Music: Politics at the Philharmonic

Democracy has never had much of a place in the concert hall. Conductors and music directors jealously guard their ironclad rule over what to play. And as long as they satisfy the paying customers consistently, they get away with it. Currently, though, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is conducting a three-week experiment in participatory democracy as applied to programming. So far, the results suggest that dictatorship in taste may have its virtues.

Starting out at a campus concert at suburban Cerritos College, the orchestra invited the audience to pick the second half of the program from 23 classics. Among them were the Mahler...

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