articles / Culture

A ‘Moment’ That’s Here to Stay

In the latest installment of her Amplify series, Lara Downes welcomes linguist (and fellow Scott Joplin fan) John McWhorter. They discuss how a century ago, the ragtime and early jazz that Joplin inspired was all the rage. Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s musical Shuffle Along was on Broadway, drawing and exposing white audiences to dancing and music in a style that was quite new to them. As McWhorter points out, back then it wasn’t the norm that music was supposed to inspire toe-tapping. A hundred years later, after many decades during which there  wasn’t much interest in “difference,” audiences are again showing great interest in being introduced to works that come from those with other lived experiences, and discovering their richness. It’s another inflection point, but this time it seems as though society is more receptive to making it more than a moment. As well as current composers and artists, audiences today are being exposed to those of the past, like composers William Dawson and William Grant Still (the latter played in the pit orchestra of Shuffle Along and wrote his first symphony after the show closed and he was out of work.) “It’s a great thing to see,” McWhorter says. “Something is happening that should have happened a long time ago… and I do think this is going to last. This is not just fashionable wokeness. People like these things, and I think partly it’s because these are things that come from what America actually is. We are a melting pot, and it should be reflected in a melting kind of classical music.”


Written by:
The Classical Team
The Classical Team
Published on 08.10.2023