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Music Education Has A Race Problem And Universities Must Address It

Since the start of the pandemic, people have been turning to music to process the anxiety of living in the shadow of death. In global Black Lives Matter protests, music also plays a role, forging community and celebrating resilience. We can be more grateful than ever for music’s power to express feelings and ideas too complex for words.

So in this moment of intense reliance on music, we should pay attention to what might otherwise look like a petty squabble in a minor academic discipline. At the 2019 Society for Music Theory conference, music theorist Philip Ewell delivered a keynote lecture titled “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame.”

Ewell’s talk explored how conventional analytical strategies reinforce European classical music as the most worthy of study. Indeed, it’s the only music that gets to call itself “music” without an adjective like “popular,” “folk” or “world.” This naturalizes the position of Western art music at the centre of what matters, while the musics of the rest of the world are particularized and othered. Thus, early in my own career as a music professor hired to introduce popular music to the curriculum, senior colleagues reminded me I needed to teach “real” music too.

Read more HERE, as originally published in TheConversation.com.

By Professor of Musicology, Dalhousie University


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