An Anti-Woke Guide to Classical Music: A Celebration of Dead White Male Composers


Reilly, Robert R., & Jens F. Laurson


Robert R. Reilly has written about classical music for more than 35 years and is the author of Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music. He was the music critic for Crisis magazine for 16 years, and has written for High Fidelity, Musical America, Schwann/Opus, and the American Record Guide. He reviews concerts and operas in the United States and Europe for Ionarts and Seen and Heard International. In his 25 years in government, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the White House under President Ronald Reagan, and the United States Information Agency. He was also the director of Voice of America. He has published widely on foreign policy and “war of ideas” issues and is the author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind, America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, and other books. He is the director of the Westminster Institute in Vienna, Virginia.

Jens F. Laurson received his formative musical experiences at the hands of tapes of the Bach Passions his father made for him, a Haydn audio-biography for kids, and singing Rheinberger Masses as a chorister in Regensburg, Germany. He has branched out since, becoming a musical omnivore. A political scientist by training, and critic and translator by trade, he has written about classical music for the Washington Post, Forbes, the Wiener Zeitung, and ClassicsToday, among other publications. He received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. He shares his daily listening diet as @ClassicalCritic on Twitter and Instagram

Great composers’ music is to be enjoyed, not fretted about! An Anti-Woke Guide to Classical Music, with chapters on numerous dead white male composers, aims to help. Classical music, like much of Western culture, is increasingly under pressure and criticism. Past evils, or perceived evils, seem to be haunting it, and raise the question of what, if anything, in our cultural canon can be appreciated without a guilty conscience. Was Mozart an apologist for colonialization? Did Beethoven harbor unjustifiable views about the emancipation of women? What were Mendelssohn’s feelings on equal pay in the workplace. How did Brahms feel about pronouns? Other books have examined the merits of Western Civilization, relative and absolute, before it entered the age of agonizing self-deprecation. An Anti-Woke Guide to Classical Music is not that book.

Instead, this book is completely unapologetic. It is unashamed to presume the superiority of Western classical music as the greatest ever written. It proposes that the inclined reader (and listener) sit back, shed any anxiety, and be variously calmed, jolted, disturbed, and intrigued, but always delighted, by the greatest (and some lesser-known great) composers throughout history. This survey of their personalities, their best works, and some great interpretations is meant as a friendly guide to entice entry into a better world. It attempts to provide insights into the meaning of this music so that the apprentice listener has a friendly chaperon pointing the way, but with enough depth that the connoisseur may find enjoyment and an invitation to a great adventure, one the reader may be more inclined to accept if the obstacle of wokeness is removed.

Fine Arts, Political Science, Music, Classical Music, Identity Politics, Music Criticism, Wokeism
Release Date: 
January 3, 2024
9781680538489 Hardcover
Trim Size: 

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