Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) on Rhythm and Race, in 1963 'Stereo Review' Interview

[The Best of Herbert von Karajan; Deutsche Grammophon 349302 (2004)]

This year is the Centenary of the birth of the renowned Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989). Today AfriClassical received an E-mail from Bob Shingleton of the well-known classical music blog based in the U.K., “On An Overgrown Path”: Bill, Karajan on black musicians is interesting - http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/09/karajan-on-boulez-stockhausen-and.html
Regards, Bob”. In a Sept. 30 post entitled “Karajan on the music of today,” the blog reproduces a 1963 interview of the conductor by Herbert Pendergast, in Stereo Review. The clipping from the publication is not entirely legible, but Bob Shingleton quotes an exchange in which Herbert von Karajan laments what he sees as the lack of natural rhythm in musicians of European descent. In a sense this clipping from 45 years ago is a postcard from another era, one in which racial stereotypes were widely accepted.


1 comment:

David said...

Instead of deriding Karajan's comment as "stereotypical," why not remember that he was one of the world's great musicians and consider the possibility that he might have had something to teach you - and was in his comment honestly stating an observation of his for your own edification?

If a million people, including the world's greatest minds and talents, state that blacks often have a certain special and admirable talent, on what authority do you dismiss their observations out of hand? A bogus "moral" authority unrooted in observation and fact, coming mostly from a desire to jockey among people who compete for social status by expressing indignation?

I suppose you would shut Karajan up by law on this point were he alive today, because, after all, being the superior person you are (even in musical matters), you have the right to determine what is true and untrue a priori and what great musicians may or may not express or observe without your approval and cesure.

If "morality" has not the power to crush the freedom of factual observation, then what good is it, anyway, right?