So many people have sent me the story about "music 'professors'" at Oxford University calling for a "culturally inclusive" music curriculum that I feel compelled to comment about it.
But I won't, except just briefly, on the following article by Fay Voshell shared by K.M. It's worthy of your careful consideration.
Consider the following paragraphs:
Those familiar with the excesses of Maoist China should note with growing alarm that ideas similar to those foundational to Mao's Cultural Revolution have found their way into the music department of Oxford University.
Oxford music professors, encouraged by BLM representatives to repudiate what is deemed white supremacism characterized by classical Western music, have targeted the university's traditional focus on irredeemably "colonialist" composers such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.
Now I've no doubt that Ms. Voshell is accurately summarizing the position of these "professors," but what strikes me as extremely odd here is that Mozart certainly spent some of his career in the employ of one or another patron in Austria, and much of it in and around the capital of the Hapsburg Empire. My quibble is perhaps an Oxonian one in implying that the Austrian Empire was "colonialist." An empire, yes; imperial, yes; colonial in the sense that a Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, France, or Portugal were colonial, no. Austria never had such a vast overseas colonial empire. Then there's Beethoven, whom most people know was hardly in favor of imperialism of any stripe, colonial or otherwise. After all, he did initially dedicate his 3rd symphony, the "Eroica", to Napoleon Bonaparte and then scratched out that dedication when Napoleon's ambitions became clear. And Bach? Composing his masterpieces for one prince or duke or another, or ending up in the free city of Leipzig and his endless quarrels with the city council? None of the states with which Bach was ever associated could be considered even remotely "imperial" save in their association with the tottering Holy Roman Empire, more of a legal entity in Bach's day than a real state. And the principalities, dukedoms, and free cities with which he was associated possessed nowhere near the strength to be "imperial" or "colonial" on their own. After the Thirty Years' War that ended a mere three decades or so before Bach was born, those states were lucky to have survived the devastation at all. Harbor imperial or colonial ambitions? Nonsense! Unglaublicher Wahnsinn!
Such factual quibbles are of no interest to the "woke" musicological junta of Oxford, however. They are interested only in an agenda, an agenda that Ms. Foshell zeroes in on like a laser:
Significantly, the piano once again has been singled out as an obnoxious symbol of Western oppression.
Members of the music department propose that students not be required to learn to play the piano or conduct orchestras, as those practices are centered on white European music and cause "students of colour great distress." Even the way music is taught, some complain, is a problem because the "vast bulk of tutors for techniques are white men."
Oxford will discover that it will not be enough to trash Western music because more often than not, it has been composed and conducted by white men. The demands of ideological barbarism known as cultural Marxism coupled with Critical Race Theory will doubtless soon affect other disciplines. Soon the demand will be that the entire university, which currently is rated as the best university in the world, be completely restructured, as it is deemed inherently infected by Western "whiteness."
In like manner, leaders of Mao Zedong's "Cultural Revolution" sought to root out all Western influence, including Western music, in order for the new communist order to be established. Violins were smashed along with the fingers of those who played those instruments. New cultural forms such as Madame Mao's infamous military ballets substituted for Western ballets and Chinese opera as the people's art.
The goal, as Mao himself advocated, was the complete reform of university education, including the arts.
As the BBC noted, the piano was targeted as the primary symbol of the corrupt West. "During the Cultural Revolution four decades ago, the piano was seen as the most dangerous of all Western instruments. It was once described as being akin to a coffin, a black box in which the notes rattled around like the bones of the bourgeoisie."
World-renowned pianist Liu Shih Kun was subjected to struggle sessions. "Because of his travels abroad, because he had shaken hands with Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev, because he played Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, he was labelled a 'counter-revolutionary revisionist[.]' ... He was made to clean the toilets at the Central Conservatory of Music and forced to serve six years in Beijing's Taicheng prison, just about managing to keep his strength up by augmenting his daily two bowls of brine with worms culled from rotting vegetables." (Emphasis added)
There's a hidden implication here: why is it that all around the world, musicians from other cultures strive to learn this tradition, this "western" music? Why did Japanese koto orchestras make so many recordings of J.S. Bach in the 1970s? Why does modern China lead the world in the construction of new pipe organs? Why does a Chinese maestro and piano virtuoso have to suffer for playing Mendelssohn or Mozart? Why would one want to smash lovely instruments like violins and pianos? I would aver that the reason has nothing to do with colonialism or imperialism or "whiteness" or "patriarchy", and everything to do with the music itself, and with that mathematical "adjustment" that made modern western music possible, beginning with the Renaissance, but actually an "adjustment" stretching back to Plato and the Pythagoreans and even to Sumer. That adjustment made this music - from Palestrina to the Beatles - possible. And the key - not to coin a pun - was that "adjustment" to the natural harmonic series, a universal physical phenomenon, that allowed composers to modulate (change keys or tonal centers) during a piece of music. Music was no longer limited, or in a better word, "stuck" in one key. It's that universal phenomenon of the harmonic series, perfected as it were by another universal phenomenon, human reason and the mathematics of proportions, that in my opinion accounts for the universal quality of this musical tradition and its appeal across so many cultures. There is, so to speak, a cosmology behind it. There is a sublime beauty and transcendence to it that Japanese, Chinese, Siamese, Indians, Blacks, men, women, old and young have recognized in it. Only the modernist "uglifiers" of "woke" "culture" seem incapable of doing so. Not a surprise, since they are bereft of the very reason that made that musical tradition and its underlying cosmology possible.
It's that cosmology that is the real target here, whether of Mao's revolutionaries or Oxford's musicological junta, because that cosmology has nothing to do with race, maleness, or better put, fetid Marxist cultural dogmas, critical race theory, the glossolalia babbling of the Frankfurt school, or anything remotely related to them.
And that's why, I suspect, that the ultimate target here is J.S. Bach himself, for in his train one will encounter other masters of that musical cosmology, Haendel, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Rameau, Couperin, Buxtehude, the Chevalier de St. Georges (look him up if you really want to be "woke"), and on and on we could go...
The real target isn't whiteness or colonialism or maleness or anything like that. The real target is that Logos and ratio one so clearly hears and experiences in that music.
See you on the flip side...