Gibran Khalil Gibran (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kahlil_Gibran), the Lebanese-American philosopher, poet, writer, and visual artist is famous for this quote: ““Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife”.
Gibran would be turning in his grave right now if he reads about Oxford University’s words on how classical music is “too white” or “colonialist”.
Indeed, this story is real, as reported by several international media today. One of them is an article by Ms. Sophie Durocher in the “Journal de Montréal” entitled “Music is racist” [“La musique est raciste”]:
First, Bambi will present a quick translation of this article. Second, she will share comments of a famous musician and three readers of a French newspaper. Thankfully, they all still have common sense (increasingly rare in today’s world of virtue signalling and woke self-flagellation).
“British newspaper The Telegraph got hold of a report from Oxford University claiming that undergraduate classical music classes are too white and colonialist …
Try to read the following sentences without laughing … and without choking on your coffee.
TOO MANY WHITE NOTES?
“The Oxford University School of Music is considering the possibility of modifying its courses to tackle white hegemony.
University employees see the university curriculum as “complicit in white supremacism” in the wake of the # Black-LivesMatter movement.
Professors consider musical scores to be “colonialist” and believe that the content of lessons should be “decolonized”.
Professors claim that the way of transcribing music “has not shaken off its connection to its colonial past” and that to keep it in its current state would be “a slap in the face for students of colour.” Music writing needs to be reformed to be more “inclusive”.
Oxford professors say classes are too focused on “the music of white European men from the days of slavery,” such as Beethoven and Mozart.
Some teachers have also suggested that we stop requiring the mastery of certain classical music techniques, such as piano or conducting, because these lessons are too focused on “white European music” and “cause great distress to colored students”.
Professors demand that certain courses on Schubert or Guillaume de Machaut be deleted in favour of lessons in African music or popular music. “
No, these quotes are not taken from a comedy magazine or a science fiction novel.
I remind you that Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
The only question we have to ask ourselves when we talk about music is that of excellence. Is this composer brilliant or ordinary, did he bring something new to the music?
That his music was composed in the middle of a period of slavery tells us what about the composer’s talent?
We still listen to Beethoven, Mozart and Bach because their music transcends the ages!
Is Mozart less of a genius because he’s white? Is his music less grandiose because he was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756?
If he had been born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 1983, could his Piano Concert No. 23 have been taught in Oxford? Would that have caused less “distress” to “students of colour”?
Woke “culture” attacks all forms of culture. Looney Tunes cartoons like Beethoven’s music, Little Life episodes like Shakespeare’s plays, Friends episodes or Christmas carols.
We will end up wondering if the “culture” woke likes “culture”.
When I read the articles on classical music deemed too white and colonialist, I had images of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China.
In 1966, the Grand Helmsman banned all Western music on Chinese territory, until his death in 1976, because this music represented “imperialism and capitalism.”
What would Mao say to see that in 2021, it is the West themselves who are self-flagging?”
End of Ms. Durocher straightforward article.
Luckily, the great Zhang Zhang also agrees with Ms. Durocher: “No, classical music is neither racist, nor sexist” (https://www.diapasonmag.fr/a-la-une/zhang-zhang-non-la-musique-classique-n-est-ni-raciste-ni-sexiste-32317).
Now, for the fun of some sarcasm, Bambi will allow herself to translate a few comments by readers of the French Le Point (https://www.lepoint.fr/monde/a-oxford-la-musique-classique-jugee-trop-blanche-et-colonialiste-30-03-2021-2420076_24.php)
“It’s not April 1st
It’s tomorrow. Such nonsense, finally! It is not possible. Although Schubert might have genius, looking at his portraits he was really too white. As Audiard used to say, “those” (I’m starting to be wary of censorship), when we put them into orbit, they won’t have finished turning…“
“What a contempt for “minorities”!
Not allowing minorities access to the geniuses of timeless and universal music … Oxford is there now?
Criticizing classical music is the height of human stupidity”.
To change the partitions so that the white and black notes have the same value. I also propose to review the colour of the notes of the piano and other keyed instruments.”
To conclude this post on a musical (ideology-free) note, meet Mr. Rahman El Bacha, a pianist born in Beirut, playing Chopin in France. Bambi hopes you will enjoy his talent as much as she does!