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Beyond the Canon: A Guide for Finding Diverse Composers and Repertoire

Under Construction!

This guide was created to help users find composers beyond the Western classical canon. This guide is under construction.

Guide created by Jackson Harmeyer during the spring semester of 2022 in partial fulfilment of his internship requirements.

Purpose and Scope

Classical music in many ways remains focused on a small core of composers. They are the ones we most perform; they are the ones we most study. They are largely white, heterosexual, and male, and most have been dead for a hundred or more years. Our emphasis on these composers and their compositions reinforces antiquated power structures and eliminates different perspectives no matter the merits of their music. Despite genuine attempts to broaden our outlook and push beyond the classical canon, such attempts often fall short through their overreliance on what has become a secondary canon of diverse composers. In effect our efforts become a sort of tokenism rather than true diversity, equity, or inclusion. This is a divisive situation even less healthy for our art than our former passivity.

The purpose of this research guide is to introduce users to a wider array of composers while also suggesting strategies to become and remain familiar with the unfamiliar. Its scope is decidedly Western classical and composer-focused: in other words, this guide makes no attempt to reach into either the popular or traditional spheres. It is therefore meant for the performer, researcher, or listener accustomed to notated music with the goal of expanding knowledge within this realm. Attention is devoted to composers whose diversity is in their demographic or gender identities and also composers, historical or contemporary, who have been excluded from the classical canon. The aim is not to impose a new canon and, rarely do I recommend specific composers. Instead my goal is to assist users to discover neglected and forgotten composers of their own choosing, and in this way diminish our indebtedness to the classical canon and promote social change.