Leftists are now rampaging against Beethoven’s and Mozart’s last names
The latest racist screed from the angry left is that it’s a major insult to refer to classical composers by their last names (e.g., Beethoven, not Ludwig von Beethoven). To wokesters desperate for new psychic injuries, the failure to “fullname” classical composers is yet another despicable sign of white privilege.
Here’s the thesis in a nutshell: We refer to well-known composers, all of whom happen to be dead white men, by using only their last names. However, when we speak of works by modern composers who are new on the scene, many of whom are women or minorities, we use their full names (aka “fullnaming”). According to the new political correctness, fullnaming new composers, but not the old, is a sign of inequality.
I felt like an idiot just writing the above words, but that’s the theory that Chris White puts forth in a Slate article entitled “Beethoven Has a First Name: It’s time to ‘fullname’ all composers in classical music”:
[Conductors introducing a program] might talk about Beethoven, Schumann, and Bartók. And they might talk about Alma Mahler, Florence Price, Henry Burleigh, and Caroline Shaw. Many of us, used to the conventions of classical performance, will hardly notice the difference: “traditional” white male composers being introduced with only surnames, full names for everyone else, especially women and composers of color.
The habitual, two-tiered way we talk about classical composers is ubiquitous. For instance, coverage of an early October livestream by the Louisville Orchestra praised the ensemble’s performance of a “Beethoven” symphony, and the debut of a composition memorializing Breonna Taylor by “Davóne Tines” and “Igee Dieudonné.” But ubiquity doesn’t make something right. It’s time we paid attention to the inequity inherent in how we talk about composers, and it’s time for the divided naming convention to change.
You will not be surprised to learn that the discovery that the classical music world is rife with inequity originated in academia. Philip A. Ewell, an Associate Professor of Music Theory at Hunter College, CUNY, and the CUNY Graduate Center. Ewell wrote an article entitled “Music Theory and the White Racial Frame” for MTO: a journal of the Society for Music Theory. The article’s abstract tells the story:
For over twenty years, music theory has tried to diversify with respect to race, yet the field today remains remarkably white, not only in terms of the people who practice music theory but also in the race of the composers and theorists whose work music theory privileges. In this paper, a critical-race examination of the field of music theory, I try to come to terms with why this is so. I posit that there exists a “white racial frame” in music theory that is structural and institutionalized, and that only through a deframing and reframing of this white racial frame will we begin to see positive racial changes in music theory.
I won’t belabor either Ewell’s points or the risible theory that it’s racist to make sure that audiences learn new composers’ full names without boring them by endlessly stating the full names of well-known composers. Instead, I have two other points I want to make regarding this post the Slate article.
First, the “fullnaming” theory reveals how morally and intellectual bankrupt both academia and today’s leftists are. The original civil rights movement focused on ensuring that non-white people received equal treatment under the law in America, which is a hugely important issue that is central to the American idea. By contrast, today’s race-centric leftism is concerned with things that don’t even rise to the level of microaggressions.
Second, President Donald Trump is taking steps to stop this madness. His recent order ending Critical Race Theory in any institutions that rely on federal dollars is one such step. His administration is also filing lawsuits against academic institutions that traffic in racist garbage.
If President Trump gets a second term, expect him to become increasingly aggressive in cracking down on the racial madness that permeates academia. By the way, it’s important to note that when I say “cracking down” I do not mean that Trump will bring federal forces to college and arrest people. I mean only that Trump understands better than most that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”
Those academic institutions that want to continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer dollars will have to learn that the new tune is “you may not engage in anti-white, anti-Asian racism.” Within a few years of listening to that new music, articles such as the one I quoted from, above, will be embarrassing relics of a racist past as ugly as the KKK and Jim Crow once were.
Image: Mozart (cropped). Public Domain.