Online Journal

I was astounded the other week when, after sending out the usual pre-release letter we mail to the regular subscribers of's Online Journal, which advertised that in this month's issue we would be running interviews with two jazz musicians, Dave Brubeck and Taylor Eigsti, I received an email from one reader who stated, "if your publication didn't concentrate so much on white musicians who are learning a black art, then I might be interested." Quite a cutting and, in this day and age, unnecessary comment on two fronts: first and foremost, it is inaccurate; more than that, however, it suggests that music, somehow, is still being seen as the property of certain sections of society and is not for the likes of others. Recently, we have all seen what ultimately can happen when cultures become segregated, when unrest of the like seen in Bradford and Leeds becomes the most logical conclusion. Why? Because people cannot sit down and realise that cultural diversity makes life richer and not poorer, and that we can all learn from each other. Do we still have the attitude that the likes of Mozart, Mahler and Brahms belong only to the monied white classes? If so, then the work done by countless musicians worldwide in making their art appeal to as wide an audience as possible counts for absolutely nothing. On the same front, perhaps we should not enjoy listening to pop music, especially when it comes from Caucasian musicians, since its roots are inexorably African; similarly, it might also be a good idea to ban the work of Steve Reich, since his early pieces are influenced by Ghanaian music, and burn Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie because it has a Sanskrit title and uses Indian rhythms. Above all, perhaps we should ask Yo-Yo Ma to refrain from playing Bach cello suites, Wayne Marshall from Messiaen and Jessie Norman from singing Wagner.

No, I'm sorry, music belongs to me. I don't care what it is, or where it's from, it's mine and I will do with it what I want. As a musician, I will play it; as a critic, I will praise it; as a writer, I will write about it; and as a teacher, I will teach it. No amount of bullying from the likes of those whose churlish beliefs are, in themselves, tantamount to inverted racism will take it away from me. And it shouldn't from you either.

John Woodford  

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