Risk and Insurance

As most individuals do not have extreme risk preference so as to choose skew outcome prospects such as mentioned, a kind of insurance for the risks involved might be needed, where the few very high rewards are converted into more numerous smaller rewards.

A research organization such as a university can in fact be regarded as a kind of insurance company, compensating the many failures by the few great successes.

It is well known that even quantitative measures of productivity have highly skew distributions, 10 percent of the scientific research staff being responsible for 90 percent of all published work. This fact perhaps not even signifies a failure of the whole system, but rather a natural state of things.

Note that this has a certain relevance for the present rage for peer group evaluations of the performance of research organizations, as the mere fact of their popularity implies that we are not willing to accept the individual failures as a necessary cost.

A particular problem is that we often do not even know which are the failures and which are the successes. Evaluations are necessarily based on a conservative short run perspective, and, as indicated, really revolutionary innovations never were popular, not even among the contemporary peer groups.

The kind of insurance represented by the universities is totally nonexistent in the case of the arts. To some extent we tolerate mediocre scientists, but we do not tolerate mediocre artists.

Still, mediocrity is necessary to establish the very competition by which the outstanding performance is singled out.

A commercial reward system also tends to be highly dependent on fashion. Antonio Vivaldi was highly appreciated in early 18th Century Venice, and correspondingly rewarded. His misfortune was to die not as young as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Henry Purcell. He lived long enough to get out of fashion, and his venture to start a new career for decent living in Vienna, the new capital of music, became a complete failure.

Having no chance to make any profits from the revival of interest in his music in the 20th century, manifested for instance in around 100 different CD recordings of "The Four Seasons", he finished his days in a state of destitution, like so many other artists.

The really successful businessmen among the artists, such as Händel, or Rubens, always were a minority. Once artistic production on a freelance basis became the rule, the idea of the young bohemian artists who burned their work or tools to get some heat was born too.

Fig. 3.1: Splendid view of Salzburg with the fortress of the Prince Bishops towering over it. The various ecclesiastical rulers were patrons of the arts; especially music, for a long period, even before the Mozarts. The great baroque composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber was an outstanding example of this. Among other things, of which we will speak more, he (probably) composed the "missa Salisburgensis", the most monstrous piece of church music ever written, with no less than 53 separate parts organised in six choirs, a continuo group, plus three trumpet choirs! It is a telling indication of the grandeur at which his patrons aspired. Leopold Mozart, father of Wolfgang Amadeus, composer and author of a brilliant violin tutor, lived and died in the service of his patrons. Wolfgang Amadus (or Amade as he always himself spelled the name) Mozart, to the reproaches of his father broke loose from this kind of servitude, to live the precarious life on a more or less free lance basis. Who would have guessed that this city now, when nobody remembers the name of any of its Prince Bishops (maybe with exception of Markus Sitticus, the joker who watered the bottoms of his guests through ingeniously arranged fountains), mainly prospers from the festival to celebrate its most illustrious son. Mozart's life is extensively documented by his own letters (around 350 in existence) mainly to his father.

Fig. 3.2: Another splendid setting at the Mantova Ducal Court, the room for music making. It still bears a note on the door that maestro di cappella Claudio Monteverdi would make music there every fortnight. Monteverdi's correspondence the years he spent in Mantova is a continuous complaint about exigently heavy duties, bad salary and working conditions. Monteverdi eventually escaped to Venice and to one of the best appointments any musician could have in the 17th Century. To be quite true, recent studies have shown that the music room actually used by Monteverdi was different and much smaller than this gallery of mirrors.

Fig. 3.2: Another splendid setting at the Mantova Ducal Court, the room for music making. It still bears a note on the door that maestro di cappella Claudio Monteverdi would make music there every fortnight. Monteverdi's correspondence the years he spent in Mantova is a continuous complaint about exigently heavy duties, bad salary and working conditions. Monteverdi eventually escaped to Venice and to one of the best appointments any musician could have in the 17th Century. To be quite true, recent studies have shown that the music room actually used by Monteverdi was different and much smaller than this gallery of mirrors.

0 0

Post a comment