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Letter to the editor: Music should not be a petty political divider

To the editor:

I should like to clear up a few misconceptions Dr. Joshua Drake from the Center for Visions and Values has about our shared field of music theory in the column "Harvard's music curriculum decision raises Questions," published Aug. 5 in the Stevens County Times.

First, there is the unspoken assumption that "Western Classical" music is inherently superior to other genres and repertoires. I love the Western canon of music. I teach Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Haydn every day. But I also teach Charlie Parker, Patsy Cline, Selena, and Public Enemy. The vast

variety of human musical expression cannot be contained wholly inside one repertoire based on the upper class of one geographic area, and students need to be as comfortable with "Roll Over Beethoven" as they are with Beethoven himself to be effective and successful performers, composers, teachers, and musical citizens.

Second, Dr. Drake attempts to compare this to the elevation of non-scientific ideas in scientific thinking. I don't need to tell you, reader, that the "animism" of which he speaks is a philosophical or theological system, not a scientific system, and therefore a different domain of knowledge. He is muddying the waters to make his point seem more valid than it actually is.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most insidious, Dr. Drake is elevating an aesthetic choice to a moral absolute in the service of advancing a political agenda. I love the discipline of music theory, and I will also admit to being a political creature. However, I cannot in good conscience let this attempt to turn a tool of understanding a central human experience into a weapon in the culture wars go by without rebuttal. Music should transcend petty political division.

J. Wesley ("Wes") Flinn, PhD

Associate Professor of Music

University of Minnesota, Morris