Samuelson-Stolper arbitrage against musical nationalism

by on January 21, 2018 at 12:25 pm in Music | Permalink

A notable event in the ‘s It’s About Time festival, now under way: a performance of John Luther Adams’s Inuksuit next Saturday will involve percussionists on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border.

That is a tweet from Alex Ross, here is the accompanying event link.

1 clockwork_prior January 21, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Well, they could have also used helicopters, though admittedly that is for a string quartet – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13D1YY_BvWU

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2 DJF January 21, 2018 at 1:49 pm

And next the San Diego Symphony will fire their American musicians and hire Mexican ones. But then they get replaced by Chinese. Who then get replaced by Vietnamese and finally Haitian playing a bongo drum is all that is left

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3 clockwork_prior January 21, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Cubans are the bongo players.

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4 Charbes A. January 21, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Wasn’t it Richard Feynman?

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5 A clockwork orange January 21, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Is Jwatts controlling anyone else’s dreams?

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6 Confudido January 21, 2018 at 3:09 pm

I am not sure what to make of the title of this post. As a non-economist I am confused. According to Wikipedia, Samuelson-Stolper has something to do with one input cheapening another. I know enough about the contributors here to know that they wouldn’t take a cheap shot at Mexicans, so I am left with…. I just don’t understand.

Nonetheless, I’ve lived near the border for most of my life and have family living on both sides. A group of friends and I frequently cycle in Border Field State Park where this event will be held, so I will be there next Saturday.

The music may not be entirely to my taste. The sentiment is.

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7 mkt42 January 22, 2018 at 1:16 am

The Stolper-Samuelson Theorem links prices of goods with the prices of the resources used to produce those goods (i.e. wages, rent or the return on capital, etc.).

If prices are high in one place and low in another, then there’s an opportunity for arbitrage, i.e. buy low and sell high.

Tyler’s making a joke that instead of arbitraging goods, if we’re close to the border we can arbitrage the resources used to produce these goods such as labor. I.e. hire some Mexican percussionists.

The S-S Theorem assumes that markets are competitive and basically free. Musical labor in the US however is often regulated and unionized. I’ve been told by a classical musician that some symphony orchestras are unionized and others are not, and a person setting out on a musical career pretty much has to choose which one they’re going to be.

If they play in a non-unionized orchestra, they can play in other non-union orchestras. But they won’t be hired by any unionized orchestra. So throughout their career they’ll be stuck in non-union orchestras.

If they join the union, then they can play in unionized orchestras. But they can’t play in non-unionized ones because if they do they’ll lose their union card (apparently forever; I guess they could make this switch once in their career and tear up their union card). So throughout their career they’ll be stuck in union orchestras.

I wonder how the San Diego Symphony is handling this performance. If everyone’s union or everyone’s non-union then no problem. Star soloists who are non-union can be granted temporary union cards so they can perform with union orchestras (and unionized soloists can be granted exemptions to perform with non-union orchestras) so maybe something similar is happening here.

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8 No Longer Confudido January 22, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Thank you for helping me to understand. That is very interesting.

The San Diego Symphony is indeed unionized (googled it) though I am not sure if the Baja California Symphony is unionized. It might become a convoluted NAFTA violation.

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9 Vance Koven January 21, 2018 at 6:05 pm

I once had a piece of my music performed at the Haskell Opera House in Derby Line, Vermont. The stage was over the line, so the audience was in the US and the performers were in Canada.

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10 So Much For Subtlety January 21, 2018 at 7:06 pm

We are all making this about Trump – it is amazing how he is living rent-free in everyone’s head isn’t it? – but is it? If it was, I would make a joke about how modern music is so bad there are some jobs that only immigrants would do.

But perhaps it isn’t. The main influence on John Luther Adams’ music is the empty spaces where he chooses to live. Mostly that is Alaska. Except he is getting on and so now half the year he lives in the desert in Mexico. So perhaps this was just an attempt to incorporate some of the people from places that inspire him?

But naah, it is about Trump living rent-free in their heads isn’t it?

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11 Thor January 22, 2018 at 1:15 am

There are some jobs Americans won’t do … and one of them, as far as I’m concerned, is to attend the concert in question. And I’m a classical music fan.

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