Cancel Culture Comes For Beethoven And Classical Music

Cancel culture will always find something else to complain about, you know

Let’s get this moonbattery going

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony starts with an anguished opening theme — dun dun dun DUNNNN — and ends with a glorious, major-key melody. Since its 1808 premiere, audiences have interpreted that progression from struggle to victory as a metaphor for Beethoven’s personal resilience in the face of his oncoming deafness.

Or rather, that’s long been the popular read among wealthy white men who embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For others — women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color — Beethoven’s symphony is predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism. One New York City classical music fan wrote in the 1840s, for example, that he wished that “all women shall be gagged by officers duly licensed for the purpose before they’re allowed to enter a concert room.”

Interesting that there’s no link or citation offered for that quote, eh?

Today, some aspects of classical culture are still about policing who’s in and who’s out, and it all started with Beethoven’s Fifth. 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’s more about demonstrating belonging than appreciating the music.

Or, hear me out, it could be about being a polite society which doesn’t interfere with the band playing and people being able to hear it and enjoy it. And a certain propriety about the way people dress.

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.

New York Philharmonic clarinetist Anthony McGill, one of the few Black musicians in the ensemble, agrees that Beethoven’s inescapability makes classical music appear monolithic and stifling. He likens the inescapability of the Fifth Symphony to a “wall” between classical music and new, diverse audiences.

“If you pretend like there’s no other music out there, that Beethoven is the greatest music that ever will matter,” says McGill, then orchestras will alienate new listeners, since “we’re not promoting any of the composers alive today that are trying to become the Beethovens of their day.”

Yeah, because hip-hop and mumble rap are great composers, you know. The screed doesn’t get any better, and as a typical Vox article, it is stupid long.

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One Response to “Cancel Culture Comes For Beethoven And Classical Music”

  1. Dana says:

    Since its 1808 premiere, audiences have interpreted that progression from struggle to victory as a metaphor for Beethoven’s personal resilience in the face of his oncoming deafness.

    Or rather, that’s long been the popular read among wealthy white men who embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For others — women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color — Beethoven’s symphony is predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism.

    LOL! This assumes that most people put political connotations on instrumental music. For “women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color” to see Beethoven’s symphony as “predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism,” one must assume that “women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color” view classical music in terms of politics, as opposed to something which sounds good.

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