In recent years, classical music has become one of the primary targets of social justice warriors. And in their rage against classical music, identity elites reveal that their crusade against “problematic” culture is in reality a crusade against the gains of Western civilization itself.
In the past, opponents of classical music insisted that it was too elitist. Now they insist that classical music is too white Where racist or colonial. Academics in Oxford recently denounced musical notation as “colonialist” and attacked the classical repertoire for focusing too much on “white European music from the slave period”.
So I can understand why Paul Harper-Scott, professor of music history and theory at Royal Holloway, University of London, decided leave academia completely on the awakened takeover of his discipline.
Explaining the reasons for his departure, Harper-Scott highlights the so-called decolonization campaigns in academia and the “dogmatic” atmosphere that surrounds them. An “increasingly common view in musicology,” he says, is that “19th century musical works were the product of imperial society” and therefore “the canon of classical music must be decolonized.”
Campaigns to promote the âdecolonizationâ of Western culture are sweeping through the arts. The Welsh National Opera recently organized a series of lectures on Madame Papillon, highlighting the problems of “imperialism and colonialism” in the opera.
In recent years, it has become increasingly fashionable to present Western art and culture in general in a deeply negative light. Virtually all of the great classical composers, poets and writers have found themselves in the crosshairs. One of the main targets is the great European composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Since the 19th century, Beethoven’s musical genius has been admired across political divides. Beethoven’s music captured the spirit of the European Enlightenment. Perhaps this is why he has become such a target of identitarians, who have a clear animosity towards the Enlightenment, in particular his attachment to humanist universalism.
Until recently, some proponents of identity politics claimed that Beethoven was in fact black. Just six years ago, the Concordian, a student-run newspaper in Minnesota, denounced the âwhitewashingâ of Beethoven’s heritage and racial origin.
But it seems the problem with Beethoven now is that he’s too white. It’s a typical identity attack line. To say that classical music is “too white” is to express a feeling of moral condemnation. Tragically, many academics have adapted to the cultural zeitgeist and are now reluctant to take a stand against this Philistine assault on classical music.
For example, Philip Ewell, a black professor of music theory, has argued this white supremacy is evident in the teaching, performance and interpretation of classical music. In response to his comments in recent years, his colleagues have remained conspicuously silent.
Ewell is particularly contemptuous Beethoven. According to Ewell’s racialized narrative, Beethoven continues to be acclaimed only because he “has been sustained by whiteness and masculinity for 200 years.” His verdict is that Beethoven was simply an “above average composer”.
The attempt to associate classical music with systemic racism and slavery carries no intellectual weight. Classical music possesses an integrity rooted in an aesthetic sensibility. He must be judged on his own merits. Most of its composers were white because this art form took hold in Europe. Racism does not stain classical music.
Opponents of classical music and their academic collaborators use the rhetoric of decolonization to make their cause appear just and moral. But these people have no commitment to liberation and freedom. Unlike true anti-colonial movements, these awakened crusaders have no positive orientation towards the future. They just want to discredit the heritage of Western culture.
Small-minded Philistines can rule the roost in academic departments. But centuries after the death and burial of these frightening fanatics, millions of people will continue to be moved and inspired by the music of the classical repertoire.
Frank Furedi‘s 100 years of identity crisis: the war of cultures against socialization is edited by De Gruyter.
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