15 votes

Music theory and white supremacy

15 comments

  1. [2]
    wirelyre
    Link
    Oh, cool. I actually just finished practicing some figured bass, so I think I can provide some qualified perspective here. And it's the weekend, so I have some time to write. Basically I'm going...
    • Exemplary

    Oh, cool. I actually just finished practicing some figured bass, so I think I can provide some qualified perspective here. And it's the weekend, so I have some time to write.

    Basically I'm going to explain how I think many of the threads in the video are really good, but overall this video is kind of incoherent, and some of the positions Neely takes don't really work.

    (Several hours later, I have written a book and I don't really want to edit it down. It's a subtle topic which I am deeply involved in. Sorry to provide 200% more words on this page.)


    Background

    Race is an important topic in classical music

    obviously. American classical musicians, amateur and professional, are overwhelmingly of white-skinned Western European descent. This is true even in areas which are relatively ethnically diverse, which is sketchy.

    African-American composers are very poorly represented in concert halls — you'll probably never hear a work of Florence Price or William Grant Still. They were incredibly influential and their music is so interesting.

    Any demographic imbalances or race-related challenges in post-secondary education contribute directly those in to classical music. If you are a professional classical musician, you have probably studied in conservatory.

    These are real problems.

    "Classical music" By "classical music" I mean "Western classical music", the canon and tradition of music carried through Western Europe around the Rennaisance through to 19th-century art music largely of Western Europe and Russia, and the related art movements notably of 20th-century America and much of Europe; as distinguished from other traditions, for example folk music of the same areas, or any traditions in other areas.

    The question of which African-American composers fall into this tradition is semantics if you're lazy, or awesome sociocultural history if you're cool.

    Music theory is not universal

    and any argument otherwise is made in bad faith or ignorance. (Well, almost. Some research in psychoacoustics is about that question. But I do not know enough to talk more about this and it's out of scope anyway.)

    As Neely points out, despite some striking common features, North Indian classical music is not the same as Western classical music. Which seems obvious when you put it like that, but the reason it's important is that they are both deep traditions and neither is "more musicer". They're not incompatible exactly, but they have different theoretical foundations.

    Even within Western music, there are some very incompatible ideas. You couldn't use Rennaisance music theory to talk about Mahler. You couldn't use the dominant 19th-century theory to talk about Webern, or even Debussy.

    Music theory is for explaining, not constructing

    which people get wrong a lot. (I'll get back to "people".) Well, Western tonal music theory anyway. Some people write "theories" of music that are incompatible with tonal theory and then make music with those. They're more like manifestos though.

    But music theory is a tool for talking about some kind of music. At one level you're talking about individual notes and, like, how to read and make music. That's theory. At another level you're talking about how structures (like harmonic idioms) work in a single piece and how they compare to other pieces, probably in the same genre. At another level, maybe you talk about things that aren't in the piece (for example, certain chords) and why not (a reaction to a cultural phenomenon? constrained composition? musical taste? why that taste?).

    In other words, theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    Historically, some theorists have always argued otherwise, trying to limit what music other people make by calling it "bad". But it's pretty clear if you read their stuff that they are just being stuffy about details that no one cares about anymore. At every point in time, someone was breaking some musical rule that someone cared about.

    Even "pop" symbols (like C7/D), which might look like rules for what to play, are just tools from (yes) Western theory repurposed as building blocks for composers. Those symbols are no more prescriptive than the dots on any score.

    Here's a useful rule: if someone says "tonic" or "dominant" they are doing analysis.

    Tonal theory is a good tool for a lot of Western music

    because it's an active field. If you can't describe something but it feels like you should be able to, you figure out new terms or observations.

    And modern jazz and pop are very strongly related to the classical tradition. All of them have pulled influences from each other and it shows. Think of harmonic idioms in jazz and pop borrowed from classical; rhythmic conventions in pop and classical borrowed from jazz.

    There are many, many examples of pieces and artistic movements (classical or otherwise) which are obviously so foreign to classical music that you wouldn't dare approach them with tonal theory. But there are many that do work.

    I want to be really clear with what I'm saying here, because I recognize it's dangerously close to something I don't believe and find offensive. I'm not saying that tonal theory is the correct or best way to analyze music. I'm saying that tonal theory is a very precise tool to analyze a very wide variety of Western music (now including jazz and pop movements), because it has taken so much terminology from a lot of fundamental traditions, and conversely has directly influenced a lot of music-making.


    Direct response to the video

    If you're online and you see the phrase "Music Theory", try replacing it with the phrase "the harmonic style of 18th-century European musicians" and see if it still makes sense in context.

    Music theory, even "what you see in a textbook" (I have a textbook next to me) covers a LOT more than 18th-century material. The musical language of the 18th century grew very naturally from that of the 17th century. The theoretical language developed for the 18th century influenced how 19th century composers wrote.

    The styles and motions of a lot of music today, as I've already pointed out, are strongly related not just to 18th-century European musicians, but in fact also to that music theory which describes it.

    Here is an article that claims to explain the genius of Lady Gaga using the harmonic style of 18th-century European musicians.

    It's not wrong to try to do this, but that article is (subjectively) bad. You can only explain the things you have words for, and unfortunately I don't think the author managed to say anything particularly deep or accurate.

    I do not think Chaikovsky would have liked Lady Gaga's music.

    "Chaikovsky" Now here's a Eurocentric detail. As far as I can tell, "Tchaikovsky" is a transliteration from German "Tschaikowski" which is a transliteration of "Чайковскій". I prefer "ch" because it has a natural English pronounciation.

    What most people think of as "music theory" actually does a pretty bad job of describing musical practice in most styles of music.

    I just don't know what to make of this. It could mean so many different things. What specifically does it not describe well? Why should I believe that the right solution is to propose different fundamentals of theory rather than give "most people" a more thorough understanding of what tonal theory actually is and means?

    I think it's possible to argue either way, but at a shallow level like this I'd have to be convinced that there's even a meaningful difference.

    Music theory can be seen as a racial ideology in which the views and ideas of white persons are held to be more significant than the views and ideas of nonwhites.

    This uses a weird definition of "music theory". As far as I can tell, that definition is "the structure of music theory pedagogy throughout America".

    Figured bass is a system where numbers indicate intervals and chromatic alterations above bass notes.

    Figured bass was primarily used in the 16th and 17th centuries (the "Baroque" period). Not the 18th century. This is very important.

    To the same extent that "what most people think of as 'music theory'" fails to capture, say, Harlem Jazz, it also fails to capture Baroque music.

    Baroque music is not tonal in the same way that Classical (ugh, Classical-period, 18th-century) music is. You get all sorts of crazy harmonies from counterpoint. Phrases end on chords that don't "make sense" in a typical harmonic structure. It's almost tautological — Baroque music isn't tonal because they didn't have tonal theory. There was no tonal theory because there was no tonal music for it to be useful with.

    So I find this a bit annoying because, if you have criticisms for music theory as a tool for jazz, it's really weird to talk about figured bass because that same music theory doesn't work there either.

    There is an alternative way to look at this: The musical language of the Baroque period (exemplified by figured bass) prefigured Classical language. Now, in the context of musical lineage, I think it's more compelling to wonder about which traditions and movements influenced which.

    When we think about having [figured bass] in our music theory textbooks — are you kidding me?!

    This is what I'm talking about with the video being incoherent.

    WHY should it be left out of music theory textbooks? (This is not a criticism of the statement. There are a LOT of good reasons to leave figured bass out of textbooks. I think figured bass should not be in tonal theory textbooks.)

    Also since evidently everyone is using crazy textbooks and curricula, I recommend "The Complete Musician" (Laitz). It's a really great overview of tonal theory. It is very explicit about the kinds of music that work well in the theory, and even discusses how and why some pieces step outside the theory.

    Nothing has really changed [about textbooks] in 300 years, even though music has changed quite a lot. […] [Rimsky-Korsakov] might as well be explaining [any of these modern textbooks].

    But people still play Bach. People still play Mozart. The theory explaining 300-year-old music is still useful if you're playing 300-year-old music.

    Those textbooks are explicitly about 300-year-old music. That is why they have 300-year-old examples and are called "tonal harmony" and "voice leading".

    Here it is in the excerpt of the AP Music Theory catalog he put on screen: "Realizing figured bass tests students' abilities to identify and spell triads and seventh chords, recognize their appropriate inversions based on figures, and to use the figures to compose in a four-part texture using principles of part-writing of the Common practice era." This is explicitly about 17th- and 18th-century European music.

    Let's say that you were enrolled in AP Spanish, and the way that you were taught Spanish in this course is by studying 300-year-old Spanish grammar.

    This is a broken analogy. But I appreciate that he used "grammar".

    Did you recognize the Mozart piece being played in the background of the introduction?

    Now which 18th-century poems would you recognize?

    People are loathe to admit that any culture with a music, which is every culture, has not only a rich musical tradition, but a rich music theoretical tradition.

    We are back to a theoretical scenario where someone is applying Western tonal theory to non-Western music. Besides this video, have you listened to much North Indian music recently? Any Javanese in your Spotify? (Find some Javanese music for your Spotify and get ready to bop.)

    Now how many clunky articles have you seen explaining those kinds of music with "leading tones" and "applied dominants"?

    The reason you don't see that is because it doesn't work. You can't do it, even ineptly.

    Anuja Kamat is a young singer that has a fantastic YouTube channel that goes over the basics of North Indian classical music.

    I am so glad he linked to this, I have something to binge.

    What we've done is we've taken musical examples that represent, probably, not even .1% of the world's music. We have claimed that it is Music Theory — not Western, not White music theory, Music Theory — for music, for the world.

    I truly don't understand who "we" is here. I'll come back to this.

    Since jazz harmony is largely tonal, as well as a lot of European classical music, there is no reason why you couldn't simply adopt their systems to look at the music of Chopin.

    I would be very excited to see that video. I am sure it would be very interesting and I would learn a lot.

    Classical tonal theory developed out of the tradition including Chopin. It was used to describe Chopin and his immediate predecessors and contemporaries. It has been refined to do that for a while. It would be more useful to use than jazz theory because it was designed for his music.

    We've only seen music from this angle, and it's been a white and male angle.

    This is true and another real problem. In exactly the same way that "white" dominates classical music, so does "male".

    Composer-theorist Milton Babbitt would try and make testable statements about musical compositions.

    This is true and irrelevant. Babbitt's work is not in the same tradition as classical theory, so it doesn't belong here. Listen to Philomel and then decide whether you would study it using the same tools as for Beethoven. There is a reason that Babbitt doesn't show up in introductory tonal theory textbooks.

    The push to make music theory more and more objective had the effect of erasing any trace that it ever had a white European cultural perspective.

    This is an awesome thesis and I wish Neely had rewritten the video around it.

    There are so many irrelevant details obscuring this point that I truly can't believe that this point is why he published the video.

    [A bunch of racist garbage. Prejudice against Black Americans in 1920 and 2020.]

    Much to my disappointment, there are still people in music theory who are white supremacist-adjacent. They still believe it. They just know they can't say it.

    […]

    [The Lady Gaga article.]

    You don't have to look very far for evidence of white supremacy in music theory.

    I believe this is true. Old isolated institutions carry this stuff around like a Walkman and it's really hard to stamp out.

    I also believe that it's possible to write the Gaga article out of ignorance and not arrogance. Even with the supremacist verbiage.

    But these are wildly different contexts: academic music theory and a Slate contributor. I'll come back to this.

    [Heinrich Schenker was an awful person.]

    What a bastard.

    This might be different in academic music theory, but among performing musicians no one has ever brought up Schenkerian analysis. But we talk about tonal structures and whatever all the time. Tonal theory is the spoken language of classical music — it is grammar.

    In the United States, if you want to get a graduate degree in music theory, you've got to study the theories of Heinrich Schenker.

    […]

    When you watch these videos, though, you start to realize that the concept of figured bass is absolutely essential in understanding Schenkerian analysis, as well as the idea of continuo.

    It becomes clear why there is figured bass everywhere in all of our music theory textbooks: it's because it's all a system designed to teach Schenkerian ideas from the ground up.

    I strongly dispute this point. As I just mentioned, performing classical musicians don't use Schenkerian analysis, because it is not useful day to day. As far as I know, classical music theory already strongly resembled what we have today before Schenker came along and white supremacy'd it up. Like, he's known for the Three Blind Mice thing and long swoopy lines because that's what he invented. Not the other stuff.

    Also, I think the first claim is wrong. I checked all of the academic requirements at all of the universities he showed on screen, and I didn't see Schenkerian analysis anywhere. It is only an elective course in their academic catalogs. (It might be a prerequisite for something but that's unlikely and I'm not going to do that work.) Even when you study graduate music theory, you still don't have to take Schenkerian analysis.

    Here's why I'm writing so much about this. I think that, whatever the point of this video is supposed to be, it seems to revolve around the idea that Schenker's ideology or theory is at the heart of music theory as it is currently taught, whether at graduate institutions or earlier. And I just don't think that's true.

    And I feel petty for saying this, but I don't think Neely has the credentials to represent this point at the level of subtlety that's necessary for this to hold together. Schenkerian analysis is explicitly the study of "Western classical music", as Neely notes. Neely holds (very impressive) degrees in jazz composition.

    [The author of this here music theory textbook is a Nazi apologist.]

    "Music theory's intellectual framework is built on Germany's cultural struggle of the 1930s."

    [The Journal of Schenkerian Studies at the University of North Texas published a bunch of racist garbage.]

    No, really, music theory is really racist.

    LEST I SOUND LIKE I AGREE WITH SCHENKER LET ME ASSURE YOU, DEAR READER, THAT I DO NOT.

    Let me also assure you, dear reader, that we know that this is a wildly offensive and extreme minority opinion. How do we know this? There were a bajillion signatories on that open letter condemning that drivel. Graduate students at the University condemned it. The Society for Music Theory condemned it. This is not a popular position. It's awesome that Ewell flushed out a few rats.

    The unfortunate side effect of the cartoonish levels of racism coming out of North Texas this month is that this whole thing has turned into a referendum on Heinrich Schenker.

    I guess Schenker wasn't the main point in an earlier iteration of this video.

    I didn't learn the basics of Ottoman or North Indian or Japanese or African music theory as a foil to Western theory.

    I would also wager that Neely didn't learn any Ottoman or "African" music either. To continue the analogy, why would you learn Hindi grammar if you weren't learning any Hindi or studying linguistics itself?

    I don't imagine my [jazz and classical] teachers were explicitly white supremacist in their view of music theory, but that doesn't mean that the system itself that they had to work with wasn't structurally biased towards the harmonic style of 18th-century European musicians.

    THERE'S the gem coming out of this video. Framed right, from Neely's own perspective, a dash of race theory, subtle yet manageable. This is the video he should have made.


    Conclusion

    I think I've covered the details of this video pretty well. So now I'm going to approach it as a whole.

    Who is supposed to be reading about music theory and be better informed by this video?

    Professional classical musicians or ones in post-secondary education? I've explained why I think tonal theory is necessary for these people, and talked about some important weaknesses in the video.

    Young musicians, like people taking piano lessons or singing in choirs? Sure, I can see some misguided folks trying and failing to apply Mozart to the Beatles, and concluding that Mozart is better. I'm cautious about this because if a choir child is singing Handel it would be really good if they were learning basic tonal theory. But there's something there.

    Layfolk? (😉) This makes the most sense to me. You see stuff like the Gaga article all the time from people who have learned a few concepts and want to apply them in public. It absolutely makes sense to be aware of when it's morally questionable to apply tonal theory and compare things to Mozart. On the other hand, with that in mind, it makes sense to compare a LOT of things to Mozart because that's really interesting.

    In any case, the framing of the video (Music Theory and White Supremacy) is a REALLY questionable way of delivering that. If you link in academic classical music theory you're just muddying the point.

    Who is supposed to be doing the theory that propogates this ideology?

    Academic theorists focusing on classical music? If they're studying classical music, they should use the theory designed for it.

    Academic theorists with any other kinds of music? They're not using tonal theory.

    Professional classical musicians? The theory is useful.

    Professional musicians of any other kind? Depending on how related their music is to classical music, it might actually be useful to them. They probably have some experience in another theory anyway, as Neely explains that he does. Where is tonal theory insufficient or (worse) misleading? That's a good video.

    Anyone else? (Anyone without a lot of experience?) I see how this could be a useful PSA about why deadmau5 doesn't care about tonal music per se (although you might wonder how classical influences appear in his work by osmosis — that's a good video). But this video seems to be about something else.

    I actually think it's quite important how people generally are applying tonal theory, and the contexts they read about it in. Evidently, plenty of people think of "music theory" as both "the first two chapters of a tonal theory textbook" and "the right (only?) way to write any music". But again, this video doesn't really support any alternatives or convincingly problematize that view. Which is a shame, because that's really easy to talk about.

    Videos I would have liked to watch

    • The music theory that most people know of only explains a sliver of classical music
    • Other music traditions you haven't heard of have different theories
    • The popular mystique around "music theory" is way overblown
    • Musicians who haven't consciously imitated classical/jazz music have nevertheless been influenced by it/them
    • The tradition of American music theory, as its influence spread to non-musicians, is deeply rooted in white supremacy
    • The push for "objective" music theory hides roots in and biases for the music of Western Europe
    • Applying tonal theory to jazz is misleading because the fundamentals are different
    • Applying tonal theory to jazz is problematic because the power structures which have benefitted tonal theory at the expense of uniquely American jazz theories reflect the same structures which have denigrated racial identities such as ethnonationalism (NOT CLICKBAIT)

    Pun intended.

    16 votes
    1. krg
      Link Parent
      fuckin' A. I didn't want to get into this, but you nailed it. I think the problem here is that people don't understand what music theory is supposed to be from an academic (descriptive)...

      fuckin' A. I didn't want to get into this, but you nailed it. I think the problem here is that people don't understand what music theory is supposed to be from an academic (descriptive) perspective. Any good music theory program in an academic institution will lay that out. Still Euro-centric, sure, but...if you're in a "western" nation, the musical language of that European past still very much informs the musical language of the present.[0] BUT, that's just music theory 101—merely a prerequisite for those going on to study other aspects of music, like performance. Those going all-in and studying music theory seriously will quickly move past that and they are hardcore nerds about all aspects of music. Indeed, the musical language of the common practice period will probably become old-hat early on. Digesting the musics of the world from various cultures and subcultures won't even be enough, and soon they'll be divining music from sources that weren't ever meant to be very musical! (the professor I learned music theory 101 stuff from did a paper on early video game system's audio hardware and the "music" it produced (not from composed music, but like sound-effects and stuff)).

      Yea, so the issue I think is with people who've come to see music theory as some sort of prescriptive thing and who have learned it auto-didactically from various Youtube sources/forums/subreddits/what-have-you who don't understand that idea behind music theory is poking around at existing music to try to come up with terms for how it's working. Which makes this white supremacist equivalence (and, subsequently, this Youtube video) geared toward them, the neophyte. But it kinda shits on those academic nerds (and I use "nerds" with love) who thrive on all types of music and are EXCITED by new things..


      0 : though, these days with the impending monoculture, much more of the worlds' music has made its way into Western production. I'm not sure what the current state of music theory pedagogy is like, but rather than giving token appreciation in the form of an elective "World Music" course, more theoretical frameworks ought to be introduced as a requirement.

      5 votes
  2. [8]
    Tygrak
    Link
    So I watched the video, it was pretty good, I always like Adam Neely. It felt a bit too drawn out to me - at least to me it feels like it could have been 20 minutes shorter. My thoughts on the...

    So I watched the video, it was pretty good, I always like Adam Neely. It felt a bit too drawn out to me - at least to me it feels like it could have been 20 minutes shorter.

    My thoughts on the actual subject. I am not really sure if saying that music theory is racist is too useful. It definitely makes for a great clickbait title. I think the joke Adam used at the start of the video captures what's actually the problem with music theory. Replace "music theory" with "the harmonic style of 18th century European musicians". That's it. That means that people who study music theory study the theory of classical music... which I think most people understand. And I agree that it's stupid. Because of course some parts of that theory don't help explain hip hop, jazz or rock. Does that mean music theory is racist? I guess you can say that if you want to, I am not sure if it's useful though. I don't know. Yeah, some of those quotes Adam has given were definitely highly yikes. But. Music theory doesn't really help you understand death metal, which I am pretty sure most people would consider to be "white" (god that's stupid). I'd instead say that music theory should study rock, jazz, hip hop, pop, r and b, country and everything. And I think that people definitely have developed tools to help understand these genres, these things, and people probably call those tools a part of music theory. Probably mostly not the tools studied at universities around the world, but I've never studied music theory so what do I know. If we used just north Indian music theory to try understand everything it wouldn't work too. I am not even sure where I am going with this now.

    I guess I am just trying to say that I don't think calling things like this racist is very useful. I know it's kind of a trend now, but to me it kind of just feels like click bait. It's controversial, which makes it extremely effective. I don't care at all that calling stuff racist always triggers some actual racists, but that doesn't make it useful. But I am a white guy. I also don't really know any "music theory". I don't really listen to classical music or hip hop. So yeah I am kind of talking about stuff I know nothing about.

    9 votes
    1. [7]
      mat
      Link Parent
      I'm not sure he actually says music theory is racist, does he? He says it's Eurocentric, which is fairly indisputable. He says it's white racially framed, which is sort of inevitable if you...

      I'm not sure he actually says music theory is racist, does he? He says it's Eurocentric, which is fairly indisputable. He says it's white racially framed, which is sort of inevitable if you construct a critical theory based largely on the work of some 18th century white European dudes - and in some theorists cases, if you're a massive racist while you do it. As Neely demonstrates, Western music theory is definitely used to attempt to justify a number of racist beliefs but I'm not sure anyone in the video says that the theory itself is actually racist (I could be wrong but I don't have time to watch it all again).

      Adam has said in the past he's very anti click-bait and his video titles do generally reflect that. His approach is often to pose a question in the title and answer it in the thumbnail although obviously this video has neither snappy question nor simple answer. The video is titled "Music theory and white supremacy" and I would say that's a reasonable summary of the discussion within.

      fwiw with my relatively limited understanding I believe you can analyse death metal in terms of western music theory. It derives from the same European harmonic tradition that theory was created around. But I'm not very sure about that because I never did very much in the way of music theory.

      Oh, and just as an aside, I think if you're going to pick a genre to describe as "white" - and I do agree the idea is dumb - I would probably have chosen Black Metal, ironically enough.

      5 votes
      1. [6]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        He does in the desciption: But it's clearly a bit tongue in cheek. However, that aside, I think the clickbait title does this video a huge disservice. It sets expectations in such a negative way,...

        He does in the desciption:

        Music theorist is kinda racist. Debate me, Ben Shapiro’s MUSIC THEORIST father who went to music school.

        But it's clearly a bit tongue in cheek. However, that aside, I think the clickbait title does this video a huge disservice. It sets expectations in such a negative way, by outright referring to "white supremacy", that even though he gets into the more nuanced arguments about music theory and its history, all that will likely get lost and ignored just because of the title alone.

        6 votes
        1. tindall
          Link Parent
          I don't think this is really fair. One of his major points is that the mode of analysis taught in the majority of music schools is explicitly white supremacist, not in the sense of marching around...

          It sets expectations in such a negative way, by outright referring to "white supremacy", that even though he gets into the more nuanced arguments about music theory and its history, all that will likely get lost and ignored just because of the title alone.

          I don't think this is really fair. One of his major points is that the mode of analysis taught in the majority of music schools is explicitly white supremacist, not in the sense of marching around with torches but in the literal sense; it was created as a way to understand what was, to Heinrich Schenker, the self-evident fact that the music of white, specifically Western European, men was superior to all other music. Neely also points out that, when music theory curricula are shaped by women as in the Soviet Union, that shaping has a similar historical effect, carrying a large female presence forward even when there is no central planning to dictate who teaches music and who does not.

          The argument here really is that music theory as taught in the West is based on the idea that white culture, in this case specifically music, is better than other kinds, with the implication that white people are inherently better.

          6 votes
        2. [4]
          mat
          Link Parent
          Ah, fair enough. I rarely see Youtube descriptions unless I explicitly scroll to look at them - I have an auto-cinema-mode browser plugin that maximises the video to fit my viewport. I don't think...

          Ah, fair enough. I rarely see Youtube descriptions unless I explicitly scroll to look at them - I have an auto-cinema-mode browser plugin that maximises the video to fit my viewport.

          I don't think the title particularly reads all that clickbaity myself. The video is about music theory and white supremacy. But on the other hand, I can see where you're coming from. Hopefully anyone who bothers sitting though 44+ minutes of reasonably well argued video essay will be able to get past the title.

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            IMO it's a clickbait title because what he is really talking about is the predominance of Western/European influence on culture, specifically as it relates to music and formal music theory......

            IMO it's a clickbait title because what he is really talking about is the predominance of Western/European influence on culture, specifically as it relates to music and formal music theory... "white supremacy" has a completely different meaning than the two words independent definitions would imply, and I doubt he is ignorant of that.

            7 votes
            1. mat
              Link Parent
              15 Shocking Facts About European Tonal Composition That Will Blow Your Mind I think in this case it's a fairly fine line and I can see arguments for clickbait and not clickbait. We come down on...

              15 Shocking Facts About European Tonal Composition That Will Blow Your Mind

              I think in this case it's a fairly fine line and I can see arguments for clickbait and not clickbait. We come down on different sides but that's OK.

              4 votes
            2. moonbathers
              Link Parent
              I do think the focus on only a specific type of music written by a handful of people is kind of passive white supremacy, particularly when it's extended to "these people are objectively the best...

              I do think the focus on only a specific type of music written by a handful of people is kind of passive white supremacy, particularly when it's extended to "these people are objectively the best and everything else objectively isn't music". Certainly not as harmful as active white supremacy, but I could also see "Music Theory is Eurocentric and it shouldn't be" being a better title, or something like that.

              3 votes
  3. moonbathers
    Link
    This was really satisfying to watch, thank you. I always try to frame things in ways like "this sort of scale is commonly used in Western music" and already knew that a lot of music discussion is...

    This was really satisfying to watch, thank you. I always try to frame things in ways like "this sort of scale is commonly used in Western music" and already knew that a lot of music discussion is kind of white/Euro-centric, but this video goes beyond that and does a great job of explaining it. I have never liked the snobbery that people sometimes have about "white" music like classical/baroque/etc and "black" music like rap and hip-hop and now I can understand that and counteract it a bit better.

    6 votes
  4. mat
    Link
    Adam Neely makes a strong case that Western music theory is inherently Eurocentric and structurally white racially framed. It's a long watch but worth it, and made me think a lot about how we...

    Adam Neely makes a strong case that Western music theory is inherently Eurocentric and structurally white racially framed. It's a long watch but worth it, and made me think a lot about how we interpret creative works through a eurocentric (if not outright racist) lens.

    5 votes
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    1. [3]
      tindall
      Link Parent
      How do you mean "grifty"?

      How do you mean "grifty"?

      5 votes
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        1. moonbathers
          Link Parent
          But it's also not really relevant to most modern music. Like he says in the video, it's like learning 300-year-old Spanish instead of modern Spanish. I imagine there are lots of patterns and...

          Basically, his framing of a lot of topics seemed really uncharitable and disingenuous, starting from the beginning when he replaced "music theory" in articles with "the harmonic style of 18th century european musicians." Ironically, by writing it out like that, he helped argue in favor of referring to the most known form of music theory within a society by the shorthand of "music theory," or even just "theory." At the end of the day, you need to start somewhere when learning music, so it isn't surprising that music exams that are based on what Americans learn in high school are limited in scope. It makes sense and is probably for the best to have people begin with THE MOST KNOWN FORM OF MUSIC THEORY IN A PARTICULAR SOCIETY. For the same reason that schools in America aren't going to teach Russian instead of English or Spanish as the main language, and I'd imagine most schools in Japan don't start kids out learning Russian for similar reasons

          But it's also not really relevant to most modern music. Like he says in the video, it's like learning 300-year-old Spanish instead of modern Spanish. I imagine there are lots of patterns and things used in modern music that weren't used back then.

          4 votes
        2. tindall
          Link Parent
          He actually states and engages with this in the video quite thoroughly, by demonstrating non-Western musical analysis techniques and using them to analyse Western music. One of Neely's major...

          At the end of the day, you need to start somewhere when learning music

          He actually states and engages with this in the video quite thoroughly, by demonstrating non-Western musical analysis techniques and using them to analyse Western music.

          For the same reason that schools in America aren't going to teach Russian instead of English or Spanish as the main language, and I'd imagine most schools in Japan don't start kids out learning Russian for similar reasons.

          One of Neely's major points is that, during the 1950s and 1960s, a lot of academics espoused the idea that Western music theory was a universal language. This is a direct engagement with this point, too - nobody is arguing that French, or German, or Japanese is a universal language, but serious music theoreticians did - and do - argue that the Western music theory could encompass and understand all music.

          I'll provide some from the two (2) music classes

          Okay, I'm sorry, but if you're going to criticize him for linking his Patreon (you know, the way the dude pays his bills) then I get to criticize you for this. Why are you talking this way? It's weird.

          It seems like your basic argument here is that Neely is essentially trying to stir up controversy to profit from the current climate of anti-racism. Personally, I don't think that's a fair criticism, since he's been making videos about similar topics for a long time. For example, he's been featured on Sound Field discussing the common roots of jazz and classical music and the historical conditions that lead them to be split apart (which is mostly because of racism), and he talks a ton about how he didn't learn about concepts more common to non-Western music like microtonality and polyrhythms in school. Finally, this video was essentially a platform for a professor who studies this topic specifically, so it's not as if he just pulled it out of his ass.

          3 votes