Cancel culture comes for Beethoven

by WorldTribune Staff, September 18, 2020

In an op-ed for, musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, stars of the “Switched on Pop” podcast produced in association with the New York Philharmonic, blame the music of Ludwig van Beethoven for what they say is an elitist classical culture that bolsters the rule of white males and suppresses the voices of women, blacks and the LGBTQ community, a columnist noted.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The assault on Beethoven is yet more proof that anything can be the target of cancel culture, Jonathan S. Tobin, editor in chief of, wrote for the New York Post on Sept. 17.

“If there’s anything we should have learned from months of ‘mostly peaceful’ Black Lives Matter street protests, statue toppling and online mobs seeking to silence anyone who dissents against leftist narratives about ‘racism,’ it’s that no one, living or dead, is safe from the attentions of woke fascists,” Tobin wrote.

“Beethoven’s work is not only at the core of the standard repertory of classical music; some of his most popular works have also become part of popular culture, their melodies recognizable even to those who’ve never heard an orchestral concert,” Tobin noted.

“For the last 200 years, Beethoven’s compositions have also been symbols of the struggle for freedom against tyranny. The ‘Ode to Joy’ from the conclusion to his Ninth Symphony remains the definitive anthem of universal brotherhood. It is no coincidence that the opening notes of his Fifth Symphony — whose rhythmic pattern duplicates the Morse Code notation for the letter ‘V’ as in ‘V for Victory’ — were used by the BBC for broadcasts to occupied Europe during the Second World War.”

But work social justice warriors have ascribed new, darker meaning to Beethoven’s music, calling it a “soundtrack” for “white privilege.”

Tobin noted that Black Lives Matter has “inspired other assaults on the music world, such as New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini’s demand for racial quotas in orchestral hiring that would increase the number of black performers but also limit opportunities for Asians, who are disproportionately overrepresented among modern musicians. Elsewhere, the late opera star Richard Tucker’s son David was pushed out of a family foundation that aided young singers, simply because he criticized BLM rioters and praised President Trump.”

The woke activists “haven’t noticed that orch­estras and opera companies have spent the last generation falling over themselves trying to promote music written by black, Hispanic and female composers,” Tobin noted. “Some of this new music is good; a lot isn’t. But if audiences still prefer Beethoven, it’s not because they’re embracing a symbol of white supremacy.”

The leftist mob’s attempt to cancel Beethoven “ought to be a wake-up call for the music world and even those who aren’t classical fans: The war on Western civilization will leave nothing sacred untouched. If Beethoven can be canceled, nothing is safe,” Tobin concluded.

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