Playing Beethoven in the Black Lives Matter era

Posted on: June 26, 2018

“Over the course of my life I have learned that to be black and a classical musician is to be considered a contradiction,” writes Kira Thurman, a pianist and historian of black classical musicians, in the June issue of The Point. “After hearing that I was a music major, a TSA agent asked me if I was studying jazz…. After I gushed about Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, someone once told me that I wasn’t ‘really black.’ All too often, black artistic activities can only be recognized in ‘black’ arts. One reason it is difficult to talk about black classical musicians is because people assume they are elitist, as though to love Haydn piano sonatas—as I do—is somehow to betray black cultures … What is absent from conversations on black experiences in classical music and what is grossly underestimated in our debates is classical music’s shocking power of aesthetic pleasure…. I do not believe that the answer to critics’ questioning of blackness and classical music is for black people to stop playing it…. Our performances and our musical experiences challenge the bounds of blackness and whiteness and the histories of racial oppression that have tried to culturally and musically determine both.”

Posted June 26, 2018