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RESOURCES: Reimagining the Choir

Prevailing choral practice is the constellation of behaviors, communications, and relationships in the choral space. This is more than just programming, score study, and gesture; it is also role and authority of the conductor, the sound, voice building, relationship to score, assessment and evaluation tools, emphasis on performance product, teaching notation and “musicianship,” festivals/contests/tours, how we regard and engage the body, choral culture and intrachoral relationships, expectations of conformity/uniformity in movement/sound/behavior/appearance, compliance and classroom management, choral histories, definition of choir (what is choir/what is not), advancement pipelines, recognition in the field, and choral excellence.

Vanessa Andreotti uses this example in her 2011 book Actionable Postcolonial Theory in Education as a metaphor for “the institutionalization of the globally hegemonic ethnocentrism of the Western / Enlightenment epistemology and the implications of Cartesian subjectivities; the yellow corn cob, as a Cartesian subject, projects his local world view as global, foreclosing the local roots of his epistemological and ontological choices.”

The Eurocentric view of the world, drenched in whiteness, is a set of lenses through which we see the world, through which we interpret and make meaning of our experience; often these interpretations and meanings are understood to be universal when in fact they are as subjective and local as any world view.

The choral space is a site of violence as much as it is a site of beauty. We often think of violence as something that is physical in nature, when, in fact, acts of exclusion are acts of symbolic and structural violence. (Foucault, 1972; Bourdieu, 1999; Galtung, 1990; Spivak, 1988; Small, 1998).  

Inclusion is not the opposite of exclusion. Karma Chávez writes that “projects of inclusion don't rupture oppressive structures; instead they uphold and reinforce those structures by showing how they can be kinder and gentler and better without actually changing much at all.” Lisa Calvente coined the concept of included-exclusion, “a consciousness of being included by your very exclusion where standards of inclusion do not apply even and, at times, especially when you perform assimilability.” (Calvente, Calafell, and Chávez, 2020)

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