house, burning, africa

Monday round-up

Well, folks, it's Monday. Some of us are recovering from a weekend of well-deserved debauchery. Some of us resentfully locked ourselves in our offices and worked all weekend. Some of us did neither and felt vaguely guilty about it. And some of us—bless their/our souls—were still having it out on the pages of Brown AMS Avenger.

A lot has happened since last Thursday, too.

  • The president of the AMS, Ellen T. Harris, sent out an official letter to the membership that struck a conciliatory tone while managing to frame the whole thing as a "learning moment". We can only hope so.

  • William Cheng picked up the Junior Scholar of Color banner and wrote "Musicology, Freedom, and the uses of Anger" in MN as a response that finally addressed the exclusion of untenured brown voices in this debate (hello! over here!). We are immensely grateful for the risk he has taken by taking a public stand. We appreciate that he has—at least indirectly—acknowledged our anger and not dismissed it as hysterical (sic), counter-productive, futile, feigned, irrational, or whatever. We're glad for the small victory of having at least one of our voices published in the same venue. It's not nearly enough, but it's something.

  • Bonnie Gordon, a musicologist with extensive experience doing publicly-engaged musicology among vulnerable populations, wrote another response, entitled "The Perils of Public Musicology." After a perfunctory opening gesture in the direction of tone-policing, the rest of her text presents in some detail the positive and negative "learning moments" of doing public musicology with the disempowered and racially-marginalized, and in the process she offers a model of what it means to do so thoughtfully, humbly, and with consideration for perspectives she can never fully know. We can only imagine how differently the original MN article would've read, if the editor had sent it to Bonnie for some feedback.

  • In the comments on our first post here, there's talk of a gathering of scholars of color and their allies at the meeting of the Society for American Music, where plots will be hatched, spleens will be vented, and snark will be snarked over drinks. We will be among you, in one form or another. If we hear of any further details, they'll be posted here (and folks: feel free to post those details in the comments here! We'll amplify and re-post them).

  • And last but not least: we have our own troll! As any woman or POC who has ever gained visibility on the internet will tell you: you know you've 'made it' when the trolls show up. We're enough of a threat to warrant our very own rhetorical garden gnome. (P.S. Don't feed it, tho.)

house, burning, africa

The New Musicology, Redux

Both here and on social media, many of us have been asking ourselves, "Are we seriously having this discussion in 20-freakin'-16?" followed soon after by, "Wait, didn't we already have this 'learning experience,' like, 20 years ago?" Most of us brown musicologists have read the "New Musicology" during our graduate studies as a historical discourse—musicology's localized, belated version of the "culture wars". And, since the dust seemed to have settled and more brown folk were making their way into the discipline, we assumed that everyone had gotten the point about how power and bigotry persist under the surface of "refined" and "civilized" culture.

Boy, were we wrong.

We find ourselves teleported (or chrono-ported?) back to the mid-1990s, and the same chauvanistic, elitist, genteel bigotry is alive and well, oozing out from underneath just-so stories about the edifying virtues of 'good' music. Our sister-frenemy discipline, ethnomusicology, hasn't resolved its own race/gender/sexuality/disability problem, but at least they're not still arguing about whether the problem even exists.

Gah. We need to lie down for a minute. We can't even right now with this.

OK, so, back in the comments section of our inaugural rant-post, some solutions have been brewing to address this apparent chronological regression. Here's one of them:

"To echo the many people who are asking why we need to rehash these issues again and again: here is a preliminary bibliography of debates and scholarship from musicology and ethnomusicology. Feel free to add, edit, and share. This could also be a place to list ideas more specifically for "developing classroom interventions.""

GoogleDoc Of Fights We Done Already Had, Dangit:
house, burning, africa

After all… (a call for memes)

After these past few days, reading toxic defenses of unexamined racial privilege, we need some comic relief. We also desperately need satire. Piles and piles of satire.

We would like to invite our AMS bretheren to submit (i.e., post in the comments) GIFs, image macros, memes, etc. that highlight the absurdity of what we've been witnessing within the Society around race and privilege. Have an idea for a meme? Here's where to get started:

And just to get the ball rolling, we present our profile picture, in full (references: #OscarsSoWhite, Meryl Streep):
house, burning, africa



The default setting for this Journal prevented anonymous postings, but that restriction has now been removed.

Folks who don't feel comfortable posting with their names attached are welcome to post here as a safe space.

From time to time, we'll come by and collate these comments into a refreshed collective voice.

POCs and their allies in the AMS: you're not alone. Come here and find company.
  • Current Mood
house, burning, africa


FOR PUBLIC RECORD, posted (and subsequently deleted multiple times by the moderator) in the comments to a recent post on Musicology Now, the offical blog of the American Musicological Society:

Some suggested reading for both sides of this debate: (on 'white fragility')

Also: we would like to point out that, since this is a public discourse and the comments section of this blog makes it very difficult to protect one's identity, there are many young, untenured scholars—people of color and white allies alike—who feel too professionally vulnerable to intervene. Their outrage is invisible, and this only perpetuates structures of oppression in this society.

We are appalled at the original post and shocked to see many senior scholars responding so cluelessly to the debate (and we are grateful to the brave few who have entered into the fray to call out the spectre of white supremacist colonialism that still haunts the academy).

We are embarrassed at how the discipline to which we have devoted most of our productive lives disseminates unexamined bigotry to the world at large.

We are disheartened that the discipline upon which we've built our academic identity is somehow becoming MORE toxic to people of color.

We are infuriated that any complaint we make is met with condescending defensiveness instead of serious listening—let alone respect.

Please note that, in the relative privacy of Facebook group-chats, Whatsapp, and email, we're:

  • mocking these defenses mercilessly

  • venting our frustrations, "three times in a frightening crescendo."

  • commiserating about the burden of having to not only suffer racial oppression, but to also do the affective labor of making the racially privileged feel better about coming to terms with their complicity in it. Y'all are killing us, here.

  • comparing and compiling strategies for the inevitable "dinner with racist senior scholar at AMS" scenario.

  • learning how to *not* control our unruly brown emotions, but instead to focus and channel them towards change

  • taking names; noting who complains about a 'tempest in a teapot' on social media—and noting who likes them

  • developing classroom interventions

  • plotting, scheming, planning.

This is not our AMS. We can do better.
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    enraged enraged