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

  1. #226
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    To me the whole thing is ridiculous. It is a misapplication of the word racist which we are unfortunately seeing too much in a politically correct society. A racist is someone who looks down on another race and deliberately tries to demean someone else’s race. By writing western music for Westerners we do not try and demean anybody else but rather cater for ourselves. By serving fish and chips a British restaurant is not being racist any more than an Indian restaurant is being racist by serving tikka masala. About time we started using words properly instead of putting sinister meanings into them.
    OK, let's not call it 'racism,' but 'cultural bias.' I think that's what the whole point is, anyway, just a bad choice of terms. And there can be bias within a culture on itself, like the music Mozart created for the amusement of the upper classes.
    I do think there is a point to be made here, if political correctness were set aside long enough to clarify it.
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  2. #227
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    I think it would be quite wasteful to dismiss classical music as "racist", "imperialist" or "elitist", though the culture surrounding it may have been. As I already pointed on another thread with a similar theme, Nelson Mandela was a huge fan of classical music, notably Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Handel; and Mandela has become the very symbol and personification of African pride and African independence. So before we decide to throw away the good parts of Western civilization along with all the bad parts, we might consider leaving the world with the best that Western civilization has to give. Such debates also become a distraction from more pressing issues regarding racial injustice concerning situations of inner-city crime and poverty that are much more important than arguing over which music, art, literature, movies, and statues are supposed to be "racist". It's easier to put a ban on Richard Wagner than it is to take collective responsibility for Blacks and Latinos dying at a disproportionate ratio from COVID-19.

  3. #228
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Is this just another attempt to convince people that they should at least pretend to like what they consider to be terrible noise by saying that doing otherwise is culturally biased? Is the idea just to associate that with a word that will get a knee jerk reaction from people to avoid being associated with it? Because that is really what it sounds like here.
    Last edited by JAS; Jul-31-2020 at 20:19.

  4. #229
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    Is this just another attempt to convince people that they should at least pretend to like what they consider to be terrible noise by saying that doing otherwise is culturally biased? Is the idea just to associate that with a word that will get a knee jerk reaction from people to avoid being associated with it? Because that is really what it sounds like here.
    Classical music, or "the Western canon" is music I have enjoyed for a long time, but I also enjoy (possibly enjoy more) Blues, Jazz, Appalachian mountain music, Bluegrass, Fado, Flamenco, Indian Classical Music, and other forms of vernacular music, i.e. music having little or no written tradition.

    Throughout that time I have interacted with many fans of Classical Music who claim, with no sense of awkwardness, that Western Classical Music is superior to all other genres.

    I reject this attitude unequivocally, and vociferously. And to the extent someone makes that false claim, I view it as a mild form of racism or bigotry.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    I am very wary to declare any genre of music superior to another. The basic limitation of all art, music included, is the human intellect and the human spirit. I wouldn't say all musical genres that allow full engagement of the artist are on the same footing. (It is hard to fully invest the human spirit and the human intellect in a 15 second advertising jingle.
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Music, Art, the Arts are all experiences we savor as individuals, though often in a group setting and though often the group's collective sum reaction can color our own (become a part of the esthetic experience, either in real time or remembered). But the individual response is primary and valid. The emotional and "esthetic" reaction of anyone to any Art experience are just as valid and authentic as those of others experiencing other Art objects, sounds, etc. We personally might not like or even understand the other's appreciation for some Art experience--individual preference rules--but we cannot judge and opine that someone else's experience is somehow inferior to ours.

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  8. #232
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    It depends on what the criteria are. Since all art is the result of "being," then you can't say one genre is better in terms of art.
    But if we narrow our criteria to the formal elements of music itself, then it becomes more credible to assert that "classical music is the best" because it is the most complex, and does the most in terms of the actual materials of music.

    For instance, bluegrass music is harmonically simplistic, mannered, and formulaic by comparison; this is true for all forms of popular music, including rock, jazz, hip-hop, tin pan alley, etc.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

  9. #233
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    I am very wary to declare any genre of music superior to another. The basic limitation of all art, music included, is the human intellect and the human spirit. I wouldn't say all musical genres that allow full engagement of the artist are on the same footing. (It is hard to fully invest the human spirit and the human intellect in a 15 second advertising jingle.
    I agree, but only in terms of the more general category of "art," which in itself transcends the idea of any art being "better" than others (within certain boundaries).

    But when it comes to the "nuts and bolts" of music, i.e. pitch, rhythm, timbre, harmonic complexity, compositional methods, etc., then a credible case could be made that the Classical tradition (including contemporary music) has produced the "best" and most advanced and complex examples of music.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-01-2020 at 12:31.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

  10. #234
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Music, Art, the Arts are all experiences we savor as individuals, though often in a group setting and though often the group's collective sum reaction can color our own (become a part of the esthetic experience, either in real time or remembered). But the individual response is primary and valid. The emotional and "esthetic" reaction of anyone to any Art experience are just as valid and authentic as those of others experiencing other Art objects, sounds, etc. We personally might not like or even understand the other's appreciation for some Art experience--individual preference rules--but we cannot judge and opine that someone else's experience is somehow inferior to ours.
    This is correct, and I agree, since "art" is a process which transcends any idea of being "better" than other forms of experience. This is basically a subjective matter, which involves the inter-subjective realm of "being" and subjective experience.

    But when we apply "objective criteria" to music, the picture can change.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

  11. #235
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    I think a kind of judgement can be placed on genres of music. In my own case, I tend to like a good deal of popular songs and country songs, and if I were to run a cookout in my backyard and invite family and friends, that's the music I'd play. I mean, you don't break our Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at a party. With pop/country, though, it seems the more I listen to song (even one I like), the less I like I like it after repeated hearings. With classical, it's just the opposite. I could listen the same piece of classical music all day and enjoy it all the more as I keep finding new things in it. "World" music is also very appealing to me, and I was into it long before anyone called it "World" when it was filed under "Ethnic" or "International". Even so, it seems to me that these genres are limited, because after about a half-hour or so, all the songs start to sound the same be it Mexican, Greek, Celtic, etc. I think that American Jazz is roughly on par with classical music as an art form, and I was big into jazz during my college years and a few years beyond. I think that jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Roland Kirk, Sun Ra, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and David Brubeck can be compared to the masters of classical music in how they continued to expand the genre and innovate new sounds so that certain jazz pieces remain fresh after repeated hearings. And it will take a smarter person than me to find any virtues in genres such as heavy metal and really explicit rap music; both are torture to my ears.

    India and China have vast classical music traditions of their own that I enjoy when I hear it but can't possibly make a judgment upon for fear that I'll be speaking out of ignorance.

    While it would be silly to place an exact measurement or apply a rubric to each piece of music regarding it's value; I think we can make some reasonable judgments, otherwise, it's like everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.
    Last edited by Coach G; Aug-01-2020 at 12:57.

  12. #236
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coach G View Post
    I think a kind of judgement can be placed on genres of music. In my own case, I tend to like a good deal of popular songs and country songs, and if I were to run a cookout in my backyard and invite family and friends, that's the music I'd play. I mean, you don't break our Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at a party. With pop/country, though, it seems the more I listen to song (even one I like), the less I like I like it after repeated hearings. With classical, it's just the opposite. I could listen the same piece of classical music all day and enjoy it all the more as I keep finding new things in it. "World" music is also very appealing to me, and I was into it long before anyone called it "World" when it was filed under "Ethnic" or "International". Even so, it seems to me that these genres are limited, because after about a half-hour or so, all the songs start to sound the same be it Mexican, Greek, Celtic, etc. I think that American Jazz is roughly on par with classical music as an art form, and I was big into jazz during my college years and a few years beyond. I think that jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Roland Kirk, Sun Ra, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and David Brubeck can be compared to the masters of classical music in how they continued to expand the genre and innovate new sounds so that certain jazz pieces remain fresh after repeated hearings. And it will take a smarter person than me to find any virtues in genres such as heavy metal and really explicit rap music; both are torture to my ears.

    India and China have vast classical music traditions of their own that I enjoy when I hear it but can't possibly make a judgment upon for fear that I'll be speaking out of ignorance.

    While it would be silly to place an exact measurement or apply a rubric to each piece of music regarding it's value; I think we can make some reasonable judgments, otherwise, it's like everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.
    It is only valid to compare the best of one culture to the best of another culture, "best" as decided by any individual, for him/her-self - and based on some depth of exposure. Even though I very much value and enjoy Bluegrass and Old Time music, and even after being a professional songwriter in Nashville for 30 years, I detest most modern Country music as well as most modern Pop. I would never say that Western European Classical Music is no better than the latest Top Forty on Country radio.

    And your test of length of listen time, I can't listen to more than three minutes of Top forty Country or Pop.

    But I can listen to what I consider the best acoustic country music, Bluegrass, Old Time Mountain, Folk for weeks at a time, and longer than many styles of Western European Classical Music. I don't enjoy orchestral music but the chamber and solo music of some composers will play around my house for periods of time longer than some other music. But I do not think it is better music, just different music that may suit my mood better on any given day.

    My point is that since music is an expression of a People's culture, once we begin to evaluate music (according to our own personal taste) and think/say the best of the Music of People A is superior to the best of the Music of the People B - then we run the risk of devaluing People B in comparison to People A.

    My opinion is that the best music of any culture can hold its own, given enough exposure, to the best music of any other culture.

    Of course this is just my opinion, and based on my own listening experience.

  13. #237
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Is "complexity" inherently "best" in music? Or is it just "complexity"? How about something being complex and infinitely boring? How about something being simple and wonderful? No, this business of sneaking "objectivity" into esthetics via the back door will not work. But we need not revisit this issue yet again--I have disposed of it in previous posts and threads almost without number.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I agree. But defining "complexity" according to the priorities of Culture A and claiming it is superior to the Music of Culture B is specious. I would argue that there is just as much complexity in a performance by Robert Johnson singing Delta Blues, as there is in any work by Beethoven.

    But that is not what I wish to argue, and won't continue.

    I am not interested and don't spend any time comparing or judging the relative value of different kinds of music, or even thinking of that kind of thing. I just listen to what I like.


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