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Thread: Did you know that "Classical Music is Inherently Racist?"

  1. #166
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Wagner was anything but consistent and systematic in his thinking over his lifetime.
    Right, he was a monarchist, an anarchist, a utopianist, a pacifist and a warmonger, a cosmopolitan and a nationalist. Sometimes he was a militaristic proto-fascist anti-Semite and sometimes he was a pacifist with dreams of a mystical atonement of Jews and Gentiles. Clearly we aren't dealing with geometrically exact thinking here. I find it interesting that this kind of wild inconsistency is something he shares with his great enemy/friend/disciple, Nietzsche.
    Last edited by Logos; Dec-08-2019 at 03:14.

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  3. #167
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Well, I can't entirely agree with you, Logos and Woodduck, about the antisemitic writers you mention. Based on what I have read of them, they were merely intellectual frauds, using a facade of intellectual pretense, or racist "pseudoscience" as Logos aptly called it, to advance their often petty and self-centered personal or political agendas. This very much includes Wagner. Wagner understood Mendelssohn was another great composer, more skilled in certain ways than he, and like Chopin's attacks of Liszt, wanted to argue for the advantages of his own ideas while unsuccessfully trying to cover more than a little professional jealousy. Wagner also understood Meyerbeer was a middling composer, and greatly resented his financial success and popularity. Two very different kinds of jealousy. Nebal Maysaud is an Arab-American composer who in my opinion is having a little fun in giving the white man a little of his own racist medicine.

    But there is nothing even pseudo-intellectual about Hitler's "philosophy". He was purely a manipulative propagandist, seizing on whatever past writers may have said to help his propaganda campaigns, without worrying too much about whether he was characterizing or using their ideas correctly, which he generally wasn't. In fact, he relished his anti-intellectual stances, knowing the ordinary German wouldn't understand or care about most intellectual theories anyway.

  4. #168
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    But there is nothing even pseudo-intellectual about Hitler's "philosophy". He was purely a manipulative propagandist, seizing on whatever past writers may have said to help his propaganda campaigns, without worrying too much about whether he was characterizing or using their ideas correctly, which he generally wasn't. In fact, he relished his anti-intellectual stances, knowing the ordinary German wouldn't understand or care about most intellectual theories anyway.
    Certainly it's difficult to know what Hitler's philosophy was since, in addition to being cruel tyrant, he was an inveterate liar. He lied in politics, he lied about his past, and he lied about his beliefs. From Becoming Hitler published by Oxford:

    "Even though self-dramatization is the essence of politics, the degree to which Hitler lied about his own life in Mein Kampf is quite astonishing. His account is at times almost fictional in character. Yet this constant lying makes perfect sense, as his goal was to tell a version of his life that would allow him to draw from it political lessons that supported his political beliefs in 1924. Hitler thus ruthlessly reinvented his own past so as to tell politically expedient tales."

    My point was simply that Nazism did not emerge out of nothing, but from a matrix of pre-existing German anti-Semitism, hero-worship, racist mysticism, nationalism, and Prussian/Bismarckian militarism. The authors mentioned are part of those traditions to various degrees.
    Last edited by Logos; Dec-09-2019 at 00:22.

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    So, essentially, racism isn't a thing, since it's based on pseudo-science, and like classical music itself, it's being appropriated by non-Westerners as a means to signal their wish to belong to the West (as explained in another thread, not just this one).
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    So, essentially, racism isn't a thing, since it's based on pseudo-science, and like classical music itself, it's being appropriated by non-Westerners as a means to signal their wish to belong to the West (as explained in another thread, not just this one).
    Racism obviously exists, though based on pseudo-science. And non-Western peoples do appropriate it, but I don't see how that's related to a desire to "belong to the West." On the contrary, non-Western "racism" (I'm thinking of beliefs like those of the Nation of Islam, for example) is often wielded against the West.
    Last edited by Logos; Dec-09-2019 at 19:57.

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    Beyond the writings of avowed "racists" or of those others generating the pseudo-science or biblical/religious underpinnings of such--almost always westerners--it is difficult to tease out racism separately and meaningfully from tribalism. The history of the Han Chinese alternates between (as most histories) periods of expansion and glory, and then those of defeat, humiliation, retrenchment. The Han in their zenith years and through much of their history have regarded themselves as superior to their scruffy, unkempt neighbors regardless of the "racial" aspects of said neighbors--all were equally contemptible. A pattern we see often in non-western history, and early western history also, where foreigners are often named as "babblers" or "those who are not truly human" (though we will have sex with their women, if it suits us). In the items found in Tutankhamen's tomb, we find figurines of both a black (Nubian) and a Mesopotamian depicted as underlings subject to Pharaoh's rule and discipline.

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  10. #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Certainly it's difficult to know what Hitler's philosophy was since, in addition to being cruel tyrant, he was an inveterate liar. He lied in politics, he lied about his past, and he lied about his beliefs. From Becoming Hitler published by Oxford:

    "Even though self-dramatization is the essence of politics, the degree to which Hitler lied about his own life in Mein Kampf is quite astonishing. His account is at times almost fictional in character. Yet this constant lying makes perfect sense, as his goal was to tell a version of his life that would allow him to draw from it political lessons that supported his political beliefs in 1924. Hitler thus ruthlessly reinvented his own past so as to tell politically expedient tales."

    My point was simply that Nazism did not emerge out of nothing, but from a matrix of pre-existing German anti-Semitism, hero-worship, racist mysticism, nationalism, and Prussian/Bismarckian militarism. The authors mentioned are part of those traditions to various degrees.
    Yes, I certainly agree with all of that, including that Oxford quote, which puts it very well. Though, I'd say that the Nazis took advantage of "pre-existing German anti-Semitism, hero-worship, racist mysticism, nationalism, and Prussian/Bismarckian militarism" to generate support for their cause, to the extent those things were helpful. I wouldn't conclude they truly believed in any principles, even intellectually dishonest ones, other than power, tyranny and plunder.
    Last edited by fluteman; Dec-09-2019 at 21:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    Yes, I certainly agree with all of that, including that Oxford quote, which puts it very well. Though, I'd say that the Nazis took advantage of "pre-existing German anti-Semitism, hero-worship, racist mysticism, nationalism, and Prussian/Bismarckian militarism" to generate support for their cause, to the extent those things were helpful. I wouldn't conclude they truly believed in any principles, even intellectually dishonest ones, other than power, tyranny and plunder.
    Associated with any belief system--Nazism is no exception--there exists a spectrum of adherents ranging from True Believers to the utterly cynical who are riding the wave for either personal gain or to satisfy, in the case of Nazism and similar "ideologies", a taste for sadism and brutality. Joseph Paul Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg are examples of True Believers in Nazi ideology, Himmler and Goering as those in it for personal gain, and Hitler himself likely an amalgam of the two impulses. A look at Scientology, religions, other powerful belief systems will reveal the same spectrum. We even see parallels in US politics today......

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Racism obviously exists, though based on pseudo-science. And non-Western peoples do appropriate it, but I don't see how that's related to a desire to "belong to the West." On the contrary, non-Western "racism" (I'm thinking of beliefs like those of the Nation of Islam, for example) is often wielded against the West.
    I thought I was summarising your position. It's not mine. If I've made an error in my summary, my bad.

    What still eludes me is how any of this analysis sheds light on whether classical music can be racist (as claimed in the article posted by the OP) and whether this analysis is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to avoid any proper consideration of discrimination arising from prejudice against others of different ethnic backgrounds.
    Last edited by MacLeod; Dec-10-2019 at 18:20.
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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    ^^^^If the article linked in the OP is not a (cruel) hoax, then it is itself a ringing call to tribalism. It asserts that tribal loyalties (not clearly explained how these are identified and then validated) cannot be transcended without the individual becoming inauthentic as a member of the tribe. Art (such as CM) is doomed to be a member of a vast array of small impenetrable, impermeable boxes, each box inaccessible to members of another tribe. And to climb the wall and examine and then enjoy the contents of an alien box is to lose one's rightful place in the tribal group. A sad business, and a retrograde impulse.

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  15. #176
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    ^^^^If the article linked in the OP is not a (cruel) hoax, then it is itself a ringing call to tribalism. It asserts that tribal loyalties (not clearly explained how these are identified and then validated) cannot be transcended without the individual becoming inauthentic as a member of the tribe. Art (such as CM) is doomed to be a member of a vast array of small impenetrable, impermeable boxes, each box inaccessible to members of another tribe. And to climb the wall and examine and then enjoy the contents of an alien box is to lose one's rightful place in the tribal group. A sad business, and a retrograde impulse.
    Yes, but there is something else that is also sad, and that is the abuse and rejection this Arab-American (Druze and not Muslim, but not many Americans bother with such fine distinctions) self proclaimed "queer" man ("queer" is apparently the new term for bisexual, or something like it) probably absorbs on a daily basis simply for being who he is. Now he is turning the tables and rejecting us for being who we are, something some of us can hardly believe a sophisticated, well-educated composer of music in the western tradition could or would do.

    I think he means to be taken seriously in one sense, but not another. Is he turning in the keys to his Toyota Prius and his membership in the Alexandria LA Fitness and going to the middle east to live in a tent in the desert? Probably not. But is he looking for a way to express himself as a composer with more artistic integrity given the isolation and rejection he no doubt feels in western society? Probably so.

    Historically, many great artists have been outcasts or misfits in one way or another, so I for one can tolerate his rant.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    ^^^^We may be dealing with a pathology in the case of the article's author. Many other creative (and many non-creative) people with similar ethnic backgrounds get on well in today's increasingly diverse America. Where I live here in Nova Caesarea, we have a very diverse community, with many opportunities for minorities to gain public office, run businesses, do science, enter professions. Except for a certain segment of the population that cannot and will not accept that the demographics of America are changing, it is easier than ever now for people of heretofore very rarely met ethnicities to thrive. Our Attorney General here is a turbaned Sikh of formidable integrity and effectiveness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    ^^^^We may be dealing with a pathology in the case of the article's author.
    Yes, it's a rough one, but he has a good chance of recovering from it. It's called youth. The author is a 2017 college graduate. He has some discovering to do in the years ahead, of himself as well as the world at large. I, for one, wish him well.

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  20. #179
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    I thought I was summarising your position. It's not mine. If I've made an error in my summary, my bad.

    What still eludes me is how any of this analysis sheds light on whether classical music can be racist (as claimed in the article posted by the OP) and whether this analysis is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to avoid any proper consideration of discrimination arising from prejudice against others of different ethnic backgrounds.
    I think that summary was based on an unfortunate conflation of unrelated statements broached in another thread with those in this one.

    Can music in its narrowest sense (artfully arranged sound) be racist? I can't see how it can. Can composers, libretti, instrumentalists, and musical organizations be racist? Assuredly they can be, and some have been. But the author of this article extends his criticisms beyond that with the sweeping assertion that, "Western classical music is not about culture. It’s about whiteness." Classical music is not about any one thing.

    He says it is "specious" that whiteness has a culture. What does he mean by that? Apparently he would have us believe that white supremacy enforced by classical art is the culture of whiteness while at the same time maintaining that whiteness has no culture at all. He goes on to say that: "The best we can be are exotic guests: entertainment for the white audiences and an example of how Western classical music is more elite than the cultures of people of color." Are the cultures of people of color equally specious? Where does this speciousness end?
    Last edited by Logos; Dec-12-2019 at 03:17.

  21. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    I think that summary was based on an unfortunate conflation of unrelated statements broached in another thread with those in this one.

    Can music in its narrowest sense (artfully arranged sound) be racist? I can't see how it can. Can composers, libretti, instrumentalists, and musical organizations be racist? Assuredly they can be, and some have been. But the author of this article extends his criticisms beyond that with the sweeping assertion that, "Western classical music is not about culture. It’s about whiteness." Classical music is not about any one thing.

    He says it is "specious" that whiteness has a culture. What does he mean by that? Apparently he would have us believe that white supremacy enforced by classical art is the culture of whiteness while at the same time maintaining that whiteness has no culture at all. He goes on to say that: "The best we can be are exotic guests: entertainment for the white audiences and an example of how Western classical music is more elite than the cultures of people of color." Are the cultures of people of color equally specious? Where does this speciousness end?
    You didn't answer my question. Never mind.
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