A Look at the Portuguese World


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Rui Vieira Nery is one of the leading names in music in Portugal. Doctorate in musicology, is a researcher at the Institute of Ethnomusicology (Center for the Study of Music and Dance and the Center for Theatre Studies), as well as perform duties as associate professor at the New University of Lisbon, is above all a man linked to culture in our country.

According to the Eurobarometer Portuguese are the people of Europe that fewer go to cultural events. What you think of that?
Rui Vieira Nery: This is due to several factors, one of them is the deficiency of the education system. Children as part of their schooling, are not accustomed to the idea of going to concerts or to the theater, they go to the movies if it has an specific technical effects and where lots of people die, but there is an initiation of culture film and so naturally when they grow up have not having a taste of cultural consumption as children that it is difficult to acquire later. Secondly, many of these events are expensive, however, we cannot overstate the issue of price, we have the example of rock concerts whose tickets have high prices and are bursting with thousands of young people who get the money for it, and never in their wildest dreams would spend it in a cultural activity of another kind. Also in many cases has to do with supply, as in the case of large cities, Lisbon and Porto in particular and the rest of the country there is no regular structures of artistic production, things happen in a festival that has good reception, but the throughout the year there is no resident artists, there are companies and there is no support and therefore would be important to create a more effective network of cultural artistic production in proximity with people.

However, there have been former ministers of culture and munipalities, who promoted up ambitious programs in cultural events with the same high quality for free, and people still do not go.
RVN: Not true, one can not generalize it that the population does not attend. In many cases, the music festivals there are often very strong, as you know if the 5th festival of organ Madeira, the churches are full and there was even a small conference with a packed room. So it's not as serious as this, as systematic as this, there are many success stories. Now, it also has to do with the inadequacy of the artistic proposal that does if for a population that has no often cultural habits and if you present a show of cutting edge, very complex, is required an initiation of prior training, clearly, it is very difficult to do a concert with contemporary music for those who are not accustomed to such language. There is also a teaching job that is needed, but it has to do mainly with a proximity policy, to ensure that the population has a regular supply and that things do not happen again from time to time and it has continuity and is what creates this habituation.

That is why there is this gap as noted among rock festivals and classical music?
RVN: This is a general problem, notice no mistake, there are kinds of cultural products which by definition are not very accessible to a very wide audience, experimental works, avant-garde, a complexity that is difficult to access and to public not used is difficult, even for the public the rest of the world, even in countries of the former Eastern Bloc that had a very systematic practice of attendance by school children, yet a concert of popular music fills a football stadium and a concert of symphonic music would not fill.

But do not think that distance of the Portuguese towards classical music is due to the fact that they do not feel very close to this style of music and they do not know the composers.
RVN: Of course, what I say is that is not a Portuguese is an international phenomenon.

However, you highlight that organ festival fills churches.
RVN: Yes, but it is not a national phenomenon that happens in all Western societies and is therefore not let this serve as a consolation, because with the problems of others we deal with, is not a defect of the Portuguese, is structural. Our country has not done enough to counteract or correct this situation, I think a big investment that needs to be done, but I will say it should be mainly focusing on the level of schooling. People go to school and learn reading, writing, history, math and science, ie, learn a little of each field, but not everyone will be scientists, historians and mathematicians, but are left with some knowledge and they have almost no artistic training throughout their academic training, there is a universe which they never had access. If the family does not have the habit at home or school does not give it, nor one way or the other, It is necessary to strengthen the artistic disciplines in the school curriculum.

Speaking of the 5th Organ Festival of Madeira, which is their importance in terms of the Portuguese context?
RVN: It is a very great importance, because throughout Portuguese history, the organ since the sixteenth century has a major role until the nineteenth century, much of the music that was made in the church, had the participation of this instrument on the ground or accompanying singers, or incorporated in an orchestra. And there is a long repertoire written by Portuguese and international composers who played in Portugal that requires much of the organ, there is much national musical heritage that requires a lot of participation this instrument.

And the very construction of the organs that is unique.
RVN: Exactly. And today we have hundreds of historic organs in Portugal, thankfully. And that has been gradually being restored, I do not know if every single will be, but there have been a growing number who are being put back to work. Begins with a large number of younger organists, before there was only a handful, and therefore, no ability to maintain an important organist activity. Now, there are schools all over the country, whether conservatories or colleges already teach organ at an advanced level. We are creating critical mass that allows the organist slowly to give life to this kind of music. It only exists when played, does not exist in files.

This also extends the repertoire previously not played.
RVN: Yes, of course. It is a work that is in progress. I think twenty years ago it was impossible to have a festival of organ like this. The first concerts were made in Lisbon in the late 90s and were very rare events, there were few organist repertoire and now there are many young organists and they perform well, ie, one half dozen musicians taught this generation and we are witnessing a major expansion. It is also important that the church is interested in this type of music, with liturgical content. As you know the quality of the music of the churches is very poor and actually make sense retrieve this special musicality that was made to the church. So it makes no sense that the church does not take on this inheritance that is theirs too, is not only the state, is also of all of us, as we'll see this repertoire is lacking there is that recognition, it is useful and makes us happy.

The money remains a gap.
RVN: Yes, because without eggs we cannot make omolets. When there is no money it is very difficult to do things, the cultural investment is very small, especially with the Portuguese public budgets.

And particularly in music?
RVN: Particularly in music because it is more expensive, a theater group can work in a garage, with a handful of objects to make scenarios, the music requires, if an orchestra, a choir and soloist that takes many years to form, there is a permanent investment that is required to have. It is an expensive luxury, as the cinema. There needs to be investment that was formerly done by the aristocracy, the court. When these classes no longer have money for these luxuries for themselves, the state in general replaces it.

But there is a law of patronage.
RVN: But to have a law of patronage is necessary that someone wants to give and is not mandatory. It is a possibility and if the Portuguese are not sensitive to it, in fact national entrepreneurs do not have much this tradition of patronage like un England, the USA, or in Germany that is but natural. But one has to bet on pulling the wagon, we cannot say there is a law of the patronage culture and make you pay it now, the state has a crucial aspect in this scenario.

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