Courses for Fall 2023

Music and Racism

Music and Racism

Course offered Spring 2022

2 ECTS / 2 US
Maximum number of students: 30

Study Level: Postgraduate
Faculty: Marko Kölbl, PhD
mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

Marko Kölbl introduces Music and Racism

Music and Racism


This course explores various relations between music and racism, addressing structures in higher music education, questioning racialised expectations on music performance, and exploring hegemonies of musical styles around the world. Departing from a student perspective, we address racist and Eurocentric structures in higher music education, taking a close look on the range of studies and curricula.

We examine how racialized expectations on musicians affect their studies and career possibilities and review the various
scenes of the “music market” regarding their exclusionary mechanisms.

Central to this course is an open definition of “music” that critically reconsiders the hegemonic position of Western classical Art music. This pluralistic understanding of music enables further references the parallelism of colonialism, racism and the oppression of musical expressions.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Reflect on their future profession as stage performers and music educators from an intersectional perspective, learning how the body, race, ethnicity, cultural biographies, class, gender and sexuality influence musical and teaching careers.
  • Develop anti-racist and anti-discriminatory strategies within their own music education environment.
  • Locate music and dance in relation to race and racism within broader geopolitical hegemonies.


Assessment Type: 15 minutes spoken presentation and/or written seminar paper on a freely chosen topic related to music and racism.


The course comprises three virtual live meetings at the beginning, in the middle, and end of the course. Between the live units, students will be provided with six prerecorded video units that will also offer various perspectives of guest speakersfrom diverse musical, institutional, and cultural backgrounds. Students are able to work independently using digital resources and reading materials. They also produce small prerecorded presentations for their fellow students.


1. Introduction into the course (introductory session; live).
2. Critiquing Racism in Higher Music Education.
On whiteness, heteronormativity and class position as unmarked preconditions in
conservatories (prerecorded video unit).
3. Racialized Performances in Western Classical Music
Reviewing diversity at the concert stage (prerecorded video unit).
4. Cultural Imperialism and the New “Yellow Peril” in Western Classical Music
Anti-Asian racism in Classical Music Education and the Western Classical Music Market.
Guest speaker: Shzr Ee Tan, Royal Holloway London (TBC) (prerecorded video
5. Discussion Unit (interactive session; live).
Discussing units 2,3,4 and students’ inputs
6. The “Other” Musics
Musical diversity from a global perspective and the hegemonies of musical styles
(prerecorded video unit).
7. On Racism in Music Studies
Racist genealogies and “whiteliness” of music scholarship
Guest speaker: N.N. (prerecorded video unit)
8. On Music’s Perceived Innocence
Opportunities and limitations of canon critique, decolonization and anti-racist
5. Closing Unit (interactive session; live).
Discussing units 6,7,8 and students’ inputs.


This course departs from the diverse positionalities of students and their respective cultural, musical (including dance), and language backgrounds. Individual video meetings with the teacher are possible throughout the semester.