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We 'shouldn't apologise' for the race or gender of those who made the most celebrated classical music, Nicola Benedetti says.
I was attracted to this headline on a piece in the Daily Telegraph (17 August, 2019). I’ll pick one quote from it:
Nicola Benedetti said: “I believe in and support a strong movement for diversity and integration. I also believe in respecting past mastery, regardless of race or gender.”
You can read the whole piece here.
But, as I read it, something occurred to me. As a frequent listener to Classic fm, most of the time when I tune in I have no idea who wrote or who is performing the pieces. Some of the music played is familiar, but mostly it is new to me. Quite often I hear a wonderful symphony or whatever and I marvel at the beauty within. But it never crosses my mind to consider the gender or race of the composer or musician. Never.
Two questions: Should I care about identifying the race and gender, and why should I care about identifying the race and gender? My answer to the first question is I don’t care. I enjoy the music without unnecessary modern-day box-ticking. My answer to the second question is that I am open to intelligent persuasion on any responsibility I should employ to ‘fix’ or ‘re-balance’ the past. If there are undiscovered, forgotten or unappreciated composers of any gender and race from the dim and distant who should be lauded, bring them on. I’m in it for the music.
If I hear a mind-blowing piece and someone tells me afterwards the race and gender of the composer/performer, is that supposed to affect how I rate my enjoyment of the piece?
For the record, I think Nicola Benedetti is spot on in the quotation above. Of course, in this age of instant apoplexy and hysterical attacks, she will have critics of her opinion.
I will continue to listen to Classic fm as I have always done – to hear beautiful music. Full stop.