New Frank Furedi essay: They are cancelling classical music

New Frank Furedi essay: They are cancelling classical music


norman lebrecht

September 20, 2021

A warning from the Hungarian-Canadian-British sociologist:

In recent years, classical music has become one of the key targets of social-justice warriors. And in their rage against classical music, the identitarian elites reveal that their crusade against ‘problematic’ culture is really a crusade against the gains of Western civilisation itself.

In the past, opponents of classical music would insist that it was too elitist. Now they insist classical music is too white or racist or colonial. Academics at Oxford recently denounced musical notation as ‘colonialist’ and have attacked the classical repertoire for focusing too much on ‘white European music from the slave period’.

So I can understand why Paul Harper-Scott (pictured), a professor of musical history and theory at Royal Holloway, University of London, has decided to quit academia entirely over the woke takeover of his discipline….. Read on here.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Furedi is right to spot that wokism is an attack on universal Enlightenment values. This puts wokists firmly in the camp of fascists, communists, trumpists, conspiracy theorists, etc.

  • Spiked received $300,000 in funding from the Charles Koch Foundation–a far-right group that is also the principal funder of the right wing extremist and racist Tea Party. So no surprise about this article. Whatever excesses might be found in musicology, it is not as bad as the speciously affected “color blind racism” of the far-right. Efforts to create diversity are challenged exactly because the far-right is racist to the core.

    Koch is also behind the far-right group Americans for Prosperity which now rivals the Republican party in terms of size, staffing and organisational capacity. The Koch brothers work behind the scenes to keep the influence of their billions of dollars hidden. In this way, they and other wealthy secret funders have undermined the American political system–as the Republican Party vividly illustrates This article shows how huge sums of hidden Koch money have also infiltrated the UK.

    • Y says:

      How much is George Soros paying you, Mr. Osborne?

    • Jim C. says:

      Guilt by association, eh?

      This has nothing to do with diversity. It’s aspersion towards European culture.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But all of this has nothing to do with what the article simply has gathered from available information elsewhere. It says nothing new.

      What if some of these despiccable rightwingers claim that 2 + 2 = 4? Do we have to change the arithmetic system?

      If every text is read for finding-out who is behind it and has a vested interest, no text can be read at all. This is Foucaultism: there is no information, no truth, only interpretation by power interests.

    • Haydn70 says:

      Ah, Billy, once again resorting to using your favorite logical fallacy, the “ad hominem”. God forbid you should actually address the issue. But of course if you did we would be subjected to your usual PC/wokist BS.

    • alanK says:

      Ignorant rant. He is if anything a libertarian. The undermining of the American system is led by leftist totalitarians who openly despise the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and all the other underpinnings of a Western Democracy.

    • Mathias Broucek says:

      World-class whataboutery….

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Absolutely hilarious!! Conspiracy theories; stock in trade of the modern Left. Your own barbarian Marxist foot-soldiers from Oxford and leading American universities have brought on this cultural revisionism.

      A pox on all of them.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      This is technically correct, but also highly misleading. Yes, both Koch brothers have held political ideas well to the right of Attila the Hun, and they have spent freely on their convictions. I despise their political opinions, but there is this thing called the First Amendment in the United States.

      But they are also among the most generous donors to classical music in the US, to medical research, to museums. All together we are talking about billions of dollars.

      One should be able to make a distinction between these two different activities.

    • CHECKMATE! says:

      You people have George Soros along with the Clintons.

  • We privatize your value says:

    Nice to read, and refreshing, but why does Furedi specify that Beethoven was a “great European composer”? Does he think his readers are completely ignorant?

    • V. Lind says:

      They read Spiked. It’s a reasonable assumption. (So do I, to keep an eye on what that lot are thinking).

      I find it alarming that as heavy a hitter as Furedi has taken up classical music as an interest — even if he is on the side of reason in this one. These relatively trifling incidents — the resignation of an obscure musicologist, some diversity manipulation at a minor company — may not be the last to raise right wing interest if this sort of thing gets any more traction.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Some publications should be read anthropologically: to look what people are writing and reading.

  • marcus says:

    It clearly follows that if you want to “decolonise” the western art music canon then you get rid of the lot of it. Speaking of which, the English Touring Opera missed a trick binning half the white orchestra whilst still playing only white operas. Still I guess they could just play “Tremonisha” forever more then everyone would be happy.

  • TruthSeeker says:

    We will soon see the complete collapse of academia. Paul Harper-Scott and others are wise enough to get off the sinking ship. Every day, it becomes more apparent how irrelevant “woke” ideologies and academia have become. They are not rooted in truth or reality. They will be swept away into the trash bin of history and great music will still be here.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      As Jordan Peterson says, “if you paid university professors the same as bankers they’d be capitalists and not marxists”. This cancel culture isn’t a feature of Technology, Maths and Engineering faculties.

      • John Borstlap says:

        What JP said about professors is nonsense, as quite much what he says is nonsense. There are enough decent university professors.

        The Texas Institute for Techonogy has recently begun a research programme consisting of the precise number of decent professors currently still in function and they are still counting.

      • David says:

        I agree with him if his point is about the corrupting power of money.

  • Monsoon says:


    When I took music theory classes in high school and college 20 years ago, jazz and pop music were part of the curriculum. My friends who were music majors were required to play in a Gamelan orchestra for exposure to non-western music and instruments (and they loved it).

    What’s being proposed at Oxford doesn’t sound that different, but they’re using language that some people find is polarizing.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      The declaration that musical notation is colonialist, however, is a bit rich. All writing, from Sumerian cuneiform onward, existed to regulate affairs, which meant that some were doing the regulating while others were being regulated. At least musical notation is limited to the production (and reproduction) of sound…

      • John Borstlap says:

        The letters I am instructed to type have all to be correct according to English linguisic standards & indeed I feel regulated all the time. And NOW I understand it is a form of colonialism! I’ll bring this up at my next attempt at a pay rise.


  • Monty Earleman says:

    Don’t worry, classical music is alive and well. “Musicology” has nothing to do with music, and the only people who pay attention to it are other musicologists.

    • Frazer says:

      Monty, I wish I shared your optimism but the reality is that identity politics and the new authoritarian dogmas of equality have gone beyond individuals and are now in the hands of institutions, big companies and organisations.
      When this happens you can start to be worried because those structures take on a powerful shaping force of their own, a force which outstrips the voice of individuals who challenge those values.
      This is happening all around us and is well underway in classical music.
      The reality is that the collective conscious of organisations will only drop these politics if it becomes clear that business is down. Ideologies collapse when people realise there is no more money left in their pockets.
      If the new values of classical music alienate or fail to appeal to the people it actually interests, that financial collapse will be a very real prospect.

  • mary says:

    Don’t worry, white culture can never be cancelled so long as whites yield power, and whites are going to yield power for a long long time to come.

    True, only certain aspects of white culture are being cancelled, but those are the aspects that even whites are ashamed of.

    For instance, you see how Trump and his supporters constantly deny that things that happened ever happened, like the Jan. 6 riots? That’s cancellation. By white people. Of its own shameful past.

    European classical music will never be cancelled as long as the European elite continues to subsidize their orchestras and opera houses.

    • Jim C. says:

      CM’s big in Asia. So it’s not just a white thing.

    • V. Lind says:

      Denying the events of January 6 is not cancellation. It is falsification.

      I find your argument confusing.

    • Allen says:

      The European “elite”, as you childishly describe it, subsidises orchestras and opera houses so that ticket prices fall within the means of the non-elite.

      The Glyndebourne Festival survives very well without public subsidy, but it is expensive. That is the choice.

    • John says:

      Nutter. Or just malevolent.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      You are part of the problem yourself.

    • Muzikmann30 says:

      That’s not quite what some regular contributors on here think or believe, despite the fact this current period of what might be termed ‘wokism’ isn’t new nor is it the first time, and it’s failed before. I was at school in the 80s whilst a certain loony left council ran the show in my neck of the woods, including FT council-paid staff whose job it was to sit in class and ensure the history we were being taught was not too slanted. That didn’t last long. And, now, here we are again, 3 or 4 decades later.
      These fads come and go.

    • Kenny says:

      Pretty sure you mean “wield.”

    • What difference at this point does it make? says:

      What? The peaceful protest where the Capitol police invited them in as some encouraged the patriots..

      The antifa & blm mobs killed, looted and burned out too many homes, businesses and neighborhoods. Incredibly people even DONATED to their groups which is blatant criminal facilitation. Then their poor leaders got caught buying multiple mansions in WHITE neighborhoods and spending money on FACIST luxury items!

      No. No issue.

      The 1/6 gatherers should have their charges dropped just as the blm goons did in NY.


    Using race and sex to criticize the work of a musical genius seems silly. What do they have to do with the music itself?

  • retlif says:

    Ummm, highlighting and engaging with often overlooked composers of the past, or questioning history critically, is not what the word ‘cancel’ means. No one has cancelled any old composers, or banished their music or scores, nor have they stopped playing their scores and teaching them. Academy is simply widening its scopes (including its ontological ones). No one is being denied, it’s just more people who have been denied by the academy are being given more voice. If the diversity of opinion and investigations into the past are what scare you, then you know very well why you are scared. stop being reactionary.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The justified worry is about replacement and the suggestion that repertoire works are tinted by association because of having been written in imperial nations.

  • Jim C. says:

    A little overwrought, and as long as these people aren’t banning it, so what?

    There’s actually a great rebuttal to this crowd. Just say, “Yeah, I like Europe and European culture. Too bad.”

  • Mike says:

    Beethoven was woke. That’s why he “canceled” the dedication of his his third symphony to Napoleon.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Worse, he was a hypocrite, taking money from the counts & princes and writing anti-nobility music on that money!


  • Mike says:

    Beethoven was woke. That’s why he “canceled” his dedication of his third symphony to Napoleon.

  • Mike says:

    Why did the editors of this site allow this right wing nonsense to be published here?

  • D** says:

    I wonder if Aram Khachaturian’s ballet, Gayane is acceptable since the setting for much of it is a kolkhoz, a collective farm.

    How about Sergei Prokofiev’s Flourish, Mighty Land, a 1948 cantata written in honor of the October Revolution?

  • NN says:

    He is not alone with his analysis. Even SD is a bit part of this game. Too much discussion about PC issues in the classical music world and stuff like that. Certainly it’s easier to count people in orchestras rather than having really something to say about the music itself, I’m afraid.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Professor Füredi — or should one consider diacritics colonial and stick with the slightly dysgraphic simplified vernacular ‘Furedi’ ? — misses some of the most obvious evidence that would demolish the pile of rubble and rubbish passing for reasoned argumentation among the housecarls of Critical Race Theory.

    Such a failure is hardly surprising: after all. Prof. Furedi, like Prof. Harper-Scott, comes from a far-Leftist background. (In his case, he was a founder and leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party.) Like so many neo-conservatives, cf. Prof. Harper-Scott, he has thoroughly switched allegiances and enemies. Like so many ex-Communists, he has just been overtaken on his Left, by extremists more intolerant, more uncouth, more loud-mouthed than his old ‘New Left’ ever was.
    But of that same ideological ilk.

    As I already wrote in the case of Prof. Harper-Scott, yet another glaring instance of “Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione quaerentes?”

    The former agitator’s highly honed polemical skills falls short on rational criticism, i.e. the ability to discern, dissect and diagnose the architecture of an argument, its factual faults and underlying fallacies. Otherwise, he could and should have made a short shrift of Philip Ewell and his acolytes.

    A case in point, Prof Furedi quoting Prof. Harper-Scott:
    “An ‘increasingly common view in musicology’, he says, is that ‘19th-century musical works were the product of an imperial society’ and therefore ‘the classical musical canon must be decolonised’.”

    Surely a scholar benefiting from felicitous Hungarian antecedents and the historical knowledge that usually accompanies such a background should have the easiest time in setting that twisted record straight — and, by proxy, Philip Ewell:

    – Yes, in Beethoven’s lifetime, the Holy Roman ‘Reich’ and, after 1805, the Austrian ‘Kaisertum’ were denoted by technical designations translated as ‘Empires’. But:
    – No, they were not *colonial* empires, not in even the vaguest meaningful sense of that word. The Songhai and the Malian Empires in West Africa were much closer to that mark than Austria would ever be.
    – Neither were they at the time ‘imperialist’ in any historically recognizable sense of the term.
    – Hence, the term ‘imperial’ cannot be applied (again, not in any meaningful sense, not even Ewell’s) to the society of which Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert were products.
    – Colonies playing no role whatsoever in the framework of the Holy Roman and the Austrian Empires, the term ‘decolonisation’ fails to apply to anything meaningful in that context.
    – Hence, the entire concept is bunkum.

    Vacuous counterclaims like “Classical music possesses an integrity that is rooted in an aesthetic sensibility” are unnecessary and counterproductive. Scrutiny of basic facts suffices to topple the Ewellian house of cards, whereupon it duly collapses.

    The cliché of ‘systemic racism’ is even easier to dismiss. Were it truly prevalent AND predominant in present-day Western societies, such as Europe, where Whites are still the overwhelming majority, and North America, where they form at least a demographic plurality, armed to the hilt and controlling all significant levers of power, someone like Philip Ewell would not stand a chance of making his pitch. The simple fact that he does, loud, unclear, and to considerable echo, disproves his very stance.

  • Lindsay Cowall says:

    I am a moderate Democrat who voted for Obama twice, Clinton, and Biden- Harris. I am sickened by the far-left lunatics attacking aspects of Western culture because they do not conform to their personal 21st century beliefs of what is, and what is not acceptable. Ironically, they have so blinded themselves by ideology that they can not see how they have benefited from the Enlightenment, the scientific method, the classics, and universal education. Education aspires to open the mind, and to teach us how to think critically. They have closed their minds, and can not think of anything but the latest societal trends. They already know everything. I am glad that I am not wise enough to have their certainty. BUT WE MUST NOT BE COMPLACENT. They may prevail- and people may be listening to Rap in 200 years- not Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.

  • ed0 says:

    Waiting for Bayreuth Festpielhaus to be taken down and Wagner’s music to be banned. Not a colonialist but certainly a notorius antisemite. That’s where this path of cancel culture is leading…

  • csm says:

    that’s not Frank Furedi on the photo

  • Ceasar says:

    Music is organized sound. What “wokists” are suggesting is disorganized and not sound.

  • Peter says:

    Just stop this culture wars nonsense. It’s a right wing scam. Killing the BBC is an incalculable threat to its fine orchestras

  • LondonRobert says:

    With someone like Frank Furedi on your side, you’ve lost….

    Frank Furedi (originally called Ferenc Füredi, Dob 3 May 1947) is professor of sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK and a leading associate, perhaps the leading associate, of the LM network. He was, under the pseudonym Frank Richards, a leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Group, then, having been expelled from the RCG, the founder and chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, later the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The RCP has traversed one of the longest ideological journeys in British politics, moving from the what it described as ‘ultra-left’, through several incarnations into a broad collection of organisations on the libertarian right wing, including Spiked Online and the Institute of Ideas.

    • John Borstlap says:


      A true communist should be put-up in the Victoria & Albert Museum as a historic specimen.

    • I am delighted that you have exposed Furedi and the Living Marxism gang, which morphed into today’s Reason blog/journal thanks to Claire Fox.The RCP was explicitly preaching violence in its good old days. However, the connection of Spiked! to LM is quite dismaying though also quite clear if one reads carefully and closely (I heard one Spiked editor in person and he traversed the path very carefully, being on panel with leftists and former ACLU director). I do not think taking money from Soros is its problem! It is worshipped in some parts for its contrarianism and libertarianism which it takes care to emphasize. I dont know about Andrew Doyle though; he has too much of a sense of humor to be a leftist. But others at Spike are definitely to be closely watched. (PS: I was on a 2001 panel in NYC sponsored by Reason. Because I am a rabid critic of the left though actually more left than most of them. they thought I would support their views and cause. But my heavy attack on nuclear power, and the view of my fellow panelists Napoleon Chagnon (not leftist) and Ullica Segerstrale dismayed them, I think. They expected knee jerk neo con stuff but got the opposite.