Western classical music – performers and audiences alike – is still an almost exclusively white concern. What can be done?I boggled at this because, in my experience, it just isn't true. Way back in the 1970s, that supposedly unenlightened era, at least half of the piano students in the music department at university were Chinese. At the same time, the Lieutenant-Governor of the province (in Canada) was east Indian. But what about black people you ask? Well, at that time there were only a handful of black people living in that city but one of them was the conductor of the orchestra. There were a few people of Hispanic descent and one of them, my girlfriend at the time, was a harp student at the conservatory. So, really, there simply was no discernible racism, individual or institutional that I was aware of.
When it comes to music, it is very hard to sing the blues about how black people are excluded from classical music when they dominate pop music so thoroughly and make infinitely more money as well. Here are the musical power couple of the day, Jay-Z and Beyoncé:
Somehow they just don't look that oppressed! Combined net worth as of March 2014, about $900 million.
The article makes a valiant attempt, running against the obvious facts:
In years/generations past institutional racism, of commission and omission, was undoubtedly at play. With no possibility of entry into mainstream – read Caucasian – ensembles, the vast majority of talented, serious musicians of colour went into jazz and later pop, where there was at least a possibility of expression and financial self-sufficiency. These days however, even in the most elite classical organisations, skin colour alone does not guarantee automatic exclusion. While there will remain the odd mostly private exception, among professional musicians, from top to bottom, it’s all about the music: can he or she play at the necessary, Himalayan level and in a manner commensurate with whatever ensemble’s characteristic style? But how to achieve that ascendency without the requisite tools and knowledge of the terrain?Skin color doesn't actually exclude anyone these days (if it ever did)? So the article defaults to we have to have special programs to help people enter the world of classical music who otherwise wouldn't have. And then there is the obligatory slap at the elitists:
And then there are the gate-keepers, the holy idiots who police performances with trainspotter obsessiveness and the diktat that only those who worship in these often publicly funded temples with the same knowledge and style of commitment as themselves are welcome.That's me! Holy idiot! The article ends with the hope that:
Like Shakespeare, this music belongs to all and can only benefit from a willingness to welcome and encourage fresh blood into its midst.This is a remarkable level of incoherence. While on the one hand, Himalayan levels of achievement are needed in classical music, at the same time the "gate-keepers", presumably those who actually know something about the Himalayas of music, are the only bad guys in the article. Bizarre.
Also bizarre is this video of Canadian violinist Lara St. John, playing the Presto from the Sonata No. 1 in G minor for solo violin by J. S. Bach, accompanying tap-dancer Stephanie Cadman. Locations, various places, malls and subway stations and trains in Toronto:
Both the violin-playing and dancing are pretty good. But I have the distinct feeling that a hundred years from now, people will look back on our time as one in which the oddest things were being done to sell classical music.