When you think of racial scandals, music theory doesn’t automatically spring to mind. It did on Tuesday, when University of North Texas College of Music doctoral student and teaching fellow Rachel Gain took to Twitter to denounce a recent edition of the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, an in-house publication of the college’s Center for Schenkerian Studies.
To sum up the dust-up, the center devoted most of a recent journal to rebuttals to Philip Ewell, a cellist and music theorist who presented a paper at the 2019 Society for Music Theory plenary. The Hunter College professor’s paper criticized music theorist Heinrich Schenker as a racist German nationalist whose views on race informed the development of his music theory analysis. Journal contributors insisted Schenker was and remains a complex figure, and that his work still has merit for classical musicians and fans.
Gain’s tweets condemn the Journal of Schenkerian Studies for devoting so many pages to rebuttals to Ewell, including one anonymous submission. Gain also alleged that the journal doesn’t meet standards for a peer-reviewed publication, and asked that UNT investigate and potentially fire Timothy Jackson, who heads the center. Gain also said the college has a reputation for a toxic culture in terms of race and gender.
Ewell told his Twitter followers that the center didn’t notify him of the rebuttals or invite him to respond. He canceled a planned 2021 visit to UNT, writing, “I can’t condone the virulent anti-black racism, directed squarely at me, that appeared in the recent issue of your Journal of Schenkerian Studies.”
The Society for Music Theory’s executive board denounced the publication in a tweet.
A statement from the executive board "condemns the anti-Black statements and personal ad hominem attacks on Philip Ewell" in the recent issue of Journal of Schenkerian Studies. This was sent this evening to the SMT-Announce listserv. pic.twitter.com/tv70ufZcq4— Society for Music Theory (@SMT_musictheory) July 28, 2020
When Denton residents remember Hugh Nini, they probably recall his award-winning local production of The Nutcracker by the company he started, the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, which stayed here in Denton when Nini moved to New York City with his husband, Neal Treadwell.
The couple are the subject of an eight-minute documentary, “Loving,” which tells the story of their collection of historical portraits of gay men embracing their lovers before it was legal for them to be together. Nini owned and ran Denton Ballet Academy in Denton for years, but mostly lived in Dallas. That’s where the married couple found their first sepia photograph of two men, who could easily be mistaken for relatives if you miss the affection and closeness captured on film. Today, Nini and Treadwell have more than 2,000 photographs of gay men, pictured as couples exchanging furtive looks, holding hands or clasping each other. It’s the sort of short film that would be just perfect for Thin Line, Denton’s documentary film, photography and music festival.
In case you missed it: Denton musician Katina Stone-Butler appeared on NBC last week. NBC reporter Diane Zoga interviewed her about Denton’s protests for racial justice.
Denton musician Paul Slavens built a patio in his backyard, and now we feel a little on the unproductive side. Enjoy the new outdoor living, Mr. Slavens.
If you haven’t been living with a clenched jaw already, UNT’s Scott Belshaw has a book about the dark web due out soon. Belshaw, a criminal justice professor, has seen some things. They should make for good reading for the Investigation Discovery crowd.
“Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”
— Robert Heinlein, science-fiction writer