Classical music is racist. So says a movement to punish classical music and opera professors for teaching and producing pieces from European men.
Dona Vaughn, the artistic director of the Manhattan School of Music, was fired because she had produced Franz Lehár’s allegedly racist operetta, Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles), several years earlier. Why was it racist? Because it portrays a Vietnamese woman who is forced apart from her Chinese lover due to Chinese customs.
Nameless online accounts began petitions against Vaughn and she was fired, despite character references by musicians of color.
In Texas, another professor was fired because he taught the work of 20th-century Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker. His critics said that this “hierarchy of keys and of harmonies… [is] constitutive of Western tonal music” and that “tonal music is itself racist.”
Shenker was an Austrian Jew whose fiancé died in a concentration camp. Doesn’t matter, say race baiters. Racist.
Is everything created by Europeans racist? What will we get from this crusade against whiteness? As the author of this think piece about classical music puts it, “To reduce everything in human experience to the ever more tedious theme of alleged racial oppression is narcissism. This music is not about you or me. It is about something grander than our narrow, petty selves.”