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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Is Beethoven's 'greatness' white male propaganda?


Via a related article in the New York Times, I found this article by Black music critic Philip Ewell. "Beethoven Was an Above Average Composer -- Let's Leave It That" says claims about Beethoven's greatness is a plot by the white male patriarchy:

"Beethoven occupies the place he does because he has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for two hundred years, and we have been told by whiteness and maleness that his greatness has nothing to do with whiteness and maleness, in race-neutral and gender-neutral fashion. Thus music theory’s white-male frame obfuscates race and gender, one of its main goals."

It seems to be that claims that Beethoven wasn't great are refuted by listening to him, although I admit to being a white male.

John McWhorter, a Black writer, apparently also disagrees:

"Above average, for his era, was someone like Carl Stamitz – a typical piece was his Orchestral Quartet in C major. It’s pretty like a tulip, and exemplifies a word often used for his work, 'appealing.' Above average – but there’s a reason you’ve never heard of him unless you’re a music specialist.

"We have to compare something like one of Beethoven’s late string quartets – I’ll go for  the Opus 131 in C# minor. Schubert’s assessment of this one was 'After this, what is left for us to write?' and wanted it played by his deathbed. Robert Schumann placed it 'on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination.”'Yes, those two were limited by what they knew and heard as white guys – but I suspect their assessment stands the test of time for all humans today inclined to listen in to the piece."

Possibly related: the feminist college professor who said that Beethoven was a rapist, based on the "evidence" of the Ninth Symphony, a claim RAW wrote about in Cosmic Trigger 3. More on the controversy here. 

Also possibly related: Beethoven's Black friend. 

Via the New York Times and Rob Pugh. 


Alias Bogus said...

And to think, that I always wondered ifBeethoven "was" black.

Rob Pugh said...

hey, i did something useful and brought an item of interest to your attention. i am pleased :D