol to ascend to the next level and that they might want to talk to me about Sugree's job.

After I wrote this letter, I didn't send it, because I realized that if I ever considered such a post I'd have to give up my entire life: my composing and literary career, and my stewardship of the opera, the philharmonic, and the sinfonietta.  I have managed to put together this country's flagship opera company, this country's most internationally reviewed symphony orchestra, and this country's most forward-looking youth orchestra with virtually no money, little government support, while suffering constant attacks and attempts at sabotage by various Salieri-like figures.  Would I do a better job if I suddenly had all the resources that Sugree has at my disposal, or would it just be a distraction from the vision?  In the end, I thought better of it.  Manipulating bureaucracies is not something I do well.  

However, a rumor that I had written this letter did get out and I've received numerous messages telling me to go for it.  The messages are not only very very pushy but are full of vitriol about the infamous Dr. Sugree.  Here is one example, from one of the most influential figures in Thailand's classical music scene, a person closely connected to the royal household: "But I do hate the thought of his poisoning the newly-created Thai musical world though.  He is not just mediocre, he can be positively, evilly corrupting their minds and distort their views"

Nevertheless, I am resisting the urge.  I do have a Messiah complex, but it is not so bad that I would be willing to actually endure crucifixion.   Fantasizing about being crucified is about as far as I'll go. 

In fact, here's the link so you can sign up for the pro-Sugree petition yourself.  As with countries, so with educational institutions: people tend to get the kind of government they deserve.

Now that I have reassured myself that it can't be anything other than a rhetorical statement, I might end up sending the letter after all.  What harm can it do?  Except, of course, to myself.  And I do have that Messiah complex to feed.

1 comment:

  1. Its great to know that Thailand's music scene is still alive. Thanks.
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