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"Enterprising culture" by David Grimal on The Huffington Post

The Human factor

Culture should not be, an actually is not, a business. It is the collective embodiment of the essence of humankind. Embracing culture, whether as a player or a spectator, it means being a part of this community. Culture is not something one enterprises, it is here, and you chose whether or not to be a link in this transcending chain.

Article previously published in french on the

I am a violinist, wishing to be a musician: vast undertaking one can say! In a musical world of mainstream industries and marketing, I found myself, around 10 years ago, to literally cross the desert, in the mountains of Akakus in Libya, area now facing Kalashnikovs and bad faith. I crossed the desert in search of lost meaning of music. I was a young soloist with a Stradivarius, agents, a record company, an Air France loyalty card, and a heavy and empty heart. My life was considered as glamorous, I travelled around the world to play as a soloist with famous orchestras, I earned a good leaving, and yet something did not feel right. In this case, one is often advised to lay down three times a week at a psychoanalyst and talk about one’s mother, but I preferred to walk.

At the end of my trip, I realised that I needed to come down off my artificial pedestal and find the way back to others, and therefore music. The world of classical music works with rules inherited from the 19th century, where musicians are ranked and put into categories very early. Soloist are at the top, then chamber musicians, followed by orchestra musicians and at the bottom the most important, teachers. During my learning process and in my trips, I quickly realized that you can find interesting people at any level, and that the alienation resulting from this artificial ranking reduced everyone’s artistic creativity, at every level.

That is why I decided to create les Dissonances, a collective of musicians from all Europe who recommend one another according to affinities, to play the greatest symphonies, without any conductor. Soloist, musicians from the greatest orchestras, young talents are gathered to share their passion. I was convinced that this was the solution, and that the world of classical music would open its arms to this wonderful idea. I was wrong, far from it, and I became a “cultural entrepreneur” by necessity.

I became a CEO, like anyone with the same function in any sector. Paradoxically, my wish to have a generous and open humankind, although it means quitting an enviable position, has sometimes not been understood. Misunderstanding, disbelief, animosity, contempt are things I have been familiar with in the last years. I only had my conviction, and a few friends on stage or behind it to trust and support me. The idea to give back soul and creativity to musicians, free them by giving them extreme responsibility by interpreting complex masterpieces with more than 75 musicians on stage, without a conductor, has left this archaic world indifferent. The entire business was based on the personality of the conductor: how can one imagine that the herd can have a consciousness, a spirit, an energy? All of this aside, everything was to build and to prove. We built step by step, and it would be too long and tedious to list all the obstacles we had to face. Today we celebrate our 10th birthday… and we are now a model in other countries. In ten years, we founded a concert season for homeless people in Paris, where the best musicians in the world graciously accept to play.

We had to find money, friends, patrons, banks, sponsors… Thanks to the Volcan in Le Havre, and his director Jean François Driant, we found a first place to operate, and then at the Opera of Dijon, where Laurent Joyeux offered us the opportunity to record most of the CDs we have produced today, under our own multimedia label. The Philarmonie in Paris has welcome us for years, with a great audience, medias are interested by our story, our concerts are broadcasted on all radios, films from our concerts are distributed in several countries. Today, les Dissonances travel around Europe, and soon in Asia and America.

This enterprise is first of all a human one, made of convictions. Our society, as motionless and weird as it is, is full of extraordinary people capable of acting where institutions are paralyzed, of people capable of acting for their convictions, where politicians have none. What I tell my students, and what I would tell to a young adventurer of culture, is that he should follow his instinct because there is no other way. The world needs love and this love needs to find its way.