On Institutions: An Obligatory Introduction


The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure

-Thomas Jefferson

            As I sat down to write this blog post (the subject matter has been ruminating in my mind for a while now), I soon realized that to do it true justice would take me a considerable period of time in research, thought, writing, and editing. However, I’m determined to make a weekly entry of this blog, and due to the rest of my schedule I’m already a couple days behind. So, I figured that instead of an in depth look into institutions, musical or otherwise, I thought I’d post a short summary of my thoughts. Please post yours in the comments.


            Institutions are fundamental to any sophisticated society. I state this outright as some of my colleagues, upon reading my previous writings, had concluded that I am some sort of anarchist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Going into my own personal, non-musical philosophy, I’m much more of a conservative traditionalist. I see the establishment of institutions as a natural outgrowth of a healthy society. My point is that ALL institutions, governmental, educational, or otherwise, will in time become an obstacle to their original purpose.


            Institutions arise naturally, you see, from the needs and will of the surrounding society. Instead of each man trying to figure out everything on his own, people gathered together under the roofs of great pedagogues and masters. The best of these houses of learning developed further, with each generation of the founding school of thought improving and polishing their methods. The natural human desire for codification of knowledge and the following of method helped establish these successful individual institutions as pillars in the community. To be officially accepted by and associated with a respected institution was a great honor. You see, in this capacity, an old and proven institution provided an important societal shortcut. A man didn’t have to go out and prove his knowledge in the same way as before, spending years to carve out his reputation among his people and his nation. Only the institution needed to do that. Once the institution had been settled, it only needed to accept you, train you, and put its stamp of approval upon you. Healthy institutions facilitate the faster advancement of a society. But none of this is to last.

            I included the quote by Jefferson at the beginning as his view of the natural progression of government is analogous to the natural progression of institutions: They outlive their utility and must be reborn. As an institution grows, it inevitably becomes top heavy. Those running the institutions at this stage have no spiritual connection to its founding ideals, and they gather like minds to aid in their main objective: keeping the institution running by any means necessary. You might notice this is in stark contrast to the founding intent. At the point that an institution reaches this phase, I contend its ashes would create prime soil for the growth of its replacement.


            There is so much more to get into on this subject, and I intend to do so fully. While my previous writings addressed specific aspects of this problem, I hope to tackle the broader scope of this issue in coming writing. Consider this an obligatory introduction. Also, as I see no point to blather on about other institutions (many better than I have taken up that task), I have chosen to focus on that of which I am a product: The Conservatory. I look forward to your thoughts and discussion on this matter.

Tobiah MurphyComment