racist music theory and Langston Hughes on my mind


Music Theory’s White Racial Frame – Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory by Phil Ewell

So my friend, Jordan VanHemert put this link up on Facebook a while back. At the time, I glanced over it and found it confusing and not terribly coherent. Recently, I went back and tried to look at it more closely.  I still had difficulty with some of Ewell’s contentions.

I don’t disagree that there a white racist bias in hiring practices. But for me, music theory is the explanation of a musical style works.

One of the key things I’ve come to realize is how important maintaining the myth of race and gender neutrality is to music theory. In fact, once this neutrality is exposed as fallacious, the white-racial and male-gender frames—which I sometimes conflate to the “white-male” frame in this and future blog posts—of music theory will be in serious jeopardy, so it makes perfect sense that music theory’s white-male frame works relentlessly to keep in place the idea that what we do “has nothing to do with race or gender.”


It’s hard for me to understand how Ewell is using the phrase, “music theory,” in this assertion. I’m curious how analyzing a style of music is racist. Later Ewell points out the biases of white male theorists like Schenker. Yes, these idiots were racists. But what exactly is racist about Schenderian analysis? I don’t get it.

I found what looks like a better put together article by Ewell: Music Theory and the White Racial Frame published in June of  last year. I’m hoping it will explain this stuff more clearly to me than his blog posts linked above or the video of his talk on which they are based.

It troubles me that Ewell cites Kendri whom I find eloquent and coherent about racism and antiracism. But anyway, I’m working on understanding this better.

On a not unrelated note, I decided that I wanted to have a definitive copy of Langston Hughes’ poetry. Today I ordered the three volumes of his works in which this is contained. I was surprised that I only owned a couple books by him and not one collection of his poetry.

Amazon.com: The Poems: 1921-1940 (The Collected Works of Langston ...

The Poems: 1941-1950 by Langston Hughes


The Poems: 1951-1967 by Langston Hughes


Summit on Race and Inclusion – Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity 

Eileen and I planning on attending this virtual conference.

Love for My People by Leah Ward Sears | Poetry Magazin

This is a cool article in the June Poetry Magazine. Sears is a distinguished American jurist and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. This article is about poems she loves.

For My People by Margaret Walker | Poetry Magazine

I look at the world by Langston Hughes | Poetry Magazine

These are the two poems Sears mentions.

NYTimes: When James Baldwin and Langston Hughes Reviewed Each Other

This is cool. You can see why Hughes is on my mind.

a poem and some books


rocky and bullwinkle | Last Notes From a Tumbleweed Bastard

I finished writing this poem today. I’m living in a house with people who do not read that much poetry. So, you, dear reader, and the internet get to be the audience. Skip at will.


My ghost is slipped inside you.
Its story does not change.
Old solid sighs, cold clotted cloth,
Tales tagged in bone and flesh.

Old voices sing inside me
They teach me who I am.
They bang my brain, beat my blood,
With wonder, words, and song.

Eileen seemed surprised I was writing a poem. I think I do write a poem once or twice a year. I usually post them here. Maybe I should have a page of them online. Maybe not.

Masha Gessen on Trump's 'Autocratic Attempt' on America | The Nation

I got a little crazy today and sent copies of Masha Gessen’s Surviving Autocracy to a bunch of family members. I will have to let them know I mailed copies to them since there were no gift options for it on Amazon. So they will just get a book out of the blue. I already told Jen I mailed her a copy in an unrelated email (she is honorary fam). I have an appointment to chat with Mark in a bit and I will tell him then. I’ll email the others.

Humankind: A Hopeful History - Kindle edition by Bregman, Rutger ...

This book came in the mail. It goes on the to read stack. I did finish Klein’s Why We’re Polarized. There were some interesting parts, but his mind and ideas do not impress me like Gessen does. I am hopeful about Rutger Bregman (above)

NYTimes: Vietnamese Lives, American Imperialist Views, Even in ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Spike Lee’s movie is available on Netflix. I have watched it. I like Lee’s work but thought this was a mixed bag. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s review makes  some salient critiques. One of them is that while people who are not African American do not get to use the word “nigger” lightly, Lee not being Vietnamese American doesn’t get to use the word “gook”. I do admire Nguyen’s work.

“White Noise,” by Emma Cline | The New Yorker

I’ve been working my way through the New Yorker Summer fiction issue. This is a bitter little tale. Hint: The main character, Harvey, fits Harvey Weinstein. And the stolen title is significant and totally intentional.

Emma Cline on Fictionalizing a #MeToo Villain | The New Yorker

I went looking for this article because at the bottom of the last page of short story it said: “NEWYORKER.COM Emma Cline on fictionalizing odious men,” which is a better description of the story.