Monday, June 18, 2007

Pardon me?

No, really, pardon me? I'm a little looped from some work done this morning, but I should be able to read:

It is, of course, very hard to extend sympathy to someone in King's position without seeming to overlook, or to condone, offences against minors. For my part, once the court has done its work, and the sentence of, in this case, three years nine months has been set in motion, I think that there is every reason for the individual to feel sympathy for the convicted. We are individuals. We are not the state. We are not obliged to agree with the sentence, and nobody can prevent us from keeping an open mind about the verdict.

The man apparently did some really execrable things, child (and teenager) molestation, and we should feel sympathy? Why, well, here's why:

For the ordinary, anonymous private citizen convicted in such cases, there is the sentence itself, and there is what you might call the multiplier: you lose your job, very likely your home, you are submitted to persecution by fellow prisoners, and so forth. There are many aspects to this multiplier, which continue well after your release. Anyone who has watched the multiplier in action will be bound to feel horror at its effects.

For the artist, there are all these aspects of the multiplier, and then some more. The case of Robert King has unique ramifications. The judge recognised some of these when not ruling against any future work with children. King, as a married man with a young child, was deemed to have entered a new phase in his life. And this decision is crucial to anyone who works with early vocal music. To be debarred for life from working with the male treble voice would have been a harsh fate.


So, John Q. Public - jacked on child molestation - suffers the legal and societal consequences of his or (in seemingly rare cases) her actions, but Robert King gets to hang around male trebles? Because it would end his career to restrict access to young men? Newsflash: no-one, not one person, would trust their child to him at this point. Even under close supervision. No record company really wants to tie this albatross around their neck. Nor should they.

Herbert von Karajan got forgiven for his odious political choice because it was obvious that he was just a careerist with a bad moral compass (if a moral compass at all), which is probably worse than someone taken in by the evil of National Socialism. Same with Schwarzkopf. Karl Böhm's enthusiasm for the NSDAP got forgotten and largely absolved because others took the big hit, and - frankly - Karl Böhm wasn't very exciting as a musical personality. An eminent Mozartean who did some Wagner at Bayreuth is probably not going to catch flak for any political decision. Wilhelm Furtwängler, on the other hand, watched his life and career interrupted from the time Albert Speer suggested that he might want to get out of Germany to the end of his life, in many ways; he stayed behind when many left and he paid a high price for it.

Artists are, like it or not, just like everyone else in these matters. Individuals are not the state, but they do have common sense.


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