APU Everyday Scholar Podcast

An Overview of Colonialism and its Ties to European Classical Music

Podcast by Dr. Bjorn Mercer, DMA, Department Chair, Communication and World Languages and
Dr. Jennifer Fisch-FergusonFaculty Member, School of Arts, Humanities, and Education

Discover the bond between colonialism and the popularity of classical music. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson explains the role colonialism played in the expansion of classical music influences across the globe.

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Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Hello, my name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer and today we’re talking to Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson, faculty in the School of Arts, Humanities, and Education and today our conversation is an introduction to colonialism. Welcome, Jennifer.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Thanks for having me, Bjorn. I’m excited to talk about this topic today, especially with how broad it can be, and hopefully we can take a real quick look through the lens of music and see how it’s affected our listening tastes.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. We’ve talked about colonialism a little before. We’ve talked a lot about it offline, and we’re trying to figure out how can we talk about it without it being politically fraught? If you watch any channels, there’s a lot of positives and there’s a lot of negatives about colonialism, but the reality is that it is a reality. So, when we decided to … let’s talk about music and let’s talk about European classical music and how we see colonialism in that. So, before we get to that, can you explain what the term colonialism is?

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Colonialism is the practice of acquiring most times full political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, exploiting it economically, and then adopting some of the practices from those countries that were settled into common day practice so those who have been taken over are slightly mollified, I guess, is the word I would say with it, but it’s familiar to them so they don’t push back as hard. But the problem is once these things are then adopted and appropriated, people start forgetting where the actual roots lie, where the pure impetus was. With music, that is seen time and time again, all over the world, not one particular region where there is a certain forgetfulness of, well, the music actually started this way here.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Colonialism is … to me, it’s not a difficult concept because, again, it’s just we’re trying to describe reality. So, here’s a side question. What percentage of the world was impacted by colonialism that was thrust upon them by Europeans?

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: You’re asking a writing person to do some hard statistical numbers here, but I’m going to go with the words and say a lot.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: A lot. Exactly.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: There is just a lot of influence and that’s not even something that’s controversial that have people up in the air. It’s just easy to see where different musical influences rise and fall. Then once you get into your style of music that you enjoy, once you dig a little deeper, you start to notice where certain influences and flavors come from.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. As of any conversation about what’s going on today, we have to go in the past to see where things came from. If you just look at different aspects of the world, the British empire controlled a large percentage of the world for a while, and the Spanish empire controlled large sections of the Americas for a while. You go into the Philippines, you go into the Middle East, you go into, obviously, India, you go into Malaysia, you go into all these different places that were colonized by European powers. So much of European culture was brought over into these other countries, countries that have their own distinctive cultures. So that’s part of the reason why we decided on European classical music, because many things, European classical music seems pretty innocuous. It’s just music. But why do we see symphony orchestras all around the world that are based on European models?

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Well, when you have a culture that dominates, that becomes not necessarily the status quo, but it’s what people aspire toward. So, when you’re looking at symphonic music and you’re looking at the variety of instrumentation, the variety of musical notation, how songs crest and swell, how they come back down, you get very used to a particular sound. If this is the sound that is being demanded from your monarchy and your royalty and this is now considered the best music that’s out there, then it becomes sought after. So, when you look at cultures where songs were sung for people to express themselves or to show how they related to each other, like in African tribes, you sing a matrilineal line, most people nowadays, you know yourself, your mother, your grandmother, if you’re lucky, your great grandmother. In certain African tribes, no, you learned your line all the way back, that was done through song.

When you look at Native Americans and how they had a lot of songs to comfort the bereaved or celebrate joyful occasions, you look over in India and you are having songs and dances to ask for rain for crops. It seems a little more basic for the lack of a better term. You don’t have 20 different people on a stage playing different instruments that come together to create this sound. A lot of times music started with the voice or rudimentary instruments. So, I think that’s where European music kind of had that high hat look is like, look at all of these trained people that have come together under the direction of one person to make this beautiful sound come up. That’s something that took work, it’s something that took talent, it’s something that took effort, so people started considering it the style of music that the wealthy had, the more populous had, and that style of music was not accessible to everyone. Still isn’t today.

When you look at music programs that are in the school for the schools around me, the first instrument, and I think it’s by design to get back at parents, but it’s the recorder, which is notoriously hard. I play the woodwinds. I’ve played the flute and piccolo for far more years than I’m going to admit to on this podcast. But I have really good breath control and the recorder is hard for me. It’s a hard instrument. But when we come up through the music in our schools, we have a marching band, we have a symphonic band. We do not have strings. We do not have an orchestra because it’s expensive to put cellos and violins and violas and base and double base into a school. So again, it’s separating not just by culture, but also by financial situations, economics.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah, and the funny thing, I guess you could say the funny thing, but one of the observable realities of, say, classical music, European classical music, is that if you are going to make it as a classical musician, by the time you make it, you’ve already studied seriously for well over a decade. So, it’s one of those things where it’s like say you go to college, you get out of college at 22, if you’re going to make it as a classical musician, that usually means that you started at the minimum at 12 and most likely at eight if you’re a string player or a pianist. So that means that somehow your parents introduced you and had the funds to pay for lessons for a decade plus. So, when we look at European classical music going around the globe, we see this interesting thing where there’s so many different symphony orchestras around the world.

I did a very short list of different ones, but there’s ones in Asia, there’s the Singapore Symphony, the Malaysia Philharmonic, the Thailand Philharmonic. There’s many in China. There’s the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. There’s the State Symphony of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is North Korea. So, there’s all these different cultures that today are not “aligned” with Western Europe, but they still have symphony orchestras. So, there’s this interesting thing about European music that has translated onto different cultures, but then one of the great things about a lot of these cultures is that they’ve made it their own.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Absolutely.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: But if you would’ve looked at classical music, say, 122 years ago, say in the year 1900, the Europeans who had those symphony orchestras, say, in Singapore, they probably would’ve said, “This is the best music in the world, and you need to learn it and you need to do it this way.” That’s where the negative aspects of colonialism come in, where from European classic music, the Europeans would’ve said, “This is the pinnacle and your stuff, we’re just going to brush to the side.”

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Absolutely. I think it comes back to, again, that dominance of, “Well, it’s great that you have your own music, however, you aren’t as educated, you’re not as enlightened, you’re not as skilled, you’re not as talented, so we’re going to show you how to do it correctly.” I think that’s the feeling that tends to come over with a lot of classical music, which I think there’s a slight disconnect because there are plenty of philharmonics and orchestras and I know people who have to play in two or three to actually pay the bills, but there’s still that feeling of superiority. “Here is our music. It doesn’t matter if we’ve based it on four chords or not. It doesn’t matter if we use the same configuration, but here is this music that is superior because we’re telling you it is.” There’s very little exploration as much. It’s coming around where people are now starting to put other cultural elements into some of the music and bringing their own flavor.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh, completely agreed. As a classical musician myself, I will describe myself as a failed classical musician. I don’t say that as a negative. I trained for many years. I was not able to get a full-time gig. Honestly, once I decided not to do music as my full-time gig, my mental health got a lot better, because I didn’t have to struggle. I’ve known people and I was that person who was doing multiple gigs and having to scrape money together. It’s extremely difficult, but there is a certain aspect to culture and being in the U.S., mainly being European culture that kind of percolates throughout most of the “high culture”. Then classical music will be viewed as the best.

Now, when you look at different things and you look at a symphony by Mahler or Bruckner, or you go back to Masses by Palestrina, I mean it’s amazing stuff, but that doesn’t mean that other culture music, like traditional Arabic music or classical Indian music, isn’t equally amazing. It’s just different. Even from my perspective, I wish I would’ve learned the different scales and the different modes used, say, in classical Indian music, because as a trained European classical musician it’s really tough to get an ear for those microtonal scales that are in other cultures.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: I think it’s down to the education too, though. Especially, I think, people look at the music modalities very, very differently. If you come from an oral culture, if you come from a storytelling culture or a culture where chanting is the norm, it sets you up differently to hear different things, to hear different inflections. It’s just talking about languages. K-pop is really big right now in 2022. The first girl band called Black Pink, they are the first Korean group, the first only girl group, the first K-pop group to actually have a number one debut on Spotify. If you listen to their music, is it the same normal pop four chord? Absolutely. But what they have done, and for people who don’t know, Korean and English are very similar tonality wise when you speak the language and you speak the words, the patterns are put together very similarly.

What this group has done with their producers is they have used different tonal sounds in their music to draw listeners in. So, you’re listening to this thing and maybe you don’t understand Korean at all, but you’re listening to their song and it’s really easy to get into. Number one, it’s a structure you understand, and you know how to anticipate. Number two, they have just enough different glottal attacks, way of singing, when they pronounce English words and then slide into Korean words to keep people interested. So, when we look at more classical music and you’re told, “This is the one way, and this is the highbrow way, and this is the educated way, this is the rich way,” it really takes away from some of the more subtle things that different cultures can bring into music.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh, completely agree. That’s where hopefully today, if somebody wants to use European classical music as the foundation of a piece, they can easily overlay any type of music over that with any kind of vocal inflections, any kind of microtonals, any kind of anything and create amazing works. It’s ideal today that European classical music shouldn’t be presented as “the best” because anytime you say the best is just an opinion, anyways. There’s no way to say anything is the best when it comes to art. It is fully subjective and there’s really no scientific way to say that anything is the best when it comes to art or culture actually.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: If people were truly honest with themselves and I do this with my music, because having kids who are interested in music, they always kind of, “Well, what do you think about this?” The one phrase that I have said for a really long time is I like particular songs, not necessarily artist in whole, because you have stuff that’s good, you have stuff that’s bad. But I was extremely musical as a child. I played a lot by ear because earworm is a thing. The music gets into your head and all of a sudden it’s like, “Okay, until I can produce something, I have to work with it.” But fortunately, I had a lot of exposure being in Detroit to a lot of different cultures. So not just African American, not just symphonic, but Canada was right across the way. There’s a lot of cultural influences that you can take on.

Then being a curious person, it’s like, “Okay, well what’s this other style of music?” Some really hit with me. Punjabi music, Bollywood music, absolutely have adored it for decades. Other music didn’t and it wasn’t because it was necessarily bad, but it sounded odd in my ear, so it wasn’t something I’d listened to more than once or twice. But the concept of best tends to be, well, this is popular right now, but how long is it going to be popular? Is it going to be popular forever? Absolutely not. The story with Vivaldi is he wasn’t immensely popular, and he didn’t gain popularity again until a musician tried to forge his music and say, “Look, I found a new Vivaldi piece.” Well, he was found out as a forger and Vivaldi became more popular for the time being, but it doesn’t mean in 10 years he’s still going to be.

We could go back to Pachelbel, we could go back to Mozart or maybe we’re going to start coming to some of the newer, more influential composers of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and 1980s up in that era. It’s always going to rotate. It’s always going to come through. But I think where people are beginning to acquire a more global taste for music is because we’re digital. Before when you have to order records and hopefully nobody got scammed by the record club that had those albums for a penny and then you just are indebted the rest of your life, but because we have streaming music, people have access to a ton of music that they never would have had before.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh, completely. It does make me think of just how much music is out there today, which is absolutely wonderful, and what you’re saying about Vivaldi. Tastes do change. Honestly, in going to broke composers at the time, Bach was not famous at all by the time he died, because he was extremely old fashioned. Bach only became the Bach we know today in the mid-19th century when they started discovering his stuff and then the genius of Bach was discovered, I guess you can say. Mainly with the contrapuntal stuff, his ability to write fugues and 17th, 18th century counterpoint is amazing. But again, even then is Bach the best? Well, no, I mean he’s amazing, but there’s no best or worst and so taste is fickle and if you’re on top today, you’ll be forgotten tomorrow, which is the weird thing about art.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: You brought up a good point about having counter tonalities. When people are learning music early on, I had both of my kids learn music at the age of four and the two instrument options were violin and drums. I have perfect pitch. I can hear a pitch and I note what it is, it sits right in my head, and I decided violins at the age of four and tuning strings was going to be torturous, so I let them bang on things. However, they were not encouraged to play. Explore. So, “here’s this beat, here’s how it goes. Here’s this double beat, here’s how it goes.” I think part of the reason that classical music is pushed up on the upper shelf, it’s a highbrow music, is there are a lot of rules, there’s a lot of regimentation, there’s a lot of practice that goes into it, like you said, to become a professional musician.

Most people do start very, very young and they drive, and they drive, and they drive. But by the time I think classical musicians get up there, the ability to improvise and to play and to take risks has been trained out of you to some extent. I think some people hold onto it and they’re like, “Okay, well, I do my classical gig here, but later I’m going to go kick it with improvisational jazz and just let loose.” But I don’t think everybody has that. So, in terms of being the best and being able to take that award, have that ribbon, I think part of what classical music holds onto is that very rigid structure. It’s very old school. It’s very, “You do it this way or you’re not good enough.”

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: I agree and honestly, this is a great therapy session here, I still have that. It’s very hard for me to improvise. Growing up, I loved blues, I absolutely love blues and jazz. I cannot play blues and jazz and I’ve practiced classical music for so many years. My main ax is my guitar today and I still struggle with blues and jazz because classical music, I practiced it for decades, honestly, that it’s extremely difficult. It’s very difficult to play by ear. So, people who start off by playing by ear would be like, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” but my brain is stuck to the paper. I write stuff down. So, I can write anything down. I can transcribe complete symphonies and then I have to play them. It’s very difficult. I could see how it’s kind of like a scientific where in the 19th century, a lot of European culture was obsessed with science, which is great.

There were a lot of scientific achievements. They tried to science-tize everything at that time and classical music was also kind of put that way because you could have a huge symphony, even a Mendelssohn symphony in the mid-19th century, which was a moderate sized symphony. You could write every single instrument, every single note that’s going to be played. It’s very precise. So, with that precision comes great flexibility and a large breadth of sounds and tonalities and tambours, but it also doesn’t allow for any improvisation. Today if you play a Mozart piece, you’re really expected to play in this style of classical music or mid-19th century. Or if you play Bach, you need to play in the style of the baroque era. So much of classical music is shackled by traditional practices.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: I think it’s just one way for people to anticipate what they’re going to hear. So, bringing it forward to today, when we hear certain pop songs, we know what we’re going to hear. You have your intro with your chords, you have a breakaway for a little bit, and then you go back to the outro with the same chords. It’s predictable, it’s comfortable. I think where people lean into the discomfort of jazz and blues definitely is you think you know what’s going to happen and it depends on the whim of the vocalist or the player for that evening. No two sessions are ever the same. One of the things I really did excel at was the blues, just because of how I heard different things and having certain sharp counterpoints made sense in my brain at the time. But it’s not necessarily just intuitive. It’s do you have the ability to say, “Okay, I understand this is going to be a chord, but if I throw in a minor key, it’s going to make people uncomfortable.”

I think sometimes what people don’t like about songs are tone combinations that don’t feel quite right, but it’s by design. So, I think a lot of time with classical music where they have an expectation is this grand swell. We’re going to build up to something, it’s going to take our emotions, it’s going to ride it up on this crest, we’re going to hit it, and then we’re going to gently come down and bask in that glow. Where other styles of music are like, “You’re comfortable? Good. I’m going to push you off the ledge. Now climb your way back up and then we’re going to go to the left instead of to the right.”

I think that again comes with these traditions of cultures that music wasn’t just a performance. It wasn’t performative. It was integrated daily. Like you walk around the house and you hum. Okay, but if you come from a native tribe, maybe that particular humming is to pray to the earth for good crops. It’s something that’s a little more integrated and I think sometimes classical music feels something that you have to be good enough to be invited into, whether that’s hearing or playing.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Right. So much that is wonderful there. The entertainment or the social value of classical music is very high. There are wonderful, large performances, wonderful large religious performances. I also really liked how you said the expectation of … I think you said release or dissonance and release. I remember when I took a course where I analyzed all of Tristan und Isolde, four-hour long opera by Wagner. It’s great, but even with that highly chromatic music of Wagner, it all still resolved to typically very traditional triadic harmonies. So, all this tension that was resolved, all this tension that’s resolved, and so you really do see that in Western music. If people would say, whoever is writing music today, “Take classical music and take other ideas, you could really create something new,” since in art everybody’s always looking for something new.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: So, the interesting remix blend that … unfortunately it was probably a good 12 years ago because this is when it happened is my oldest child loved Super Smash Bros., loved the video game, loved all the characters and it was this huge thing. Well, browsing around online as you do, I found the Super Smash Opera. So, it was a group of young opera students who also happened to be gamers that picked and chose from a half a dozen operas to put together the story of Mario and Luigi and the Super Smash Bros. and the big fight that they came to. They were brilliant, they’re beautiful singers, but what they did is they took it and made opera accessible to my 10 year old child by giving him a lens to which he was like, “Oh, that was really cool,” which then opened up me to say, “Hey, by the way, let’s look at these operas,” and then probably sucked some of the joy out of it for him.

But I was excited we were actually able to meet in the middle because this young group of singers said, “Hey, by the way, we like video games and you like opera so let’s split the middle.” It was interesting for me just to watch that and say, “Wow. So, I love opera. This is really great.” I really wouldn’t have cared two figs or not if it was video game characters, but it was that bridge between me and my kid to say, “Hey, we can actually enjoy this together,” and we traveled to a couple of different states to watch their different renditions of the opera and how they took it from being something a little more elitist and bringing it down to a place where a younger generation would watch it.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: I completely agree. I hope for the future of classical music, because I love it, but it needs to change or else it will go into oblivion. So, this leads me to the final question. This podcast is about colonialism and so we’ve got a variety of different topics about culture and classical music and music, and so oftentimes you’ll see people comment about how to decolonize something. So how could you decolonize European classical music, if that makes sense?

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: To be honest, I don’t know if decolonialism can actually happen in this music form that’s so completely ingrained, but where I think people really can start to open their eyes is to recognize there were many, many more people producing music, writing music, composing music during that time that had nothing to do with European classical music. You have a ton of Indian composers that worked a lot with the sitar and had these beautiful, melodic high note, very airy operatic type songs that were done in the area that people don’t know about, and people have not heard of. Look at your different musicians in Asian cultures.

One of the things that came up recently during the pandemic was a sea shanty that took on a life of its own because a young guy decided to sing a sea shanty. Other musicians heard it and they started collaborating. So, you have this online collaboration of a very old Irish sea shanty that people started to contribute to in new and different ways. You had people bring their flavor. So, it’s not so much that you can’t look at European classical music and say, “Oh my gosh, well, you’re terrible because you only did this one thing.” I think what people need to recognize is there is a birth of music out there that they’ve probably never even heard of, and you can only say something is the best if you’ve explored all the others out there.

If we’re going to say classical music is the best, it means that we need to pick a particular timeframe, say the 1920s, and look at everything. Look at the classical. Look at the neoclassical. Look at people just riffing and skiffing. Look at the different type of chanting or with the Baroque monks, the sustained notes, all of this different form of music that is out there to be consumed that people have to dig for. You might actually have to work a little bit to find the new best thing. Instead of taking that easy road of, “I know what this is, and this is comfortable and it’s safe and I can talk to other people because other people know what it is.” Versus saying, “Hey, by the way, I found these really awesome Korean artists. Do you want to listen to them?”

I think people have a lot of pushback and fear with musical tastes. I think it drives people very personally and I can say this because I’ve taught face to face classes and icebreakers are necessary, I guess, but one of the things I like to do is ask people, “What kind of music do you want to listen to?” I did that in exactly two classes because I learned people would rather spill family secrets than commit to a musical style because they think it defines how other people see them, and I guess to a point it does.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: No, I completely agree. Musical styles that is … it’s so personal and I have to cite myself here, but there’s some articles about how as humans, our own musical styles are kind of codified when we’re teenagers, which is so funny. Totally makes sense because then why are 60-year old’s still listening to classic rock when it’s been decades? There’s been so much music since then, so much great music, but then some people are like, “Well, AC/DC’s still the best,” and it’s like, “Well, are they really?” When you’re just talking about being exposed, even in a small world of European classical music, one of my favorite composers is William Grant Still. I know we’ve talked about him and it’s one of those things that as I was going through my own schooling, I think there was one line in one of my textbooks about William Grant Still and that was it, and then since then I’ve discovered his music and it’s amazing.

However, he is a direct competitor with Aaron Copland. Aaron Copland is typically number one of all great American composers of all time. So, since he was a direct contemporary, there’s not enough room for those lists to have another person. But when you look at William Grant Still and his background and the music he wrote and even him as a contemporary and a competitor to Gershwin, in the culture today we still see like, “Well, Copland’s the best, Gershwin’s the best.” But are they? Are they? Because when you look at Still, his music in the ’20s and the ’30s and the ’40s and the ’50s is amazing, but culture doesn’t change, but it needs to, even just being introduced to one American composer who existed and wrote great music.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Of course, you’re always going to have the economic backing. So again, you’re not going to come to European classical music from the poor house. These compositions are paid for usually by royalty or very wealthy patrons. Then of course you’re being paid not to just compose the music but have these grand symphonies and then people can say, “Well, they wrote that because of me.” Absolutely true. Slightly different when you update even to the 1920s where you’re only going to promote people that they think are going to bring money back to you. If you have a composer who takes off and everybody’s talking about them, this is great. Okay, Gershwin, we know how to say his name. We like the music. We know what to anticipate. We’re going to spend money and we’re going to do these things. So, promoters, of course, will promote those that they think are going to give them the highest returns, even if it means inflating somebody and telling people, “Hey, this music is going to be absolutely magnificent.”

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: For example, Sousa, and I like John Philip Sousa, he does a lot of marching music. Then I was reading a biography and his biggest regret is he always wanted to write a huge classical piece, but every time he tried his wife, who was a pianist, would get on the piano and say, “Oh no, no, you wrote a marching tune,” and show him and he was so disheartened by that, that what he really wanted to do is create this great classical piece, but everybody expected something different so that’s what he produced. I think that’s where, again, having a little more easy access to look at different composers gives us the ability to say, “Well, yeah, Mozart was a talent. I mean, he really was, but do I like him best? Or is there somebody else that I like a little better, maybe not as well known?”

Of course, the sadness is because only certain classical pieces were put out, how much did we lose? How many young composers that were buskers on the side of a street that actually had some really great, interesting music that died with them because they weren’t wealthy enough to note it, they didn’t have anybody to write it down, nobody else played it? Of course, that’s the same with almost any artist. We see the people that other people decided were good enough for us to keep and we miss a lot of the smaller artists that had just as much, if not more, talent.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh, completely and talent, of course, is also extremely subjective. It makes me think of Shostakovich, the great Russian composer, and recently I discovered a composer, a Polish Soviet composer, Weinberg, whose music is amazing. But here in the U.S., you don’t hear much of Weinberg because we play Shostakovich.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Never heard of Weinberg until today, so yay, a new person to look up.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: His music is amazing and his Polish background and what he writes about is so heartbreaking. Is he as talented as Shostakovich? I would say yes. So why don’t we listen to him? Well, because if you put him on a program, nobody knows Weinberg, but you know Shostakovich and you know Prokofiev, and so that will draw people in. Unfortunately, like we were talking about, part of it comes to economics where there’s such talent out there, but we lose that talent because they’re not a draw.

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: I think there’s something you said too, something you also mentioned on is his story is sad. When you look into the world of classical music and opera, there’s only certain types of sad that we’re willing to explore. You brought up Tristan und Isolde and that’s a romantic sadness and how sad and they can’t be together, but they love each other. We can weep at that, but somebody having their life wiped from them and their family dies, and you have to go through this heartbreak, I don’t think people are as willing to invest in that because sometimes it gets too real.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. We can go over a thousand different examples of great pieces that just aren’t played as much because they are a little too real, which is funny because today’s culture loves real stuff. But at the same time, Weinberg lost most of his family in the Holocaust or Schoenberg writing A Survivor from Warsaw right after the war and that’s rarely played because honestly the content is so harrowing and it’s also 12 tone and it’s a little hard for people to like. So absolutely wonderful conversation today, Jennifer. Any final words?

Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson: Explore. Explore all the different music. I have it as my personal goal to keep YouTube from ever having an algorithm of what I listen to and how I listen to it. I change up things often and I hope everybody finds their new favorite composer in another culture. Take the leap. The worst that can happen is you’re going to default back to AC/DC. The best thing that can happen is you’re going to open up a whole new world of tonalities for yourself.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. I would highly recommend stop with AC/DC. It’s my own thing. There’s a lot of great rock bands out there that are not AC/DC. Nothing against them, nothing against AC/DC, but there’s more out there. So absolute wonderful conversation. Today we’re speaking with Dr. Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson about an introduction to colonialism and, of course, my name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer and thank you for listening.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer is a Program Director at American Public University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University, a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Mercer also writes children’s music in his spare time.

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