Did Dvorak commit cultural appropriation in the US?

Did Dvorak commit cultural appropriation in the US?


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2020

From the blog of Joseph Horowitz, a passionate historian of music in America:

…  there’s an elephant in the room – ‘cultural appropriation.’ It’s a term we hear a lot nowadays. And it’s pertinent because Dvorak – a Czech by birth – is obviously borrowing from traditions not his own.” That is: he draws inspiration from the sorrow songs of slaves, and – via Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha – from Native America.

Read on here.



  • sam says:

    He titled the symphony “From the New World”, so it’d be really weird if he had put in melodies “from the Czech republic” instead.

    Not as bad as Strauss in Aus Italien plagiarising “Funiculì, Funiculà” from Luigi Denza who sued and won. Now that’s appropriation.

    • V. Lind says:

      That sounds like plagiarism. I don’t buy cultural appropriation. It’s the PC police going mad looking for new “offences” against anyone other than the “apropriator.” All art includes elements of everything the artist has known. Where would Shakespeare be without his plundering of the Greeks and Romans and everyone else he knew?

      Some of the more extreme arguments I have read include objecting to men writing women’s characters (and occasionally vice versa). I mean, really…

    • IC225 says:

      It’d certainly be weird, since the Czech Republic never existed in Dvorak’s lifetime!

    • Jane says:

      Czechoslovakia did not exist until after WWI and the Czech Republic even later. Dvorak was Bohemian so his “New World Symphony” would have put in melodies “from Bohemia” instead.

  • CarlD says:

    Quite a stretch to call any of the examples given cultural appropriation. In any event, I’m all for global village cultural exchanges. After all, society is more of a melting pot than ever. “Cultural appropriation” has to get pretty egregious before I’d find it problematic.

  • JussiB says:

    “Cultural appropriation” was not a derogatory term in those days. Today’s PC police is killing everything. STOP IT.

  • Bill says:

    Is Messiaen is on the outs for appropriating from birds?

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Not the bird music, but Messiaen’s Turangalila-Symphonie is in this absurd context cultural appropriation (he ‘stealed’ American music).

    • Jean says:

      Not to mention Rautavaara’s ”Cantus Arcticus” where an urban Helsinki composer tries to steal the Lappish heritage….

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Why stop at the political borders of today? We should take Wagner to task. After all, he is a composer from Leipzig (Saxony) who appropriates the culture of Nuremberg (Bavaria) in his “Meistersinger”. Unspeakable horror! Same with Strauss (a Bavarian!) and “Rosenkavalier” (Vienna) – not to mention Greece (Salome, Elektra) and England (Schweigsame Frau).

        Same with Mozart and Italy (Cosi) or Spain (Don Giovanni) or the Ottoman Empire (Abduction), Beethoven with Spain (Fidelio), Verdi with Egypt (Aida), Puccini with Japan (Butterfly) and France (Boheme).

    • John Borstlap says:

      There have already been blackbird comitees filing complaints.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Yes, Hitchcock’s birds attacked Tippi Hendren by mistake; they were looking for Messiaen.

    • PaulD says:

      My cockatiel and budgie would both give you a “like”, if they could peck my keyboard.

    • Larry D says:

      What a cuckoo notion!

    • Michael Korstick says:

      And, worse still, from GOD!

  • Stephen Gould says:

    Then and now, there is only one defence to cultural appropriation, but it is an impregnable defence, IMO – that the resulting work is really good, e.g., the Animals’ version of “House of the Rising Sun” or Glinka’s use of the Jota Aragonesa in his “Capriccio Brillante”

  • Armchair Bard says:

    Stop. Just stop. Cultural appropriation – unless you believe in apartheid and suchlike – doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful sense: it’s just a concept invented to nourish the offenserati.

    • William Safford says:

      You do not believe in apartheid? Did you really write that? Do you really believe it?

      That’s like denying the Holocaust.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Yeah, like how dare that French guy write that Spanish opera ‘Carmen” or that Austrian guy writing “Nozze di Figaro”!!! Or how about that Gernan-Jew writing an Italian Symphony? The unmitigated gall of those cultural thieves! Go get ’em, Joe Horowitz !!

    • Steven Holloway says:

      To judge by your last sentence, you have not read the Horowitz post, which actually introduces a podcast dealing with the topic more fully. He is NOT accusing Dvorak of cultural appropriation.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Now the real problem is that Dvorak’s is better than the real thing…

  • Super-duper says:

    Presumably enjoying listening to music of a culture that is not your own is also appropriation- better introduce a culture check before people buy any recorded music or concert tickets, so that only those allowed to enjoy it can do so. All mixed-influence genres will be banned, no Mozart or Bach because they appropriated Italian culture, leading music down a terrible path of cultural mixing. We must only have music from specially isolated individuals who live no more than 5 miles away from ourselves, and are ethnically identical, in order to prevent any cultural appropriation from making place. Because the culture of the past was different from today’s all music older than 5 years will be banned so as not to appropriate old-fashioned outdated cultures into our advanced present day minds. With modern technology we can make this happen. North Korea has made a good start by banning all foreign content, we can build on that by making it even more localised, but not in a north Korean way, of course, because that itself would be appropriation- how awful!

    • John Borstlap says:


      Seen this way, cultural appropriation seems to be a form of fascism, trying to protect the purity of the group.

  • marcus says:

    Just another in the increasingly long list of miscreants-All of Ravel’s spanish themed stuff, Most of gershwin, Souvenir De Florence, Carmen, Beethoven folk songs, etc. the list is endless!

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Old Toni was an insidiously evil guy. He “culturally appropriated,” but made sure the sources of his cultural appropriation were hard to pinpoint exactly. They could be Native-American and/or African-American. He just mystically “absorbed” them corporeally, reductively flattening them into what he called “New World” or “American.” He should now be designated a Cancelled Czech!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Indeed it’s cultural appropriation and done very well. It should be an example to be followed with enthusiasm.

  • fierywoman says:

    BTW, did you know that Tschaikovsky’s Capriccio Italiano’s finale has words?
    I was reading it with my Italian orchestra and when we got to that rousing finale, the entire orchestra started to laugh and the rehearsal stopped for a moment. Being clueless (American), I asked, ” what? what?”
    “The words…” laughed my stand partner.
    “Words? What are they…?”
    He answered: “Ma-ma non vuole, Pa-pa neanche, fac-ciamo, l’a-more…”
    Was it Picasso who said something to the effect of: All artists steal from each other; the best ones make it their own.

  • Karl says:

    Dvorak blackface pics will be revealed soon!

  • Genius Repairman says:

    German baroque music evolved from the amalgamation of the French and Italian styles. Was this cultural appropriation? And Bach wrote six French suites and an Italian concerto. Do we cancel him now?

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    What about all of the “Spanish” pieces written by French and Russian composers? When Dvorák came to America, he was assisted by Henry Thacker Burleigh, one of the first people to publish art song-style arrangements of spirituals for the general public, and it seems only natural that he may have introduced him to that style, but as Leonard Bernstein points out, Dvorák does not quote any known spirituals outright, he draws inspiration from the general style.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      A good and fair point, Mr. Dawkins, and your mention of Burleigh also suggests a reason why those in the European art music side of the equation are always going to be accused of cultural appropriation: because of their ability to notate the pitches and rhythms of what is heard, versus relying entirely on memory and tradition, both of which can be faulty and both of which can be fragile. Burleigh knew the tunes, but he also had the ear and the “European” training to notate them.

      And speaking of appropriation, what of all those singers, including some fine Black voices, who have sung “Goin’ Home” as if it was a genuine sorrow song, and one could argue, have made it into a sorrow song? I am crude and vile enough to actually enjoy this version by Alex Boyé with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra.


      During one of the recent upheavals over the use of Native American names and mascots by American sports teams, it was though to be an especially clinching argument that such use should be dropped because one university’s band would play the “Hamm’s beer jingle” during games. The newspaper reporters loved that one for its cultural insensitivity. Nobody alas knew enough to interject that the actual tune was first used by Charles Wakefield Cadman in his song “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters” but was in turn more or less faithfully adapted by Cadman from an actual Omaha tribe’s tune notated by the famous Alice Fletcher, who essentially did to preserve Native American music what Béla Bartók did in the rural areas of Eastern Europe (including gathering music from ethnicities not his own by the way).

      In one or another of his books with Robert Craft, Stravinsky rather begrudgingly says he respected Bartók for the accuracy of his ear, and it took that ear, but also Bartók’s thorough training in the European art music notation tradition, to take all those crude field recordings he made of folk songs and dances and notate them accurately as to pitch and rhythm and thus preserved what otherwise would surely have been lost, and soon was lost just as Bartók and Zoltán Kodály feared. Without a comparable method of accurate and reproduceable preservation, any other claims to non-appropriated “authenticity” based solely on the ethnic identity of the performer is likely to be very weak and questionable indeed.

      Dvořák was brought here with the perhaps naive notion that he could show the way to a genuine American concert music. He himself had “appropriated” European idioms including Moravian which were not his own native Bohemian after all, so in that sense the choice of Dvořák to try to show America the way was inspired and not naive.

      His real “sin” was in hearing all this music, not just the sorrow songs of the slaves and the Native American melodies being collected, but the musics of that huge mishmash of European ethnicities (including Czech/Moravian/Bohemian, but you can also hear Irish or Scottish dances in the New World Symphony and his other explicitly “American” pieces) and regarded them all as “American” music, rather than separate them out into their various origins as the culturally offended would now have him do.

      But again in a very real sense what Horowitz is terming cultural appropriation is an inevitable consequence of the European art music system’s ability to notate pitch and rhythm so that what exists in the air and in the memory can be preserved and replicated. Without having itself a comparable system of preservation, any culture’s music will live only if another culture “appropriates” it.

      It isn’t claiming ownership of it, rather it’s saying, we have a way of nailing down exactly how it goes. Do you?

      Conclusion? If this is appropriation, then three cheers for appropriation. John Borstlap’s point, made earlier.

  • Alexander T says:

    Dem musicologists are at it again.

  • Dave says:

    Oh, for crying out loud…

    It’s an elephant the size of a gnat.

    Stop it.

  • James Weiss says:

    Who cares??

  • William Safford says:

    The elephant in the room, in this instance, is more wooly mammoth than true elephant: closely related, once sizable, but fuzzy and now only leaving traces of itself in our world.

    Dvorak was brought to America expressly to bring European ideas and skills to the New World, as head of the “National Conservatory of Music.”

    One of his ideas was for Americans to employ folk melodies and other local music sources as inspiration for an American school of classical music, just as he used Czech folk melodies, Brahms used German and Roma melodies, etc.

    To this end, Dvorak advocated for the use of Native American and African-American melodies, and melodies inspired by them.

    So, in his Symphony #9, “From the New World,” Dvorak was *modeling* what he felt that American composers could do and should consider doing. Had he composed his proposed opera based on the story of Hiawatha, he would have intensified this modeling.

    Now, as Taruskin points out, an inherent problem in this idea, is that American composers of the time were overwhelmingly white and European-trained, so these folk melodies were not *their* folk melodies. This may be valid even without taking into account racial prejudice. But, as he points out: “…prejudice, too, played a part in dismantling Dvorak’s naive prescription.” (Oxford History of Western Music, vol, 3, page 767)

    Of course, this would not have been an issue for any African-American and/or Native American classical music composers. Dvorak was completely open to the ascension of such composers and students to conservatories, universities, and professional ranks. Alas, most of America was not. With rare exceptions, those who were trained classically, were refused employment. Many ended up as jazz musicians.

    Horowitz discusses this point in a separate monograph:


    For example:

    “Dett’s The Ordering of Moses was prominently premiered: by the Cincinnati Symphony in 1937 on national radio. Midway through, however, the broadcast was stopped without explanation—presumably because of listener complaints that the composer was black. After that, like Dawson’s symphony, Dett’s cantata disappeared.”

    (As it happens, Dett dedicated two of his arrangements of spirituals to my great-uncle, who sang them as well as other works by African-American composers.)

    (I read the linked blog post by Horowitz. I did not listen to the hour-long podcast or watch the movie–at least not yet.)

  • Herbie G says:

    Topics such as this one belong to a category that I call the Society for Politicising Everything White.
    Why on earth should anyone dignify this bovine excrement by discussing it seriously? Are we going to waste our intellectual prowess on another huge string of rational arguments trying to prove that it’s total claptrap when it’s self-evident? How about a thread dealing with the ‘fact’ that Covid-19 is spread by mobile phone masts? Or one devoted to discussing the notion that the Appollo 11 moon landing was a hoax? If I gave NL an essay suggesting that Beethoven was a woman, would he start a new thread with it and would there be dozens of responses earnestly trying to disprove it?

    • Judy says:

      I had a similar response until I talked to a family member in his 30s who said that claims of “cultural appropriation” is one of the tools of “cancel culture” which is destroying the careers of many people in certain career fields. There is no due process of any kind; a claim from a proponent of cancel culture can severely damage one’s reputation in certain circles.

    • William Safford says:

      Why should we discuss it? Because it’s a valid topic of conversation.

      That does not mean that I agree with it. You can read my comment elsewhere.

      But it’s different in kind from the conspiracy theories and falsehoods that you try to analogize with it. Those analogies are invalid.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I am seriously convinced that Beethoven was a man, based on the evidende of Susan McClary.

  • BruceB says:

    I don’t see how writing in an imitative style constitutes cultural appropriation. As I understand the term, cultural appropriation would have been if Dvorak used an actual spiritual for the slow mvt. of the New World Symphony and then claimed to have composed it himself, or said that he had written an American symphony.

  • fflambeau says:

    Complete bunk.

  • Phillip says:

    It is incredible that people take seriously this stupidity of “cultural apropriation”. The first time I heard about it I thought it was a joke.

    • Herbie G says:

      Philip, it is a joke, but don’t let anyone else know because it inspires such a voluminous response from others on SD who take it seriously enough to exercise their intelligence on it rather than the other much more worthy topics!

  • psq says:

    “… Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha …”
    Why has this cultural appropriation been missed? Longfellow was after all a white guy writing about native Americans.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    . . . and how is this news? I thought it was common knowledge that Dvorak had done this. There were no copyrights or ASCAP in those days, I don’t think.

  • John Borstlap says:

    All these problems stem from the problem of American cultural identity. What are the USA? It’s like a child rebelling against its parents and milieu, running away and setting-up a life of its own, and getting into psycho trouble in adulthood.

  • Dvořák listener says:

    Horowitz’ column is a rather sad attempt to promote his own composition by dressing it up in his usual pseudo-intellectual claptrap. Of course a link to the CD from Naxos is attached in his article. It appears Joe has learned self-promotion from the master.

  • Araragi says:

    These sorts of accusations may go over well inside the ivory towers of American academia but in the real world we can identify them for what they are. With globalism will come cultural appropriation. Cultures mix and some cultural fusion inevitably emerges. Cultural appropriation is responsible for some of the most beloved things within – and without – music (not least of which is the sushi taco). I’d like to just judge the work on its merits without having to analyze the ethnic background of the artist before I can allow myself to admire the thing.

  • Max Raimi says:

    I have never quite understood who is the victim of the “crime” of cultural appropriation. If we regard it as such, we must immediately stop listening to the Brahms g minor Piano Quartet (the finale is entitled “Rondo al la Zingarese”), to Beethoven’s 9th (which has a Turkish March) the Mozart “Turkish” Violin Concerto and “The Abduction From the Seraglio”….I’m just getting started. Ravel is right out–all those jazz references, and he wrote “Tzigane”. Throw in The Beatles, and most of Bartok. There are references to Croation street music in Beethoven’s Sixth and Haydn’s last symphony. God almighty, has there ever been a stupider source of grievance?

    • William Safford says:

      Outside of this particular discussion, that’s easy to answer.

      For an example of cultural appropriation, look at the white singers in the late 50s and early 60s, whether Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Pat Boone, who made money based on music and musical stylings of Black musicians.

      The white musicians made lots of money; the original Black artists did not in most cases, or at least not in that time period. The white musicians could get airtime performing music by Black songwriters, in ways that the Black musicians often could not with their performances of their own music. The white musicians could perform the music of Black musicians and inspired by them, in locations where the Black musicians were refused admittance. Ditto their audiences.

      Yes, it’s more complicated than that. For example, one can simultaneously recognize that the individual white musicians were sincerely inspired by the Black musicians and viewed their work in part as a way of honoring those progenitors, and that the Black musicians got more publicity that sometime brought them out of obscurity eventually; yet that the Black musicians still did not do as well as the white musicians.

      This is an example of cultural appropriation and systemic racism working synergistically to limit the options of Black musicians and promote the white musicians, even when many of the white people involved were sincere in their anti-racism. After all, the Beatles refused to perform to segregated audiences in the South.

      So, the question is not whether cultural appropriation exists–it does. Nor is it a question of whether it can do damage–it can.

      The question in this case is: is it applicable to Dvorak?

      I gave my opinion in another comment.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Maybe not so easy to answer; you certainly haven’t answered it. Yes, Black musicians were victimized by racism and never got their due in fame and fortune. And yes, it must have been quite galling for them to see Elvis and The Beatles achieve stardom. What is not at all clear is how the Black artists’ lives would have been better if the Rolling Stones had never existed. Would white people have consequently magically discovered Muddy Waters? How does that work exactly, Mr. Safford? Interesting the that era of the Black musical superstar–of James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson etc. etc.–happened AFTER all this cultural appropriation.

        • William Safford says:

          You ask valid questions, ones that probably cannot be settled just by you and me chatting in this comments section. But I’m game to chat about it, and it’s a pleasure to have a genuine discussion with you.

          Your question presupposes that cultural appropriation can be separated from other cultural maladies such as systemic racism.

          In many cases, it cannot be.

          Is it possible for there to be cultural appropriation without injury to another? Yes, of course. For example, I doubt that any Moravians were injured when Brahms made use of their folk melodies. (Or am I wrong? I don’t know.)

          What form can the injury to the appropriated take? It isn’t necessarily tangible. For example, how much of an effect on European and American societal attitudes towards people in Asia and of Asian descent, were the “oriental” influences in 19th century classical music? (That sounds like a dissertation thesis topic.)

          Or, they can be demeaning and reinforcing of ugly stereotypes, such as 19th and early 20th century blackface performers and performances, appropriating and cruelly distorting Black music and performance styles.

          Or, they can be tangible, like the monies earned by white blues and blues-influenced popular musicians, often at the expense of Black ones. Today, Black musicians would receive royalties, but that was not necessarily the case in the period I discussed earlier.

          This can touch on issues of contract law, copyright law, labor law (if unions are involved), and much more.

          P.S. Change of subject: I asked you in a comment some time ago if you have a list of your compositions anywhere, such as on a website. I don’t think you saw it, so I’ll ask again.

  • The similarity of one of the first movement themes to the pre-existing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” has been long noted, but so long-noted that I’m surprised a new commentary about the possibility of Dvorak having borrowed something was needed.

    No one has mentioned Rameau’s Rondo from “Les Indes Galantes”?

    There is a maybe-true story of it being such a faithful rendition of Native American music that when Indians in the Caribbean heard it they eagerly got up and danced to it.

  • M McAlpine says:

    While we are on the idiotic subject of ‘cultural appropriation’ (which appears to be the going trend among the talentless PC lunatics of academia who have to justify their existence by writing absolute rubbish) that a certain German, G F Handel, appropriated Italian opera for English audiences then set stories from the Hebrew scriptures to music. Disgraceful! Add that to the list, Mr Horowitz!

  • William Safford says:

    It’s fascinating to read how many commenters want to deny the very existence, or validity, of cultural appropriation as a concept, and its adverse effect on others.

    It’s one thing to discuss its relevance to Dvorak.

    It’s another to question it altogether.

    Many people wear blinders. They do not want to see the discrimination. They want to deny it away, just as the Orange Enemy of the People attempted to deny away COVID-19.

    *That* is the elephant in the room.

    • Super duper says:

      Re: William Safford

      Please do not use the expression “elephant in the room”. It is a relic of colonialism and also prejudicial against people who choose to keep elephants in their residence without comment. Elephants are not part of true unappropriated western culture- so it would be best not to acknowledge their existence.

      Also please do not culturally appropriate the principle that there are ideas so sacred they cannot be “questioned altogether”. This is not your culture, you are not allowed to just appropriate medieval Spanish Catholic thought-patterns when you feel like it. I know you think you are celebrating them and helping them by introducing them to a wider public, but really it doesn’t belong to you.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is a lot of suffering by elephants in Western zoos, being imprisoned merely for their ethnicity, and then their symbolism being appropriated in cultural discussions where they have been excluded.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Dvorak had the help of a good African-American musician in New York who brought folk and spiritual music to his notice. I could hear the New World Symphony every other day for a year before flagging. I don’t know his American string quartet half as well or heard it for a long time but expect the same applies to it. Any opinions from this group on the American quartet?

    • Herbie G says:

      Nice one Edgar! I too could hear the New World Symphony any day, and I guess you are alluding to the original title of the ‘American’ quartet – don’t spill the beans on this thread as it will incite mayhem. Same for the original adjective of the serenader in The Mikado.
      I could hear the American Quartet any time too – a sheer delight from beginning to end. Another far lesser-known work is the so-called American Quintet in E flat – magnificent too. Like Schubert, Dvorak had fingers that seemed to drip music straight on to the page; no sign of effortful re-working, no sheets of sketches that show him groping his way towards the final version, no scratching out or added afterthoughts. He seemed to cut out the middleman, the brain; his music went straight from heart to pen.

  • christopher storey says:

    Oh do shut up , William Safford

  • Count Zero says:

    Isn’t this an example of “click bait?” It’s a passing remark intended to rile people and get them shouting like Victor Meldrew, “I do not BELIEVE it!”

    It works though — because among a galaxy of stupid ideas “cultural appropriation” has to be among the very stupidest. It’s the worst kind of xenophobia and inverted racism or nationalism. Culture isn’t the private property of any group or nation. Everybody has a right to share in the cultures of the world past and present — and everybody does, including the tiny number of noisy idiots complaining about “cultural appropriation.”

  • Joe S says:

    Whether it is or is not appropriation I am grateful because I would not have been exposed otherwise.

  • LFein says:

    Pure, unadulterated idiocy, in league with “woke” idiots who want to remove Beethoven and Wagner because they were adored by Nazi Germany. Quit looking so damned hard to be offended.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Imagine what would happen if Dvorak had written a symphony from the new world without any native- or African-American echoes.

    Henry Thacker Burleigh, a classically-trained black composer, arranger, and singer, introduced Dvorak to them. Was he a cultural appropriator? Thanks to Thomas Dawkins for Burleigh’s name.

  • Herbie G says:

    Le me say that I don’t think that there’s any such thing as cultural appropriation. It’s a pure fabrication; nothing more than a conspiracy theory, dreamed up by American scribblers masquerading as ‘musicologists’ to gain cheap noteraity . The earlier posters on this thread have provided eloquent and irrefutable evidence that it’s bogus. Each one of you has provided your own evidence in the form of instances of great composers (and some lesser ones) who have quoted the music of others. I am sure you’d all agree that we could come up with thousands more such cases.
    Though these contributions are lucid and erudite, it’s usually a precondition of an argument that we have a definition of the proposition. I asked in a previous thread whether anyone could define cultural appropriation, but answer came there none. It seems that the proponents of this specious concept are a shy lot.

    If we insist on discussing this, consider this. Surely black composers who write symphonies, concertos, operas, string quartets and piano sonatas are guilty of cultural appropriation – these forms were invented and cultivated in predominently white Europe, steeped in slavery and xenophobia. In short, they are imitating white people’s culture. Surely Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson, for example, who sang white composers’ music, were selling out to the white people when they could have been singing neglected music by black composers.

    For those of you want to deliver a resounding ‘Up Yours’ to this ideology in the way of an appropriation fest, then Charles Ives is your man. He quoted just about everything he could lay his ears on. His marvellous Second Symphony is a masterpiece of its kind – an early totally tonal work, nothing like his later ventures into polytonality. Just count the evil appropriations: Wagner, Beethoven, ‘Old Black Joe’, Camptown Races (a case of appropriation of an appropriation!), ‘Columbia, gem of the Ocean’ and many others, all woven into the musical warp and weft of a formally orthodox symphonic structure and superbly orchestrated.

    • William Safford says:

      Isn’t it interesting that those who benefit from cultural appropriation, deny that cultural appropriation exists.

      No, wait, “interesting” isn’t quite the right word.

      Here’s a better one. To quote someone who is ubiquitously in the news:


      • Herbie G says:

        William, as you have used this specious term, could you please be the first to define what ‘cultural appropriation’ means? Not a vague diatribe please but a legalistic yardstick to define whether or not someone is guilty of it. Once we have that, we can tear it to bits in a rational way.

        When one speaks of Dvorak committing ‘cultural appropriation’, the implication of ‘committing’ and ‘appropriation’ means theft. I cannot see how you can steal someone else’s culture. What has the ‘victim’ lost?

        If cultural appropriation is theft, what should we do about it? Should we call the police?
        Should we ban all works that exhibit it? Should we imprison those who commit it or should exact a financial penalty from their descendants? Should there be a health warning on all recordings of Dvorak’s music? Should we hold seminars re-educating people so that they see him in his ‘true’ light? Should we smash all the statues of him? Should we edit his works to expunge all forms of it? Welcome to the Soviet Union! (Speaking of this, I have a Russian recording of the 1812 Overture made in the Soviet era in which the Tsarist anthem is replaced by the Internationale!)

        You speak of those who ‘benefit’ from denying that (so-called) cultural appropriation exists?
        I deny that it exists. How do I benefit from denying that it exists? What are the losses of those ‘victims’ who don’t? Is it monetary? Is it a loss of status? Thank goodness culture is not subject to copyright. It’s free for all those who want it.

        Oh, and it’s funny, isn’t it, how all those acolytes of egalitarianism such as ‘political correctness’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ are genuflecting to the altar of ‘diversity’ – so those charlatans like Horowitz should be complaining that there’s too little Afro-American content in the New World Symphony!

        In fact, the New World Symphony is all Dvorak’s own work. With that in mind, William Arms Fisher used the music of the Largo for his song ‘Going Home’. This is the cultural appropriationist’s dream. Fisher appropriated the melody while the ‘New World’ was still in copyright. Fisher was white but this song has the air of a spiritual and has been adopted by Afro-Americans. So they appropriated the work of a white Czech composer and a white American arranger. Dvorak’s theme is said to have been inspired by ‘Hiawatha’ by Longfellow – a white poet whose poem was about the tragic oppression and deprivation suffered by Native Americans. So the whole thing started with Longfellow’s appropriation of their suffering. If it weren’t for that, Dvorak would presumably have written a different slow movement and Hovis would have had to look elsewhere.

        Get cracking on that, William! And when you have sorted it out, let us know how you would deal with Harriet Beecher Stowe…

        They say that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ – so surely any ethnic group should feel proud that its culture is being adopted and saluted by outsiders. Enough of this pseudo-intellectual ‘cultural appropriation’ claptrap.

        • William Safford says:

          You call it “specious.” That is your opinion, which I presume is an easy one for you to hold. It’s more of a challenge for those who are adversely affected by it.

          If you want to learn more about cultural appropriation, this is a good starting point:

          “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”


          Then again, if this truly interested you, you could easily have looked it up on your own.

          So, why are so many people in the comments section of Slipped Disc discomfited by the idea of cultural appropriation? Why do people like you want to consider it “specious?”

          “This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures….

          “According to critics of the practice, cultural appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or equal cultural exchange in that this appropriation is a form of colonialism. When cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture.” (Wikipedia)

          How can that be damaging?

          “Cultural appropriation is considered harmful by various groups and individuals, including Indigenous people working for cultural preservation, those who advocate for collective intellectual property rights of the originating, minority cultures, and those who have lived or are living under colonial rule. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include exploitation of another culture’s religious and cultural traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and music.” (Wikipedia)

          This barely scratches the surface of the topic.

          As for the rest of your comment: once we strip out your rhetoric, I already answered all the important points in other comments of mine.

          I just did some of your research for you. Go back and read my messages if they interest you. If you have any more questions, let me know.

          Oh, and if you do your due diligence, you’ll also learn what my opinion is specifically about the Dvorak symphony at question.

          Speaking of due diligence: did you actually read the blog post to which NL helpfully provided a link, or any of the links contained therein? That will help tell us how serious you are about learning more about this topic.