Canceling Beethoven is the latest woke madness for the classical-music world
September 17, 2020 | 8:11pm | Updated
Think some things are so beloved and essential to Western civilization they can’t be canceled? Think again.
If there’s anything we should have learned from months of “mostly peaceful” Black Lives Matter street protests, statue toppling and online mobs seeking to silence anyone who dissents against leftist narratives about “racism,” it’s that no one, living or dead, is safe from the attentions of woke fascists. Even Ludwig van Beethoven.
Beethoven’s work is not only at the core of the standard repertory of classical music; some of his most popular works have also become part of popular culture, their melodies recognizable even to those who’ve never heard an orchestral concert.
For the last 200 years, Beethoven’s compositions have also been symbols of the struggle for freedom against tyranny. The “Ode to Joy” from the conclusion to his Ninth Symphony remains the definitive anthem of universal brotherhood. It is no coincidence that the opening notes of his Fifth Symphony — whose rhythmic pattern duplicates the Morse Code notation for the letter “V” as in “V for Victory” — were used by the BBC for broadcasts to occupied Europe during the Second World War.
But to woke critics, Beethoven’s music has taken on a new, darker meaning. To musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, stars of the “Switched on Pop” podcast produced in association with the New York Philharmonic, the Fifth Symphony is a stand-in for everything they don’t like about classical music and Western culture. As far as they’re concerned, it’s time to cancel Ludwig.
Read the rest of the article:
BEETHOVEN’S 5TH IS A ‘SYMBOL OF EXCLUSION AND ELITISM’
- By Norman Lebrecht
- On September 17, 2020
There’s a bit of a stir about an article in the online magazine Vox which jumps on the anti-everything bandwaggon to denounce Beethoven’s 5th symphony, of all masterpieces, as white male supremacist.
Here’s a snippet:
We explore how Beethoven’s symphony was used to generate the strict culture of classical music — and the politics that undergird those norms of behavior.
Though concert etiquette that evolved in response to the Fifth may have had the goal of venerating the music, it can also act as a source of gatekeeping. “Polite society” first emerged as a set of cultural standards developed during the mid-18th century as bourgeois class signifiers. In Beethoven’s time, new social etiquette extended into the concert hall.
Today, some aspects of classical culture are still about policing who’s in and who’s out. When you walk into a standard concert hall, there’s an established set of conventions and etiquette (“don’t cough!”; “don’t cheer!”; “dress appropriately!”) that can feel as much about demonstrating belonging as appreciating the music.
For classical music critic James Bennett II, Beethoven’s popularity and centrality in classical culture is part of the problem. “As you perpetuate the idea that the giants of the music all look the same, it conveys to the ‘other’ that there’s not a stake in that music for them,” he says.