Diversity in Classical Music vs Diversity of Classical Music

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.

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American Orchestras that already regularly play music by POC

So there’s been a lot of chatter about diversity (or lack thereof) in Classical Music and Orchestras the past few weeks. Just some examples: Holly Mulcahy’s piece about diversifying orchestra audition excerpts; Eric William Lin’s discussion (with wonderful interactive graphs) of NY Phil’s rep over 175 seasons; Rob Deemer’s unveiling (in a little more formal venue) of the massive database of Women Composers that he and his students have been curating for some time; and, of course, Anne Shreffler’s piece about the Canon’s Invisible Hand which I discussed previously.

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The Invisible Hand of the Great White Male Musical and Artistic Canons

In my previous post I discussed how ridiculously easy it would be to avoid the Art of Monstrous Men, and the post before that discusses how to Decolonize the Musical Mind. The past couple of days I’ve come across some interesting pieces about diversity in the arts (or lack thereof). The first was a piece about bringing the art of women, long buried in storage of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, to light; the second was a piece about how the High Museum in Atlanta tripled its Nonwhite audience in two years by, well, increasing the diversity in its programming, staff, and marketing; and the third is a rebuttal of one of the myths justifying the Great White Canon of Classical Music.

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Decolonizing the Musical Mind

A few weeks ago, I started re-reading Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986) and for some reason this time reading it brought me back to the time when I quit playing the cello (right out of music school). A couple weeks ago, I mentioned here on my page, that I was slowly saying farewell to most Western Music (I’ll have to qualify that at another time). I mentioned some of those reasons in my latest blog post a couple months ago, and was in the middle of a couple of posts clarifying some things (one of which is this post).

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There are covers and then, there are Covers

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.

Wait…what?

“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.

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