US composers make a bid for diversity

US composers make a bid for diversity


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2019

Message received:

Saint Paul, MN (July 24, 2019) – The American Composers Forum today announces the 2019 Racial Equity and Inclusion Forum, a convening of artists, administrators, and advocates to discuss racially inclusive and equitable opportunities for creative musicians happening September 7, 2019 in Saint Paul, MN. Artists and artistic leaders participating in the panels include members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Patrick Castillo, Brent Michael Davids, Gabriela Lena Frank, PaviElle French, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Anne LeBaron, Garrett McQueen, Nicole Mitchell, Reinaldo Moya, Nirmala Rajasekar, and Dameun Strange. The forum is free and open to the public, but due to space limitations, RSVP’s are strongly encouraged. A livestream of the forum will be simultaneously available on the TPT website and ACF Facebook page.

American Composers Forum is a vibrant composer advocacy organization supporting thousands of creative artists annually across the country. Over its 40-year history, ACF has expanded from a Minnesota focus to national, and from classical concert composition to a spectrum of genres, envisioning its role as a connector for composers/creative musicians and the larger ecosystem. ACF President and CEO Vanessa Rose states, “We see an opportunity to affect the DEI conversations happening by giving a platform to the living creators of music. As storytellers, change agents, and creative individuals, artists provide unique and valuable perspectives on this issue. We hope this gathering will provide both ACF with critical feedback, ideas, and discoveries and our colleagues in the arts ecosystem seeking to make meaningful progress towards racial equity.”

Diversity and equity consultant Justin Laing has been engaged to work with ACF over the course of the year, including facilitating and consulting on this convening. Recognizing the continued dominance of white, European-based, music in the ecosystem we share, the goal of this convening is to encourage discussion and tangible action items…


  • aNOn says:

    1) The problem with contemporary classical music is not racial inequality, it is quality. Period.

    It sucks.

    No matter who’s writing it.

    Men, women, white, black, American, European, young, old, gay, straight, PhD, autodidact…

    2) One can’t help but wonder if all this sudden racial outreach isn’t really just a last ditch effort to pump new blood into a dying art form with a dying white audience.

    3) Go Asian. The market is there. St. Paul has a large Asian population. Larger than the Black population. (For some reason, Asians really dig European classical music, including the contemporary stuff, no matter that there is a long tradition of Asian classical music and opera. Go figure.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      The impression that ‘new music’ is bad, is the result of two things: 1) most music written in ANY period is mediocre, uninteresting, or bad, and disappears from sight, so we get a distorted idea of the total reality of musical culture in past ages; 2) post-1945 modernism with its ideologies of ‘historical progressiveness’ and ‘relevance’, as against the realities of music practice. As for 1), there was a filtering process which could collect the better music (which did not always work-out well or fairly). As for 2), these ideologies have lost most of their influence although institutions still cling onto its ‘ideals’, supporting an establishment which appears to cultivate the trendy, superficial, poppy and musically-challenged, as well as the works by psychopathically affected or feministically profiled (for PC reasons?).

      Nowadays, there is no longer a filtering process in the classical music culture, with the result that the central performance practice has turned into a museum. The only chance to find high-quality new music, or recently-written new music, is to go exploring yourself. But the white noise is deafening. A good start would be the website of ‘Surprised by Beauty’ by Robert Reilly, well-known music critic (scroll down to ‘music’):

      Some years ago, I would have also recommended the critic Alex Ross, author of ‘The Rest is Noise’, but he has sold-out to the noise which he thinks is ‘diverse’ and ‘pluralist’ music, but which mostly comes down to amateurish nonsense.

    • Cafe-Szkocka-Fan says:

      Agreed. I compose. I think a lot of the problem is the underlying overall culture/philosophy (what it doesn’t have as much as what it does have). Also the males who compose nowadays tend to be on the wimpier side, seem to have never been near a soldier or an army or even a chugging steam locomotive (or a Saturn 5 rocket, for that matter). They’ll never be a Beethoven or write a 21st-century equivalent to Tchaikovsky’s 4th as they’re too far away from the energy sources.

      Can someone convince Elon Musk to try his hand at composing, once he gets on a bit further with his rockets? He sure tries his hand at lots of different things. I think he’s not lacking in the juice.

      • John Borstlap says:

        As far as I know, Beethoven never was near armies, locomotives or rockets, and if he were, he would not have heard them. Musical energies are not found in the environment but in oneself.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    Reading that last paragraph leads me to think “oh no, more PC bullshit” and WTF does “Recognizing the continued dominance of white, European-based, music in the ecosystem we share” actually mean, or is it as I suspect pseudo intellectual drivel?

    • Adrienne says:

      “or is it as I suspect pseudo intellectual drivel?”

      I think you’re on safe ground there.

      Classical music is overwhelmingly white. It just is. Guilt ridden whites need to stop agonising over it. I’m black but I have spent most of my life being grateful that it exists. What I do object to is not the relative absence of black people, which is largely a matter of choice, it’s the patronising attitude of certain white people who seem to need me solely as a measure of the success of their pet diversity programmes.

      And then there was the recent fawning over the embarrassing Ms Lizzo because she is black. Stop it!

    • Eric B says:

      I ticked too on that very same sentence. What garbage ! No one stops the “non-white” to write decent and interesting music that will speak for itself, without having to dig into that “quotas” nonsense !

      • John Borstlap says:

        The point is that decent and interesting music written by an ethnically-challenged person will bump into, as a rule, more obstacles than decent and interesting music written by a ethnically-conform person.

        Since there are many other obstacles for decent and interesting music being written today apart from ethnic labelling, initiatives focussing on ethnicity leave-out many of them and on the whole, they may be more decisive in the outcome.

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    Affirmative action: refer to the endless threads that are pinned to the home page. Hey, where are they? What the heck?

  • John Borstlap says:

    The well-intended efforts to break down discriminatory barriers, may create comparable barriers themselves, because emancipation movements create and feed group think: ‘we’ against ‘them’, which is another form of discrimination. ‘Your privilege is my bad luck’. But life is not so simplistic.

    If emancipation is not about fighting for rights but fighting against privilege (of whatever kind), then social progress is no longer defined by acquired freedom, but by an as evenly possible distribution of suppression.

    There is nothing wrong with the ‘domination of white males’ in classical music as long as any person aspiring to the profession is welcomed on the basis of his/her own qualities and not ‘minority background’. Unfair barriers are best battled by education on a general level, and not by special group think initiatives.

    In an ideal world, it is not group think which determines chances in life, but the disappearances of unfounded prejudice, in a society where each human individual is treated as an individual human being according to his/her own qualities.

  • Fs says:

    Another attempt by fascist progressives to dominate whatever scene they can by claiming new classes of victims by interjecting the notion that everything revolves around whites, that everyone else is excluded. Progressives see racism in everything they do and are the real racists. Very little of this has to do with music.

  • Your friend says:

    BAHAHAHAHAHA!! Watchig Amerika destroy its cultural heritage for a false ideology is hilarious… as long as you dont live there! DIVERSITY IS STRENGTH!!