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Triggered by Bach: Classical Music as Implicit White Supremacy
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“White supremacist” has long been the preferred Jewish epithet to throw at White people who have the temerity to do what Jews do routinely: openly advocate for their ethnic interests. This hackneyed label has always been utterly beside the point: whether Whites are superior to non-Whites has no logical bearing on the moral legitimacy of White people defending their collective interests. Having said this, everyone is well aware that the achievements of White people in countless cultural and scientific domains surpass those of other groups, and can objectively be regarded as “superior.” A conspicuous example is the Western musical tradition.

The superiority of Western classical music is so decisive one could almost rest the argument for the superiority of Western culture on it alone. There exists a hierarchy in the world of sound, as in other phenomena. Noise occupies the lowest rung in this hierarchy; it is an undifferentiated mass of sound in which no distinction exists. The lowest kind of music, say that of Australia’s Aborigines, most closely corresponds to noise. Western classical music, by contrast, exists on the highest rung because it apprehends sound in the most highly differentiated way possible. It is the farthest from noise and most fully exploits the inherent potential of the world of sound.

How well this potential is apprehended and developed can lead to Bach’s inimitable counterpoint, the extraordinary tonal architecture of Beethoven’s symphonies, Bruckner’s sonic cathedrals — or to banging on a hollow log with a stick. Besides stimulating pleasure in audiences, great classical music has an unrivalled capacity to shed light on our ontological predicament and connect aesthetic experience with the transcendental. Goethe once noted, with reference to Bach’s great fugues, where as many as five separate lines of musical argument are simultaneously sustained, that “it is as though the eternal harmony has a conversation with itself.” Only Western classical music, I would argue, can create this sublime impression.

To point out the foregoing is to trigger rage from anti-White commentators who huff that it has “long been an argument of white supremacists, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, and racial separatists that ‘classical music,’ the music of ‘white people,’ is inherently more sophisticated, complicated, and valuable than the musical traditions of Africa, Asia, South America, or the Middle East, thus proving the innate superiority of the ‘white race.’” The problem with this assessment, aside from denying the very existence of the White race, is the inability to demonstrate (or even attempt to demonstrate) that Western classical music is not inherently more sophisticated, complicated (and yes valuable) than other musical traditions.

That classical music stands as a glaring (and galling) testament to the preeminence of European high culture (and implicitly of the race overwhelmingly responsible for it), was evident in the reaction to a speech President Trump gave in Poland in 2017. The speech, praising Western civilization, included the line “we write symphonies.” Jonathan Capehart, a columnist at The Washington Post, fumed: “What on Earth does that have to do with anything? In that one line, taken in context with everything else Trump said, what I heard was the loudest of dog whistles. A familiar boast that swells the chests of white nationalists everywhere.” For Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times, Trump’s point, extolling the “richness, history and, indeed, the superiority of Western culture,” was “all too clear and dismaying,” Alex Ross, Jewish music critic for the New Yorker, found “ludicrous and sinister” Trump’s “implication that some cultures are incapable of creating symphonies,” a sentiment that, he maintained, should have “stirred bad memories.”

Classical Music as Insufficiently Diverse

As well as decrying as deeply offensive the invocation of classical music to praise Western civilization (and thus White people), commentators routinely bemoan the lack of “diversity” in the genre. According to Jewish music critic Greg Sandow, the “problem of racial diversity in classical music has long been the elephant in the room,” and he labels “ugly” the fact that classical music, “in practice pretty much a lily-white art,” claims “special privileges (lavish funding, school programs devoted to it) in an age of growing diversity.” Rather than simply reflecting the divergent preferences and aptitudes of different racial groups, the underrepresentation of Black and Brown people in Western orchestras (and their audiences) is inevitably ascribed to White racism. Black screenwriter Candace Allen, the ex-wife of conductor Sir Simon Rattle, branded the British classical music world “racist,” claiming a combination of discrimination and lack of exposure to classical music at an early age meant Blacks were unlikely to make it to the concert hall (in the audience or on stage), and when they did, “their sense of alienation made the experience not one to be repeated.”

According to this conception, an insidious White supremacist conspiracy keeps the classical repertoire dominated by the music of dead White men performed by living White men, and prevents Black and Brown people from succeeding in the genre. For the “White supremacist” social order to be maintained, Raymond Arsenault insists, “Blacks had to know their place, and the world of popular music was one of the places where they allegedly belonged.” While the “relativist revolution begun by anthropologist Franz Boas and others had already eroded the presumption of black inferiority,” in the Western world of public opinion and culture, “the time-honored shibboleths of white-supremacy held sway.”[1]Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), 81 One of these “shibboleths” was that:

Mastery of classical technique required superior intelligence, discipline, and years of training. The world of classical music was the province not only of natural talent but of cultivated genius. Here the barriers to black achievement were thought to be both cultural and physiological. Conventional wisdom held that blacks did things naturally and impulsively without much thought or deliberation. Classical music, by contrast, was intellectual, highbrow, and European in origin. As such, it was deemed inappropriate for African Americans three or four generations removed from the jungles of Africa. Black success in the world of classical music would be tantamount to beating whites at their own game, something that could not be tolerated or even contemplated in white supremacist circles. It would represent an affront to white sensibilities, upsetting expectations based on multiple layers of observation and socialization.[2]Ibid., 75.
(Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), 81)

The White supremacist conspiracy to thwart Black and Brown achievement in classical music purportedly extends to musical education where, in the most commonly used theory textbooks in the United States, only 1.63% of musical examples come from non-White composers. This is problematic for Linda Shaver-Gleason because studying a particular piece “reaffirms its canonical status; enshrining it in a textbook is deeming it worthy of study.” Constantly referencing White composers “reinforces the idea that they’re the ones who deserve the most respect, as if to say, ‘Marvel at the many techniques Mozart used so perfectly!” Ethan Hein, a (presumably Jewish) doctoral fellow in music education at NYU, decries the stubbornness of music teachers in teaching “European-descended” classical music over that of “music descending from the vernacular traditions of the African diaspora.” Orienting music education towards the European classical tradition, an “implicit racial ideology,” is, he declares, “insidious” in its “affirmations of Whiteness.”

While White people are chastised for “appropriating” the cultures of non-White groups, the notion they should be allowed to maintain cultural and artistic institutions reserved exclusively for their own racial group is considered anathema. The Vienna Philharmonic came under attack in the 1990s for its failure to embrace the new ideological and moral imperatives of increased racial and gender diversity. One commentator condemned the orchestra for “its consistently racist and sexist hiring practices,” dismissing as “clearly absurd” claims made by representatives of the orchestra that it performs an essentially European art-form and thus should be composed of White men. Dieter Flury, a flutist for the orchestra, opined at the time that:

From the beginning we have spoken of the special Viennese qualities, of the way music is made here. The way we make music here is not only a technical ability, but also something that has a lot to do with the soul. The soul does not let itself be separated from the cultural roots that we have here in central Europe. And it also doesn’t allow itself to be separated from gender. So if one thinks that the world should function by quota regulations, then it is naturally irritating that we are a group of white skinned male musicians that perform exclusively the music of white skinned male composers. … If one establishes superficial egalitarianism, one will lose something very significant. … [S]omething produced by a superficial understanding of human rights would not have the same standards.

Music writer Stefan Aune insists the European domination of classical music cannot be attributed to advantageous genetic endowments possessed on average by White people, and has “no patience for individuals or institutions harboring antiquated beliefs about the superiority of White-European performers or composers.” Ignoring all the data proving the existence of significant racial differences, he ascribes such beliefs to “racism and a fundamentally incorrect view of musical history.” The European domination of classical music has, he insists, everything to do with “cultural inequalities” and nothing to do with inborn characteristics:

In the last analysis, racial and gender inequalities throughout the history of classical music are a question of access rather than innate ability. Individuals like [mulatto composers] Chevalier de Saint George, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and George Bridgetower erode the argument that classical music is an exclusively white-European cultural enterprise. They show that individuals from any background can succeed in the western musical tradition, and they also show that the western musical tradition is not nearly as culturally homogeneous as many would argue.

The composers identified here are remembered solely because they were non-White — not because of the excellence of their compositions. Rather than being excluded from the classical repertory because of their music’s relative lack of quality and popularity, Linda Shaver-Gleason believes they are victims of the aforementioned White supremacist conspiracy which has “intentionally suppressed” their music “in the service of a narrative of white — specifically German — cultural supremacy (because, alas, that too is part of Western culture).”

Constructing Beethoven as Black

Even the romantic idea of the composer-genius is regarded as an element of this conspiracy to keep Western classical music a Whites-only field. For Shaver-Gleason, “The conflation of ‘genius’ and ‘white man’ means that no minority will be viewed as a real genius, and hence not a real composer.” Given Beethoven’s status as the archetypal musical genius, it is unsurprising that aggrieved Blacks have, since the early twentieth century, attempted to propagate the myth that Beethoven had some African ancestry. The basis for this spurious claim was the composer’s somewhat swarthy complexion, and the fact a part of his family traced its roots to Flanders, which was for a period under Spanish monarchical rule. Because Spain had a longstanding historical connection to North Africa through the Moors, a degree of blackness supposedly trickled down to the great composer.

The myth was eagerly disseminated by Jamaican “historian” Joel Augustus Rogers (1880–1966) in works like Sex and Race (1941–44), the two-volume World’s Great Men of Color (1946–47), 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro (1934), Five Negro Presidents (1965), and Nature Knows No Color Line (1952). Rogers, whose intellectual rigor was basically nonexistent, claimed that Beethoven — in addition to Thomas Jefferson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Robert Browning, and several popes, among others — was genealogically African and thus Black. Despite being thoroughly debunked, the myth still lingers in contemporary culture: in 2007 Nadine Gordimer published a short story collection called Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories. The determination, contrary to all evidence, to make Beethoven Black is, of course, a desperate attempt to make the composer and his oeuvre a glorious symbol of Black accomplishment.

Shaver-Gleason warns such efforts are self-defeating, merely serving to treat the Western canon as fundamental and all other styles as deviations from this norm, thus reinforcing “the notion that of classical music as a universal standard and something that everyone should aspire to appreciate.” Trying to make Beethoven Black and desperately scouring the historical records for examples of non-Whites who wrote symphonies is to accept “a white-centric perspective that presents symphonies as the ultimate human achievement in the arts.” Black musicologist Philip Ewell agrees, and advocates “overthrowing the existing structure and building a new one that would accommodate non-white music a priori — no reaching for ‘inclusion’ necessary because non-white composers would already be there.” One Black music writer endorses this stance, and resents that the waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr. are regarded as part of the body of superior classical music, while the music of James Brown — “the Godfather of Soul” — is regarded as mere entertainment.

The East Asian Affinity for Western classical music

Curiously, the alleged White supremacist conspiracy that allegedly prevents Blacks and Browns from succeeding in classical music doesn’t have the same effect on East Asians – the one non-White group that likes performing and listening to classical music. A survey of Asian-Americans aged 18–24 found 14 percent attended a classical concert in the preceding year, more than any other demographic in that age group. Asian attendance rates match or surpass the national average up through the 45–54 age range. The younger the classical music audience gets, the more Asian it becomes.

Unlike non-White groups affronted by claims to the superiority for Western classical music, East Asians are under no illusion about the inferiority of their own musical tradition when compared to European art music. This acknowledgement lies at the heart of why East Asian parents are so enthusiastic for their children to play and appreciate the genre. As Amy Chua acknowledges in her widely publicized (and criticized) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

That’s one of the reasons I insisted [my two daughters] do classical music. I knew that I couldn’t artificially make them feel like poor immigrant kids. … But I could make sure that [they] were deeper and more cultivated than my parents and I were. Classical music was the opposite of decline, the opposite of laziness, vulgarity, and spoiledness. It was a way for my children to achieve something I hadn’t. But it was also a tie-in to the high cultural tradition of my ancestors [Chua is proud to be descended in the direct male line from Chua Wu Neng, Imperial Astronomer to a 17th-century emperor]. … To me, the violin symbolized respect for hierarchy, standards, and expertise. For those who know better and can teach. For those who play better and can inspire. And for parents. It also symbolized history. The Chinese never achieved the heights of Western classical music – there is no Chinese equivalent of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – but high traditional music is deeply entwined with Chinese civilization.[3]Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Triger Mother (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 22.

Chua is married to a Jew and recalls her stereotypically Jewish mother-in-law (a “progressive” art critic) being opposed to her grandchildren learning the violin — suggesting they learn Indonesian gamelan percussion instruments as more in keeping with the multicultural zeitgeist of the contemporary West. To back her case, she noted how French composer Claude Debussy had been captivated by gamelan music which helped inspire shimmering impressionistic masterpieces like L’apres midi d’un faun. Chua is distinctly unimpressed with this line of argument:

Personally, I think Debussy was just going through a phase, fetishizing the exotic. The same thing happened to Debussy’s fellow Frenchmen Henri Rousseau and Paul Gauguin who started painting Polynesian natives all the time. A particularly disgusting variation of this phenomenon can be found in modern-day California: men with Yellow Fever, who date only Asian women – sometimes dozens in a row – no matter how ugly or which kind of Asian. For the record, Jed [her husband] did not date any Asian women before me. Maybe the reason I can’t appreciate gamelan music, which I heard when we visited Indonesia in 1992, is that I fetishize difficulty and accomplishment. … Gamelan music is mesmerizing because it is so simple, unstructured, and repetitious. By contrast, Debussy’s brilliant compositions reflect complexity, ambition, ingenuity, design, conscious harmonic exploration — and yes, gamelan influences, at least in some of his works. It’s like the difference between a bamboo hut, which has its charm, and the Palace of Versailles.[4]Ibid., 40-41.
(Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Triger Mother (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 22.)

Debussy first heard Indonesian gamelan music at the Paris Exhibition in 1889 and possibly again at the same event in 1900. In his biography of Debussy, musicologist Stephen Walsh notes that while it’s common to talk about the influence of the gamelan on Debussy’s compositions, it merely accentuated existing aspects of his style: “He did not need the gamelan to teach him pentatony, the whole-tone scale or modalism. They were already part of his language. Insofar as this contact with the oriental musical mind helped release him from the toils of Wagnerism and, worse, the [conservatively-inclined] Conservatoire, the truth is that it did so only in part and quite gradually.”[5]Stephen Walsh, Debussy: A Painter in Sound (London: Knoph Doubleday, 2018) 211.

East Asia has produced countless young technical virtuosos, but their nimble fingers and admirable work ethics are often not matched by the emotional depth required for the successful interpretation of nineteenth-century Romantic repertoire. Chinese film director, and classical music fan, Chen Kaige, hopes Western classical music can educate an intensely materialistic and collectivist Chinese people in spirituality and individualism. “One of the biggest differences between Chinese and Western culture,” he points out, “is that we don’t have religion. We don’t worship anything. Western classical music has elements of love and forgiveness that come from religion. Chinese music is very intellectual, very exotic, but there is no love. You don’t feel warm after you listen to it.”

Appreciation of Classical Music Correlated with Intelligence

The East Asian affinity with Western classical music is perhaps not surprising given that appreciation of the genre has been correlated with higher intelligence. Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa posits that more intelligent people populate concert halls because they’re more likely to respond to purely instrumental works. By contrast, people across the intelligence spectrum seem to enjoy vocal music. Kanazawa’s Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis predicts highly intelligent people are more likely to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values. According to this theory, they are better able to comprehend, and thus enjoy, novel stimuli. Vocal music predated sonatas by many millennia, so, in evolutionary terms, purely instrumental music is a novelty — which, according to Kanazawa’s theory, means highly intelligent people are more likely to appreciate and enjoy it.

Studies support Kanazawa’s theory, finding clear preferences for instrumental musical genres among those who score higher on intelligence tests. Controlling for age, race, sex, education, family income, religion, current and past marital status and number of children, more intelligent people are more likely to prefer instrumental music than less-intelligent people. A 2019 Croatian study confirmed these findings, showing that people with lower intelligence preferred music with lyrics, rather than complex orchestrations. 467 teenagers performed a non-verbal intelligence test and were then asked to rank musical genres in order or preference. Those who recorded the highest IQ scores displayed a clear preference for instrumental music. On the other extreme, preference for rap music is significantly negatively correlated with intelligence.

The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis helps to explain why Black people (as a low-IQ group) are generally repulsed by classical music, and why it has been used successfully as a crime prevention mechanism in racially-diverse cities around the world. Neurologists note that certain types of music work as a crime deterrent because of people’s neurobiological responses to things they don’t enjoy or find unfamiliar. When people hear music they like, it stimulates dopamine production and puts them in a better mood. But when people dislike the music, their brains respond by suppressing dopamine production — souring their mood and making them avoid it.

Conclusion

Mass non-White immigration into Western nations has ensured that, for a growing percentage of their populations, classical music holds little or no appeal. Classical music audiences in the United States and other Western nations are contracting: according to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, in the early twenty-first century, the percentage of American adults who attended at least one classical music event dropped from 11.6 to 8.8 in just ten years.

Non-White immigration to the West was always unpopular with existing White populations who were assured it posed no long-term threat to their demographic and cultural dominance. This was always a lie: changing the demographics and culture of the West (in Jewish interests) was the core motivation for these policies. With the Great Replacement now well underway, even White people who enjoy a White art form – like classical music – are regarded by some as engaging in an activity that should make them feel “uncomfortable.” One White commentator, for example, laments that “we don’t seem uncomfortable enough” when “sitting in the concert halls of Europe and America’s cosmopolitan cities in a usually very white audience listening to a usually very white orchestra.”

African-American writer Teju Cole is similarly perplexed that White people who enjoy hearing White musicians playing White music don’t feel more uncomfortable: “It never ceases to surprise me” he notes, “how easy it is to leave the hybridity of the city, and enter into all-white spaces, the homogeneity of which, as far as I can tell, causes no discomfort to the whites in them.”[6]Teju Cole, Open City (New York: Random House, 2011) 252. Jewish music critic Greg Sandow likewise finds offensive that, “in a diverse culture, classical music stands out (on the whole) as strikingly white, and that even many white people, especially younger ones … look at classical music, and feel (whether they put it in words or not, or even if they don’t consciously know they think this) that something isn’t quite right, that this isn’t the country they live in.” The solution to this problem, according to Fred Bronstein, the Jewish former director of the St. Louis Symphony, is for future classical music audiences to be “much more diverse than we can even dream of today. And audiences will only become truly diverse when the performers on our stages are diverse.”

Classical music, like other aspects of Western culture, has been a casualty of the anti-White diversity mania that now infests Western intellectual life. The Cultural Marxist critique of classical music wallows in bad faith arguments and cognitive dissonance: Western classical music is nothing exceptional, yet cannot be invoked to praise White people because this necessarily implies the inferiority of other races; a White supremacist conspiracy thwarts Black and Brown achievement in the genre, but it utterly fails to prevent East Asian interest and success; Black composers have written symphonies (and, indeed, Beethoven himself was Black), yet the Western classical music tradition is inherently White supremacist and needs radical deconstruction.

Ultimately, the reason invoking classical music to laud White people is so keenly resented by anti-White intellectuals is because the gap in civilizational attainment it underscores is an embarrassing affront to regnant egalitarian assumptions. Classical music is one of the crowning glories of Western civilization, and White people have every right to take proud in their race’s achievements in the genre, and to cite these achievements as motivation for pro-White activism.

Notes

[1] Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), 81

[2] Ibid., 75.

[3] Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Triger Mother (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 22.

[4] Ibid., 40-41.

[5] Stephen Walsh, Debussy: A Painter in Sound (London: Knoph Doubleday, 2018) 211.

[6] Teju Cole, Open City (New York: Random House, 2011) 252.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
 
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