Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

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Modernistfan
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Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:50 pm

The following was posted on the New Music Box blog by Dave Molk, entitled "Confronting Our Complicity: Music Theory and White Supremacy." Molk previously taught composition and theory as an Assistant Teaching Professor at Georgetown; apparently he did not get tenure.
For many students, the traditional music theory core curriculum is an undesirable and yet unavoidable part of their college music experience. It becomes something to be suffered through, survived rather than savored. A critical source of this frustration is the disconnect between their musical lives inside the classroom and those outside it. Despite the fact that the majority of our students do not listen to Western art music regularly, nearly all of the core curriculum is based on it. Consequently, as students progress through their degree, they must endure the constant friction between the music they want to study and the music they have to study, between music they value and what music theory as an institution values.
In “Teaching Inequality: Consequences of Traditional Music Theory Pedagogy,” I described how a theory curriculum devoted to a single style is inherently limited and inherently limiting. When we restrict ourselves to Western art music, we forgo the opportunity to speak about basic yet essential musical elements such as groove, timbre, improvisation, and post-production in styles where these are powerfully foregrounded.
Why then do we as a discipline remain so averse to change? Despite the passage of time, the evolution of taste, and the advent of new styles, new techniques, and new technologies of music creation, the topics we teach and the examples we use rarely reflect this. Instead, today’s leading theory texts cover more or less the same material as those we used as students, as those our teachers used as students, as those our teachers’ teachers used as students. The theory curriculum at too many institutions remains largely standardized and largely stagnant.

This is a problem.

Our unwarranted privileging of Western art music—a style constructed by white people as white, despite the historical and ongoing participation of people who aren’t—enables the dismissal of other styles of music and the people associated with those styles through unfavorable and unfair comparisons. How do we reconcile this with our many statements extolling the virtues of diversity, equity, and inclusivity? Why do we continue to rely on a deeply flawed pedagogy?

We continue to rely on the traditional pedagogy for three interrelated reasons. First, given our extensive training in Western art music, we’re reluctant and often unable to divest ourselves from its contents. Second, because institutions prioritize research over teaching, we prioritize research over teaching. Finally, we’re unwilling to confront our investment in the whiteness of the curriculum because we’re unwilling to confront our investment in the whiteness in our lives.

When we rationalize our use of the traditional pedagogy by appealing to its contents, we attempt to transform a subjective preference into an objective truth. The specific set of skills that one acquires through studying Western art music becomes the necessary set of skills for any consequential study of music. But basing an entire core curriculum on any single style requires making major concessions about the musical elements we can talk about and the informed ways we can talk about them. Being able to harmonize chorales “correctly” means nothing if you’re looking to get up, get into it, and get involved. Conversely, asking if you can take it to the bridge won’t help you avoid parallel fifths.
Any argument that centers tradition must address whose tradition and why. Simple historical inertia—the replication of what we were taught as students—isn’t sufficient. If we appeal to “art for art’s sake,” we need to be explicit about whose art and, consequently, for whose sake. We need to talk about the metrics being used to determine what counts as art, who selects these metrics, and their reasons for doing so. We need to talk about how white male identity politics has shaped Western art music.

Our decision to use the traditional pedagogy is also motivated by how this impacts our careers. Institutions place a disproportionate weight on research relative to teaching, and this incentivizes perpetuation in the classroom, rather than innovation. Because the classical style is highly codified and relatively easy to teach, we can allocate more time and energy to research while still hitting established learning goals. Unfortunately, our longstanding pedagogical dependence on Western art music has conditioned us to expect certain results without asking if they matter, much less how they do, or to whom.

Contingent faculty have even less institutional incentive—and often less agency—to challenge the curriculum at the schools where they teach. The instability of employment and higher turnover rates means that any traction for innovative pedagogy is hard to establish and harder to maintain. In general, changes to the status quo, when they occur, tend to be fairly isolated.

Nevertheless, theory’s established historical pedigree does not absolve us from the moral necessity of questioning what it is we’re actually doing in the classroom. Well-established marginalization is, after all, still marginalization, and the generation of predictable results does not in itself mean that we are teaching our students what they should be learning. The bald assertion that the traditional pedagogy provides any and all necessary and fundamental knowledge needs to be defended, and I don’t believe it can be.

We present music almost exclusively by dead white European men under neutral course titles like “Basic Musicianship,” allowing the two to conflate into a tautological definition of what qualifies as “Real Music,” and re-inscribing racial and gender hierarchies in the process. We present Western art music as an unassailable good and our teaching of it as unassailably good. We present Western art music as an intellectual art form, a high art form, a better art form, and we do this in the service of an ideology that positions white identities, ideas, and ideals as superior.

We want to continue using the traditional pedagogy without acknowledging how it upholds white supremacy because we don’t want to acknowledge how we uphold white supremacy. We consistently downplay or deny the privileges whiteness provides and we consistently downplay or deny the ways we protect those privileges.
Listening to Western art music is not racist in itself. Studying Western art music is not racist in itself. Teaching Western art music is not racist in itself. Canonizing only white composers of Western art music is racist. Requiring all students to use a white lens to approach, understand, and critique music is racist.

As Michelle Ohnona and I wrote in “Promoting Equity: Developing an Antiracist Music Theory Classroom,” we need to engage with music and with the social and cultural mechanisms that shape it. We need to look past individual intent and acknowledge the cumulative impact of supporting a pedagogy that holds that a core curriculum based solely in Western art music is acceptable. To present this status quo as the natural order of things, without critique, is to uphold white supremacy.

The 2020 presidential election once again laid bare the ongoing thrall of white grievance and the pervasiveness of white supremacy. We can’t be impartial about this—oppression within education is a reflection and a reinforcement of oppression within society, and when we fail to address injustice, we ensure its continuance. Let us push back against the claimed inevitability of this insupportable curriculum.

The best thing we can do for our students is to embrace an engaged, transformative pedagogy in which, as bell hooks eloquently writes in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, “our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students.” This requires at least a realignment and probably a rethinking of what higher education is supposed to be.

With a transformative pedagogy, we recalibrate our classrooms into spaces where we acknowledge the humanity of our students and are explicit about how the work we do in the classroom relates to their lives outside of it. We talk openly with students and with each other about racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and other forms of identity-based oppression. That this call to arms isn’t a new one only underscores its urgency. That these discussions aren’t necessarily easy only underscores their urgency.

As we teach students how to hear, interact with, and think about music, let’s also teach them to think critically, ask questions, self-reflect, and to care enough to do so. Let’s open their ears, eyes, and minds to voices and people that have been marginalized, to the stories that surround and support the notes, to the unheard music. We need to teach the humanities as a practice you take out into the world.

As with any enterprise involving the sowing of seeds, some will germinate immediately, some only after the passing of several years, and some not at all. This is okay. Now is the time for planting.

Does this guy actually think that timbre is not an essential part of what he describes as “Western art music”? Has he ever listened to Berlioz or Debussy, just to name a couple of composers who exploited timbre? When Berlioz uses col legno in the "Symphonie Fantastique," is that not intended to create an effect based on timbre? Is not Schoenberg's Klangfarbenmelodie an exploitation of timbre? Of course, there are many more examples, particularly in the twentieth century and later. The same is true of improvisation. It was clearly part of baroque music, not least in the use of the figured bass. It returned in the mid-twentieth century in certain aspects of the avant-garde (Boulez, Stockhausen, Penderecki, Cage, Lutoslawski). I don’t care if this guy is politically correct; he is musically incompetent.


As far as the reference to the 2020 election is concerned, I doubt if any of the maniacs who stormed the Capitol are fans of classical music.

maestrob
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:30 pm

We present Western art music as an unassailable good and our teaching of it as unassailably good. We present Western art music as an intellectual art form, a high art form, a better art form, and we do this in the service of an ideology that positions white identities, ideas, and ideals as superior.
No we don't!

That white men composed most (but not all) of the classical music that is presented today on CD or in the concert hall has to do with the fact that this is great art that we want to hear and pass on. That it happened to be composed by Beethoven (who believed in the brotherhood of man) or by Wagner (who didn't) is quite irrelevant to most people in audiences of today. Most people go to concerts as a social event that inspires them to great feeling and let's them put aside their cares and woes if but for a brief evening.

Great music uplifts the soul. What the composer looked like or believed is quite irrelevant. As civilization uplifts people from all countries who are not white, many who are no longer scrabbling for a living and who can now find the time and energy to explore Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and so on are inevitably being drawn to the rewards of both performing and listening to the music that mostly white men have composed over the centuries. Witness the vast number of Asian musicians in our orchestras today, for example, or a recent segment I saw on 60 minutes about an African orchestra performing the inspirational Beethoven Ninth Symphony.

This guy sounds more like a sympathizer with Mao's cultural revolution, couched in fancy cancel culture rhetoric. History is what it is, and it behooves us to study and revel in the great creations of those who have contributed great art, rather than erase them just because they were created by people of the "wrong" color.

Should we therefore deny the next generation the incredibly uplifting experience of hearing a Verdi aria because the composer happened to be white?

What utter rot!

Modernistfan
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:42 pm

Agreed! It must be noted that W.E.B. DuBois, for example, was a huge fan of classical music, including Wagner. Any barriers to full participation by women or people of color or acceptance of their work must be removed; these include the issues of the costs of music education and attending performances. That guy wants to throw out the baby, and maybe the cat, along with the bathwater. As you undoubtedly have seen, I am not exactly a Trump fan or a fan of white supremacy.

Rach3
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Rach3 » Fri Jan 08, 2021 3:52 pm

Well said, Gentlemen:

“History is what it is, and it behooves us to study and revel in the great creations of those who have contributed great art, rather than erase them just because they were created by people of the "wrong" color.” maestrob

“That guy wants to throw out the baby, and maybe the cat, along with the bathwater. “ Modernistfan

Does he really think students studying , whether they wish to or not, "Western art music " are unaware of music of other styles and cultures, wont explore-study-perform such music or appreciate the same ? I have not looked at curricula of any music schools, but I suspect the courses are more diverse than suggested ? Not sure what he means by " groove ", but "parallel fifths" are not uncommon ; I have several in my wine rack.

Modernistfan
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:18 pm

"Parallel fifths" refers to two or more consecutive intervals of a fifth, generally deemed forbidden in traditional counterpoint. If you drink two or more fifths of that wine, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between parallel fifths and minor thirds.

Rach3
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Rach3 » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:41 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:18 pm
"Parallel fifths" refers to two or more consecutive intervals of a fifth, generally deemed forbidden in traditional counterpoint. If you drink two or more fifths of that wine, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between parallel fifths and minor thirds.
More than one probably needs to know:

https://www.schoolofcomposition.com/wha ... el-fifths/

barney
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Fri Jan 08, 2021 10:26 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:18 pm
"Parallel fifths" refers to two or more consecutive intervals of a fifth, generally deemed forbidden in traditional counterpoint. If you drink two or more fifths of that wine, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between parallel fifths and minor thirds.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Also love throwing out the baby and the cat.

PS: And also very well put, Brian. All I can say is, Indeed.

david johnson
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by david johnson » Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:02 am

"... apparently he did not get tenure." Ya think? lol

Rach3
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Rach3 » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:31 pm

But then I was surprised and disappointed to see this review (posted at another group) by the late Harold Schonberg of the NYT of Fou Ts'ong's 1961 NYC recital debut:

"But it cannot be said that his performance on this occasion sugested
(sic) that the Oriental mind can hurdle the cultural barrier.
Obviously he had been well schooled, in that he had most of the notes
in hand. He is not a big technician, however; and his musical
conception was heavy and sometimes awkward, with little of the grace,
charm or sophistication that the Chopin F minor contains.

His tone was big, but his detaché finger work militated against any
form of a true legato. The opening phrase of the finale should move
upward with sinuous grace and suppleness, As Mr. Ts'Ong played it, the
music sounded almost elephantine. He is doubtless a sincere musician,
and in years to come he will make up in large part his present
deficiencies. Whether he can in the long run completely make up for
an accident of birth--in which he was not exposed during his formative
years to the ambience that nourishes a great Western musician--is
another question".

Egads !!

Modernistfan
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:43 pm

I, too, am surprised and disappointed to see such a review. These attitudes are much less prevalent, hopefully, than they were, but they are still around. (I have commented on reviews of the Emerson Quartet in Gramophone that make sneering references to "New York" that barely avoid crossing the line into overt antisemitism (at the time, all four members of that quartet were New Yorkers of Jewish ancestry)). Of course, that does not make the music itself racist. (Mr. Schonberg should definitely have known better.)

barney
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Sun Jan 10, 2021 6:35 am

Yes, racists can import their racism into anything, and one is often surprised where one finds it.

maestrob
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:48 am

barney wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 6:35 am
Yes, racists can import their racism into anything, and one is often surprised where one finds it.
That said, and after reading the above review written in 1961, I'm still convinced that attitudes are softening among classical music lovers of today vs. 70 years ago toward Asian interpreters of Western classical music. I would point you gentlemen to the success of several Asian performers of the current generation, both Chinese and Japanese, whose recordings are well-received now, and I don't mean just Lang Lang, but Yundi Li, Midori, Zhu Xiaou Mei (Do check out her Bach!), and so on. Also, while Van Zweden is Dutch, he did record the Ring with the superb Hong Kong Philharmonic to great acclaim. Let's also not forget that the conductor of our great New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, is part Asian, and although not always the most insightful interpreter, he did have many fine concerts here in Avery Fisher Hall, most notably an inspirational Mahler II on the anniversary of 9/11 that was telecast. He's also recorded Nielsen's Symphony cycle, and others.

Besides, the Japanese public has warmly received both our orchestras and jazz performers since WWII, and the NHK Symphony has made some fine recordings happen. Several Japanese conductors have been appointed to positions with Western orchestras, including but not limited to Seiji Ozawa & Tadaaki Otaka (whom I'm sure you've heard in Melbourne, Barney! :wink: ), while China now has four orchestras established on the mainland and three in Hong Kong, all of them programming Western classical music.

Image

So I firmly believe that progress is happening, albeit slowly.

barney
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:01 am

Oh absolutely, Brian. Melbourne's chief conductor for years was Japanese (not Otaka), and he was popular among the musicians, who are the hardest taskmasters. There are many Asians in the orchestra. The list of fine Asian soloists is now immense.
I suppose one has to admit that Fou Tsong may not have played well in his debut concert - after all, Schonberg gives technical reasons why, and the pianist was a trailblazer. Nevertheless, one is left rather uncomfortable at the review's racial remarks. Certainly not acceptable now.

slofstra
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:48 am

You'll get terribly bogged down arguing about whether current musical curriculum embodies white supremacism. What if it does? Perhaps the way we engineer bridges and skyscrapers does as well, not allowing for alternative more organic methods of building. (On Netflix, there's an interesting profile of a designer working with organic structural concepts. There are other ways to do things, even in engineering buildings.)

The real question is what should be done to change the curriculum to be more inclusive. What cultures and alternative forms of musical expression lack representation in the curriculum and how should they be represented?

My main issue with the critique is that western music is criticized on political grounds. Somehow the writer marries musical attributes with issues of repression, and that is a tenuous link. Does Pizzaro's genocide in Peru somehow affect what Mozart wrote on the page? Our culture is western culture, and no apologies should be made for the culture, per se. At the same time, our society has become much more multi-cultural and the representation of other cultures and peoples within our books, music and movies is a relevant issue. I don't think this is something to be afraid of. Solving the issue should not require the deprecation of anything that is taught now. It only means putting more on the table and into the curriculum and yes, that might mean some diminution of sacred cows through a process of evolution. I can't give you an example out of music, but I can out of literature. The study of literature which I undertook in my 40s about 10-20 years ago was going through such an evolution. If you undertake a degree in English language and literature in Canada, you study only British and American authors. No Tolstoy, Zola or Hugo. You can study those by adding in electives in French or Russian culture and that is encouraged. Thus you end up with a core in English lit, literature written in English by English writers, and expand from there as you please. Thus the field has been broadened somewhat. But there is a fetishization around certain English writers like John Milton. BTW, I love Milton and took an entire course on Paradise Lost, including a deep dive into Milton's life and times. But to illustrate my point, at one time the University of Toronto had five tenured scholars working on Milton. At the time of my study, they were down to one. (I haven't fact check this; it's something I was told by my Milton prof, who, btw, was a young woman 15-20 years my junior.) Did we need that much scholarship around Milton? Maybe not.
Anyway, I would not be threatened by an essay like that posted above. I would pay attention to what the outcome of it may be. I see representation as a positive thing. When I came to this university town in 1971, you could dine on pizza, pizza, pizza and hamburgers. Today, there's sushi, pasta, curry, schnitzel and burrito's. And that's just the fast food. So, as far as music is concerned, a broadening of the curriculum isn't a bad thing .... well, if done properly.

mikealdren
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by mikealdren » Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:44 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:43 pm
I, too, am surprised and disappointed to see such a review. These attitudes are much less prevalent, hopefully, than they were, but they are still around. (I have commented on reviews of the Emerson Quartet in Gramophone that make sneering references to "New York" that barely avoid crossing the line into overt antisemitism (at the time, all four members of that quartet were New Yorkers of Jewish ancestry)). Of course, that does not make the music itself racist. (Mr. Schonberg should definitely have known better.)
As an Englishman, I find this interesting. If I saw comments about New Yorkers in a music review (Gramophone or elsewhere) I would expect the performances to be 'larger than life', full of dramatic contrast, maybe hard driven and lacking tenderness and introspection. It would never cross my mind that there was anything anti-semitic in the comments. Maybe the implicit racism that seems obvious in the USA isn't so obvious here.

diegobueno
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:13 pm

slofstra wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:48 am
Does Pizzaro's genocide in Peru somehow affect what Mozart wrote on the page?
At least we know how Pizzaro's actions towards Florestan affected Beethoven. 8)
Black lives matter.

barney
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Sun Jan 10, 2021 4:45 pm

slofstra wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:48 am
You'll get terribly bogged down arguing about whether current musical curriculum embodies white supremacism. What if it does? Perhaps the way we engineer bridges and skyscrapers does as well, not allowing for alternative more organic methods of building. (On Netflix, there's an interesting profile of a designer working with organic structural concepts. There are other ways to do things, even in engineering buildings.)

The real question is what should be done to change the curriculum to be more inclusive. What cultures and alternative forms of musical expression lack representation in the curriculum and how should they be represented?

My main issue with the critique is that western music is criticized on political grounds. Somehow the writer marries musical attributes with issues of repression, and that is a tenuous link. Does Pizzaro's genocide in Peru somehow affect what Mozart wrote on the page? Our culture is western culture, and no apologies should be made for the culture, per se. At the same time, our society has become much more multi-cultural and the representation of other cultures and peoples within our books, music and movies is a relevant issue. I don't think this is something to be afraid of. Solving the issue should not require the deprecation of anything that is taught now. It only means putting more on the table and into the curriculum and yes, that might mean some diminution of sacred cows through a process of evolution. I can't give you an example out of music, but I can out of literature. The study of literature which I undertook in my 40s about 10-20 years ago was going through such an evolution. If you undertake a degree in English language and literature in Canada, you study only British and American authors. No Tolstoy, Zola or Hugo. You can study those by adding in electives in French or Russian culture and that is encouraged. Thus you end up with a core in English lit, literature written in English by English writers, and expand from there as you please. Thus the field has been broadened somewhat. But there is a fetishization around certain English writers like John Milton. BTW, I love Milton and took an entire course on Paradise Lost, including a deep dive into Milton's life and times. But to illustrate my point, at one time the University of Toronto had five tenured scholars working on Milton. At the time of my study, they were down to one. (I haven't fact check this; it's something I was told by my Milton prof, who, btw, was a young woman 15-20 years my junior.) Did we need that much scholarship around Milton? Maybe not.
Anyway, I would not be threatened by an essay like that posted above. I would pay attention to what the outcome of it may be. I see representation as a positive thing. When I came to this university town in 1971, you could dine on pizza, pizza, pizza and hamburgers. Today, there's sushi, pasta, curry, schnitzel and burrito's. And that's just the fast food. So, as far as music is concerned, a broadening of the curriculum isn't a bad thing .... well, if done properly.
I think that's a pretty sane position, Henry. Preserve what we love, open ourselves to the new. And if I listen to less of the new, my children listen to less of the old. As you say, evolution.

slofstra
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:19 pm

diegobueno wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:13 pm
slofstra wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:48 am
Does Pizzaro's genocide in Peru somehow affect what Mozart wrote on the page?
At least we know how Pizzaro's actions towards Florestan affected Beethoven. 8)
I wonder if there's a link. Both were scoundrels, that's for certain. And it's been a while since I've watched/ listened to Fidelio.

absinthe
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by absinthe » Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:57 am

It's what comes of trying to turn tuition in music composition - well, any art for that matter - into an industry. A swindle. Graduates either move on to something else or become teachers in the subject, just to perpetuate the industry.
.
I look at some of the theoretical stuff taught now that seems to formalise if not bureaucratise music composition and shake my head. It's all carp (typo).
.
If someone wants to become a craftsman they must learn how to use the tools. CPP up to about the level of Brahms should take no longer than a year. It does not teach creativity.

One of my acquaintances is a college lecturer (in music composition) and he hates it. He does it as the only job he knows. He passed a couple of his students to me to see if I could inspire them to creativity, simply by helping release them from the rubric to which he's obliged to work. He claims this pair are perfectly able to do the exercises he sets; they'll get their degrees, but they're off-put by constraint. Composition exercises aren't their thing though they mechanically go through the motions.
.
I'm no great help. I weaned one off what (these days) seems the obligatory notation software in favour of a DAW in which one has hugely greater control; helped free their musical imagination a little and worry about CPP at a later stage if they must; helped them with orchestration (in which I hate to say, their tutor seemed a bit ham-fisted). Famous orchestration textbooks are fine but they don't and can't teach one how to orchestrate. Studying scores and/or a decent book on arranging is where it's at as both these 'students' tend to start at a piano.
Neither have made useful contacts at uni.
.
One has graduated, ready to join a local orchestra once lockdown is lifted (where, if I know the director, he loves to play the works of locals as concert fillers) but will otherwise work in a different field; the other hopes to graduate this year but want to get into film music. I hope she's successful and may at least make it to TV. She's become quite an adept in the technology which is far more important than consecutive 5ths, cadences and pitch classes these days.
.
But none of this through college. A cabinet maker doesn't do a degree course to learn how to become a Hepplewhite. A composer 'gets apprenticed' by finding out how other composers worked and more to the point, why.
.

I doubt more than one student per year gets anywhere commercially as a composer.
.

maestrob
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:58 am

A fine post, absinthe, thank you.

I'm a firm believer in laying solid groundwork before allowing imagination to take hold. Otherwise, how is the student to know that he/she actually is imaginative, or simply trying to reinvent the wheel and wasting effort?

A firm grasp of the evolution of musical composition and style can only come from studying what has been done already. Once the ground has been properly fertilized, then isn't it up to the individual to discover what they can invent on their own, albeit with a bit of guidance in the beginning? Inspiration must come from each person, and just needs permission to emerge, no?

Certainly, John Adams and Christopher Rouse were quite inspired when they wrote "Harmonielehre" and various Symphonies I've reviewed in these pages. No one else did that for them, they just worked hard and produced great new music.

The magnificent and fiendishly difficult fugue that Copland wrote in the second movement of his Third Symphony was uniquely his and came from within. Boulanger may have laid the foundations for that creativity to emerge, but that's only the beginning.

No sense in blaming the teacher if the student lacks the inner fire to sell her music to the world.

I'm just saying. :wink:

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:26 am

maestrob wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:58 am
A fine post, absinthe, thank you.

I'm a firm believer in laying solid groundwork before allowing imagination to take hold. Otherwise, how is the student to know that he/she actually is imaginative, or simply trying to reinvent the wheel and wasting effort?

A firm grasp of the evolution of musical composition and style can only come from studying what has been done already. Once the ground has been properly fertilized, then isn't it up to the individual to discover what they can invent on their own, albeit with a bit of guidance in the beginning? Inspiration must come from each person, and just needs permission to emerge, no?

Certainly, John Adams and Christopher Rouse were quite inspired when they wrote "Harmonielehre" and various Symphonies I've reviewed in these pages. No one else did that for them, they just worked hard and produced great new music.

The magnificent and fiendishly difficult fugue that Copland wrote in the second movement of his Third Symphony was uniquely his and came from within. Boulanger may have laid the foundations for that creativity to emerge, but that's only the beginning.

No sense in blaming the teacher if the student lacks the inner fire to sell her music to the world.

I'm just saying. 😉

A thought experiment you might try is how would a young person who had a brilliant aptitude for music but listened primarily to rap and various jazz music sources, and not much out of the classical tradition, do with current curriculum. This is an open-ended question; I frankly have no idea on this myself.

I can't think too badly about the general stream of how people are taught music now. Nina Simone was a poor black girl with talent who was trained initially along classical lines because of a wealthy, white benefactor in her southern US town.
No doubt she had struggles with her identity, caught between two worlds, and that needed and still needs to be fixed. But from a purely musical perspective that training was an asset for the music she created later in life.
Here in Canada, an indigenous student trained in operatic singing at the music faculty at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, spent 5 years researching wax rolls of the Mi'kmaq music tradition stored in archives in Ottawa, and wrote an extraordinary set of compositions which I've heard in concert twice, and also have the CD. It helps that he has a sumptuous classically trained baritone voice.

A couple of examples of what is possible.
Somehow I feel the basics are the basics. And learning the pentatonic scale or the fundamentals of sitar music is still best left for advanced courses.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:47 am

Somehow I feel the basics are the basics. And learning the pentatonic scale or the fundamentals of sitar music is still best left for advanced courses.
Speaking of sitar music, have you heard Ravi Shankar play his Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra? It was issued first on LP and then CD. A lovely work, IMHO.

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As to your comments above: Agreed. Still, the "basics" were really pioneered by J. S. Bach, whose inspired invention of tempered scale, which for the first time allowed instruments to play in all keys, forms the basis for our classical music traditions.

Studying Debussy would be an enlightening experience for any student, since that composer used what were then called "Oriental" scales in his later compositions with great success.

Modernistfan
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:54 am

Slofstra, who is that composer who based works on Mi'kmak traditional music? I would like to know and to get the CD if it is available. This is always very interesting. After all, look at the composers who have based works on Eastern European traditional music of various ethnicities, including klezmer, music of the Roma people, and music of many other groups.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:33 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:54 am
Slofstra, who is that composer who based works on Mi'kmak traditional music? I would like to know and to get the CD if it is available. This is always very interesting. After all, look at the composers who have based works on Eastern European traditional music of various ethnicities, including klezmer, music of the Roma people, and music of many other groups.
Here is the web site.
https://jeremydutcher.com/

I wrote a brief review of a performance in his home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia, fall of 2018. A year or so later he performed with our K-W Symphony in Ontario, and I attended that as well. I preferred the small ensemble but the work with the symphony orchestra was also very enjoyable.
https://gesprek.net/2018/10/18/jeremy-d ... 8-halifax/

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:42 pm

maestrob wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:47 am
Somehow I feel the basics are the basics. And learning the pentatonic scale or the fundamentals of sitar music is still best left for advanced courses.
Speaking of sitar music, have you heard Ravi Shankar play his Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra? It was issued first on LP and then CD. A lovely work, IMHO.

Image

As to your comments above: Agreed. Still, the "basics" were really pioneered by J. S. Bach, whose inspired invention of tempered scale, which for the first time allowed instruments to play in all keys, forms the basis for our classical music traditions.

Studying Debussy would be an enlightening experience for any student, since that composer used what were then called "Oriental" scales in his later compositions with great success.

I've been very impressed with the work of his daughter, and I don't mean Norah Jones although I like her music too. Anoushka Shankar has created some impressive symphonic work in this tradition.
Well, well. This concert in which she performed with the BPO features her father's work, but it's the Second Concerto.
https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/concert/23485

Previn is under-rated, is he not? I recently bought a budget set of his Vaughan-Williams work and the London Symphony and the Third Symphony are ravishing. I have always liked the Rachmaninoff set with Ashkenazy. Beyond that, I have only a scattering of material.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:15 pm

Yes, I agree that Previn is quite underrated as an overall talent. His work with the London Symphony is particularly impressive, and I agree with you about his instinctive bond with Vaughan-Williams. There is much in his output from that era that I like, including his Shostakovich symphonies & Tchaikovsky ballets which have been largely forgotten nowadays. As a classical composer who, like Leonard Bernstein, was equally at home in the jazz idiom, I admire his Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, and his opera he recorded with Renee Fleming, "Streetcar Named Desire," which was telecast and later released on DVD. His Beethoven's not chopped liver either. Here are more than a few examples of recordings by him that I like:

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Modernistfan
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Modernistfan » Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:58 pm

Is the Jeremy Dutcher album entitled "Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa"? (Please don't ask me to pronounce that.)

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Tue Jan 12, 2021 5:22 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:58 pm
Is the Jeremy Dutcher album entitled "Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa"? (Please don't ask me to pronounce that.)
It's easy. You just say "Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa"!
:D

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 13, 2021 1:54 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:58 pm
Is the Jeremy Dutcher album entitled "Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa"? (Please don't ask me to pronounce that.)
Indeed, it is. It's also available on all the streaming services.

Let me know if this link works for you.

https://music.youtube.com/browse/MPREb_XX4jsBE5c22

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 13, 2021 1:55 pm

maestrob wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:15 pm
Yes, I agree that Previn is quite underrated as an overall talent. His work with the London Symphony is particularly impressive, and I agree with you about his instinctive bond with Vaughan-Williams. There is much in his output from that era that I like, including his Shostakovich symphonies & Tchaikovsky ballets which have been largely forgotten nowadays. As a classical composer who, like Leonard Bernstein, was equally at home in the jazz idiom, I admire his Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, and his opera he recorded with Renee Fleming, "Streetcar Named Desire," which was telecast and later released on DVD. His Beethoven's not chopped liver either. Here are more than a few examples of recordings by him that I like:

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That's great! Now all I need is all of those in one 'Original Jacket Collection'. :)

maestrob
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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:05 pm

Forgot about this one from Phillips, where he plays piano in a gorgeously recorded CD of Brahms and Beethoven:

Image

Most of what I posted can be streamed on amazon in the U. S., perhaps even in Canada.

Enjoy! :wink:

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:33 am

I love that Archduke, Brian.

There may be some who have never seen the skit by English comedians Morecombe and Wise starring Andre Previn. It goes about 12 minutes, and I think it's brilliant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7GeKLE0x3s

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:48 am

barney wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:33 am
I love that Archduke, Brian.

There may be some who have never seen the skit by English comedians Morecombe and Wise starring Andre Previn. It goes about 12 minutes, and I think it's brilliant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7GeKLE0x3s
Oh my! :lol:

Barney, you have no idea how much I needed that this morning in particular! You made my day. That made me think of the other great musical comedian, Victor Borge, whom I've seen live twice, along with Peter Schickele, of P. D. Q. Bach fame.

Absolutely brilliant! I've never seen that before. 8)

Many hearty thanks! :D

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:09 pm

I'm really pleased you enjoyed it, Brian. As you know, I like to be a little ray of sunshine. :D
Completely agree with your references. With Borge, I still laugh when I think of the line he uses a lot: "It's your language. I'm just borrowing it." And PD.Q. Bach is genius.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Rach3 » Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:03 pm

barney wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:09 pm
I'm really pleased you enjoyed it, Brian. As you know, I like to be a little ray of sunshine. :D
Completely agree with your references. With Borge, I still laugh when I think of the line he uses a lot: "It's your language. I'm just borrowing it." And PD.Q. Bach is genius.
Another fav Borge of mine is the first 1:40 of this Minneapolis show YT where he talks to audience late-comers from St.Paul:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEMEkNhulsI

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:03 pm

barney wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:09 pm
I'm really pleased you enjoyed it, Brian. As you know, I like to be a little ray of sunshine. :D
Completely agree with your references. With Borge, I still laugh when I think of the line he uses a lot: "It's your language. I'm just borrowing it." And PD.Q. Bach is genius.
When Professor Schickele was younger, he used to fill Carnegie Hall with adoring crowds, myself and Teresa among them. He would open the show by launching himself from the closest Box seat to stage right and swing on a gigantic rope down to the stage! Strangely, the Wikipedia page states that he gave his New York concerts in Avery Fisher Hall, but I never saw him there, only in Carnegie.

Of course the traditional inside joke was for the audience to hiss loudly at the stage manager who would come out and rearrange the music stands for various works during the program. :wink:

As a graduate from Juilliard with a Master's in Composition, he received, I think, two Grammy's among his many albums, and only cut back his touring in 2012 or so. Teresa's voice teacher appeared with him in Carnegie Hall, and I presented a tenor in my competition who had sung with him there also.

Nobody like him around these days. Here is a DVD from 2005, recorded in Houston on his 50th Anniversary:

Image

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Schickele
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._D._Q._ ... %20family.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:57 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:03 pm
barney wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 12:09 pm
I'm really pleased you enjoyed it, Brian. As you know, I like to be a little ray of sunshine. :D
Completely agree with your references. With Borge, I still laugh when I think of the line he uses a lot: "It's your language. I'm just borrowing it." And PD.Q. Bach is genius.
Another fav Borge of mine is the first 1:40 of this Minneapolis show YT where he talks to audience late-comers from St.Paul:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEMEkNhulsI
Yes, delicious. I have seen it but not recently, and it's fresh every time. Thanks.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:36 pm

maestrob wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:03 pm
Strangely, the Wikipedia page states that he gave his New York concerts in Avery Fisher Hall, but I never saw him there, only in Carnegie.
I saw Peter Schickele/PDQ Bach at Avery Fisher Hall (I believe it was still called Philharmonic Hall at the time). This was in 1967 or 1968, and it was my first actual date.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Sat Jan 16, 2021 4:25 am

Something worth remembering - as clearly you have. Do you remember the lady?

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:30 am

barney wrote:
Sat Jan 16, 2021 4:25 am
Something worth remembering - as clearly you have. Do you remember the lady?
Yes, I remember Lisa G. And I remember when I picked her up at her parents' apartment, and I told her mother where we were going, her mother gave me a peculiar look and made some comment about what "PDQ" stood for. I guess she thought it had something to do with my intentions toward her daughter. :twisted: Anyway, Lisa G. and I went our separate ways after a couple more dates, but I retained my affection for PDQ Bach.

This has nothing to do with the original topic of this thread, but Barney's question prompted a pleasant trip down memory lane.

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by barney » Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:59 am

Ricordanza wrote:
Sat Jan 16, 2021 7:30 am
barney wrote:
Sat Jan 16, 2021 4:25 am
Something worth remembering - as clearly you have. Do you remember the lady?
Yes, I remember Lisa G. And I remember when I picked her up at her parents' apartment, and I told her mother where we were going, her mother gave me a peculiar look and made some comment about what "PDQ" stood for. I guess she thought it had something to do with my intentions toward her daughter. :twisted: Anyway, Lisa G. and I went our separate ways after a couple more dates, but I retained my affection for PDQ Bach.

This has nothing to do with the original topic of this thread, but Barney's question prompted a pleasant trip down memory lane.
:lol:
PDQ as sexual slang? The mind boggles. I'm not even going to speculate...

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by THEHORN » Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:39 pm

Western Classical Music had its origin in Europe centuries ago . So what ? Big deal . Who cares ? This in itself is no reason to dismiss it as an art form or berate anyone for composing, performing or listening to it .
Classical music is no more "evil" and of baleful influence than any other genre of music .
It is what is is . Saying that only Europeans and people of European descent should listen to it is like saying that only Chinese people should eat Chinese cuisine .
For much of its history, classical music was written and performed by white European males for the most part , as well as white male Americans of European origin or descent . although women have played a more important role in it than commonly realized .
But within the past 50 years or so, it has become much more diverse . The term "diversity"is a relatively recent coinage , but classical music was diverse before the term diversity became fashionable .
If you look at photos or videos of say, the New York Philharmonic from the 1960s under Leonard Bernstein , you will see an orchestra which is almost 100 % made of white American males , with maybe one female member .
But today, there are many women in the Philharmonic, as well as plenty of Asian born orAsian Americans . Only one black at present , although there were a few in the past .
The NY Phil. plays much more than music by "dead white European males," although this is a prominent part of its repertoire . It also plays music by LIVING white European male,s and women too .
Plus music by a wide variety of American composers, living and dead , as well as music by Asian and Latin American composers etc . Every year, the orchestra plays a variety of new or recent works by a wide variety of living composers . What's the whole fuss about ? Most other major US orchestras have a similar repertoire .

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by maestrob » Sat Jan 23, 2021 8:51 am

Just so, Robert!

Thank-you! :D

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Re: Another Attack on Western Music from the Woke

Post by slofstra » Sun Jan 24, 2021 12:54 pm

THEHORN wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:39 pm
Western Classical Music had its origin in Europe centuries ago . So what ? Big deal . Who cares ? This in itself is no reason to dismiss it as an art form or berate anyone for composing, performing or listening to it .
Classical music is no more "evil" and of baleful influence than any other genre of music .
It is what is is . Saying that only Europeans and people of European descent should listen to it is like saying that only Chinese people should eat Chinese cuisine .
For much of its history, classical music was written and performed by white European males for the most part , as well as white male Americans of European origin or descent . although women have played a more important role in it than commonly realized .
But within the past 50 years or so, it has become much more diverse . The term "diversity"is a relatively recent coinage , but classical music was diverse before the term diversity became fashionable .
If you look at photos or videos of say, the New York Philharmonic from the 1960s under Leonard Bernstein , you will see an orchestra which is almost 100 % made of white American males , with maybe one female member .
But today, there are many women in the Philharmonic, as well as plenty of Asian born orAsian Americans . Only one black at present , although there were a few in the past .
The NY Phil. plays much more than music by "dead white European males," although this is a prominent part of its repertoire . It also plays music by LIVING white European male,s and women too .
Plus music by a wide variety of American composers, living and dead , as well as music by Asian and Latin American composers etc . Every year, the orchestra plays a variety of new or recent works by a wide variety of living composers . What's the whole fuss about ? Most other major US orchestras have a similar repertoire .
I don't wish to get into a defence of the article, which to my mind, has a number of weaknesses. However, in your commentary you really address only a few strawman arguments that you have set up. The article, and no one in general, is dismissing or berating western classical music.
And I'm not sure why you get into progress in inclusion within the NY Philharmonic when the article is specifically about pedagogy.
You sound rather defensive, and it's unfortunate that you haven't taken the time to come to terms with exactly what the article says - "Requiring all students to use a white lens to approach, understand, and critique music is racist."

I'm not close to how music is taught, so I have no idea of the extent to which this thesis is correct. There are a couple of insightful posts on this subject above. I do think it's important to be inclusive, and that a varied representation of cultures is important in any arts curriculum within a multi-cultural society. Have strides been made along that line in how music is taught? To what extent is that even possible when the history of composition in western culture has been white male dominated? I don't know. I also don't accept the article author's claims because I find the treatment of the question superficial.
So, I'm not in agreement with the article, but the issue is too far out of bounds for me to form a sharp opinion on the question. It sounds like this line of thinking triggered your BS meter and maybe properly so, but your comeback wasn't terribly convincing either.

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