Kafka vs U.K. Border Agency follies: The gods must be laughing; not so the cellists
Life imitates art, in the case of two coincident events:
The cellist of a string quartet was put back on a plane to Chicago after Border Agency personnel at London's Heathrow Airport decided that her free performance at a conference at Leeds University qualified as work, and hence required a work permit. Her three colleagues made it through without harassment, though.
It turns out that the Border Agency people didn't like her cello. Writes the Guardian's Tom Service on his blog (read the full story here):
Derek Scott, head of the School of Music at the University of Leeds, spoke to the gatekeepers of Terminal 3 to find out more, and was told that the problem wasn't the conference, but Ostling's cello. Apparently, for immigration officials at Heathrow, to have an instrument automatically means you are working – whether or not you are paid. And, in a bureaucratic conclusion straight out of Kafka, Scott was also informed that what he should have done before inviting the quartet from Ohio was find out if any British or EU-based quartet would also have been prepared to play the music by Sergey Taneyev the Carpe Diems were scheduled to perform – for free.
Meanwhile, in Wales, Philip Glass has begun work on a chamber opera for the Music Theatre of Wales based on Franz Kafka's short story, The Trial, in which a man gets persecuted for no apparent reason by faceless authorities. Glass and the company have been collaborating for a couple of decades. The new work is due for a premiere during the company's 25th anniversary season, in 2013. (You can read the full story from whalesonline,co.uk here.)
It's obvious that the company should tour the opera to arrivals lounges at the world's finest international airports.
Just so we have a musical moment to go with this, here is a fragment of Dmitri Shostakovich -- someone who knew a thing or two about trampled freedoms -- performing his Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Moscow Conservatory: