Exclusive: London professor resigns over ‘woke’ musicologyNews
The academic world has been shocked by the resignation of one of the UK’s leading musicologists, apparently in disaffection with current trends for decolonising classical music.
J. P. E. Harper-Scott is Professor of Music History and Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London, and general editor of the Cambridge University Press series ‘Music in Context’. An authority on Edward Elgar, he has developed unsupected affinities between music analysis and the psychoanalytical theories of Jacques Lacan. At 43, he is a leader in his field; but now he has quit.
In a resignation note titled ‘Why I left Academia’ he makes no secret for his love of learning and of academic life. But, he writes:
I would put the problem in this (Kantian) way: I wrongly supposed that universities would be critical places, but they are becoming increasingly dogmatic. Consider the following statement, which fairly well articulates an increasingly common view in musicology.
Nineteenth-century musical works were the product of an imperial society. The classical musical canon must be decolonised.
The statement, and the attitude that goes with it, are dogmatic by virtue of form, not content. It does not matter that the statement in the first sentence is one that I can assent to. It becomes dogmatic by virtue of the second sentence, which admits of no doubt, no criticism, no challenge.
His resignation will change nothing. The decolonisers are rampant. Musicology has been vastly discredited. The loss of a subtle and fertile mind like Harper-Scott’s represents collateral damage in the woke pandemic. He has made an honourable decision.