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Sounds, Stereotypes, and Structures that Silence

My heart sank as I watched the children seated around the Kammermusiksaal covering and uncovering their mouths with a palm while making a sound. It was the first children’s concert of 2018 at the Philharmonie in Berlin. Kids often imitate what they see, whether it’s a conductor’s arm movements or, in this case, the woodwind section of our orchestra making the so-called “Indian whoop” that the composer had stuck into the Finale of his newly commissioned Alphorn Concerto. I imagined the children returning to their playgrounds, unaware of the racism embedded in their play, now legitimized by a performance in a cultural space sanctioned by adults.

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