Diversity in Classical Music has been a hot topic lately, especially given the recent announcements of upcoming seasons of organizations and the pushback many are getting recently. With the introduction of the Women Composer Database and the Composer Diversity Project, therea a push for aggregating disparate lists of composers to decenter the White Male Canon by highlighting all the Women and PoC (People of Color) composers that have long been existing in the tradition but have been systemically excluded from it except in the most tokenistic of ways.
I do a lot of covers. In a sense, I spend most of my musical life doing covers. Playing a Beethoven Symphony? Cover. Playing a 14th century Turkish Mevlevi song? Cover. Playing a piece I wrote? Cover.
“But you’re playing an original tune, not a cover,” you might say. Well, as I’ve been saying for the past couple of decades, “If you’re not improvising in real time, then you’re just covering yourself.” In other words, “Original” music can also be “Cover” music.
When I blogged some time ago about music literacy, I mentioned the tired trope “I like to everything except Rap and Country,” which seems to be a response given when someone wants to show a cosmopolitan or open musical taste. Plenty of pixels have been typed about the class and race issues associated with the phrase and I won’t rehash them here as I think that only tells a part of the story that the phrase frames.
One of the things that is striking about the early accounts of Classical Music is how provincial it was. Until the 20th century we didn’t really conceive of Classical Music as one unified field. In other words, there was a lot of diversity in the genres and repertoire performed. This coincided with what we could call a fragmented audience along ethnic lines for various genres and repertoire.