Vox: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ‘is a symbol of exclusion and elitism’ to women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color

Sorry, classical music fans, but Ludwig van Beethoven’s been canceled. Well, maybe not Beethoven himself, although he was a white European male, but his Fifth Symphony in particular, which according to Vox “put the classism in classical music.”

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of classical music’s most famous works.

But to many, it’s also a symbol of elitism and exclusion.

Listen to @SwitchedOnPop and @nyphil explain why: https://t.co/FbDrWFTsRu

— Vox (@voxdotcom) September 15, 2020

OK, why? Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding start with the theory that the symphony is “a metaphor for Beethoven’s personal resilience in the face of his oncoming deafness” (a pretty common belief) and take it from there:

Or rather, that’s long been the popular read among wealthy white men who embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For others — women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color — Beethoven’s symphony is predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism. One New York City classical music fan wrote in the 1840s, for example, that he wished that “all women shall be gagged by officers duly licensed for the purpose before they’re allowed to enter a concert room.”

Today, some aspects of classical culture are still about policing who’s in and who’s out, and it all started with Beethoven’s Fifth. When you walk into a standard concert hall, there’s an established set of conventions and etiquette (“don’t cough!”; “don’t cheer!”; “dress appropriately!”) that’s more about demonstrating belonging than appreciating the music.

Seriously? For all but wealthy white men, Beethoven’s Fifth “is predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism”? This reminds us of the time a Deadspin writer, urging a change in the name of golf’s most famous tournament, said to be honest: “When you hear anyone say the Masters, you think of slave masters in the South.”

You apparently have to listen to a podcast to learn why this particular symphony is a symbol of exclusion because it’s not in the article.

😐 No.

— Aboud Dandachi (@abouddandachi) September 15, 2020

This is easily one of the hardest stretches to make something problematic that I've read yet.https://t.co/wLGeegnWOk

— James Lindsay, has two yarns (@ConceptualJames) September 15, 2020

Cue the Jonah Hill cut it out GIF.

— Avraham Spraragen (@abspraragen) September 15, 2020


— Will-o'-the-Wisp (@wharrison51) September 15, 2020

Why that's exactly what I thought when I was to listen to him as well. When I was in a mental institution

— kramer (@kramer0000) September 15, 2020

Vox articles are just written by a woke AI program at this point

— Name can be blank (@KyleNelson1234) September 15, 2020

This is a mental disease https://t.co/GWrrXjnh1k

— Noah Pollak (@NoahPollak) September 15, 2020

lol the left is coming after Beethoven https://t.co/L51uZru4Qa

— Erielle Davidson (@politicalelle) September 15, 2020


— Prs Garfield is mostly peaceful ON FIRE!! (@prsGarfieldsHat) September 15, 2020

They were telling us 3 months ago that Beethoven was actually African

— Ryan Ocean 🇺🇸 (@RyanOcean10) September 15, 2020

Apparently that’s been a theory for years now — cue Shaun King calling for any artwork of Beethoven as a white European to be taken down and destroyed.


— Felipeiglesias (@Felipeiglesias) September 15, 2020

I love how they cry about elitism while culling anyone they deem beneath them from culture and public life.

— venatusratio (@venatusratio) September 15, 2020

This is totally fucked. As a musician, this hurts my heart. Music doesn't have a side or classes or colors or genders. Music is just the vibrations of the universe that we tap into and share with the world. The music is already there. We don't play music, the music plays us.

— Brian Cook (@toseeeye) September 15, 2020

Seems less like a problem with Beethoven’s music than a critique about snobs who gatekeep music.

— Keegs 🌎 (@KerouacRimbaud) September 15, 2020

A symbol of elitism and exclusion!? MUSIC?!

Literally *anyone* can listen to Beethoven, all one needs is an interest.

— yael🦕 (@nasdaqamzn) September 15, 2020

They wanna destroy everything. They’re driven by nothing but pure rage and disdain for the people they grew up around who didn’t shower them with the attention they craved

— zen (@ObexZen) September 15, 2020

How do people live in this perpetual state of outrage? It’s not enough to look for offense in everything in the modern world so they look to see what offend them in the past as well. Are we really seeing a generation with such weak constitution?

— Grateful Pats Fan (@MVPTB12) September 15, 2020


— stinky tweets 🧐 (@Bugs_Meany) September 15, 2020

Almost everyone in my drum circle agrees with me, so "many."

— R. Collins (@RC9511) September 15, 2020

You might have a multitude of voices in your head saying this, but that still doesn't qualify you as "many".

— Physics Geek (@physicsgeek) September 15, 2020

“Many:” pic.twitter.com/Vhyunc3LTV

— Federalist Musket🇺🇸 (@Patriot_Musket) September 15, 2020


— Ananda Savino (@ananditaisabel) September 15, 2020


— Taylor MacPherson (@TaylorMacP) September 15, 2020

A single bar written by Beethoven is worth a thousand times every word ever published by this rag put together.

— Limão Frito (@LemonDeepfried) September 15, 2020

I'm so sorry this is happening to you.

— janezstyle (@janezstyle) September 15, 2020

I hope this is the worst take I see today, but I'm 110% sure that it won't be.

It's still a garbage take.

If you see this response, go listen to Beethoven's 5th in its entirety, even just in the background. You'll thank me.

— just alan (@JustJustalan) September 15, 2020

Going after a dead, deaf man.

Stay classy Vox.

— J.S.R. Rayburn 👌 (@jsrrayburn) September 15, 2020

And what’s up with the illustration Vox commissioned to accompany this piece? Beethoven is telling people not to wear shorts and bring a megaphone to his symphonies? That makes his Fifth Symphony exclusionary to the LGBT community?


The outdoors is systemically racist: ABC News reports national parks ‘face existential crisis over race,’ are stubbornly white https://t.co/BCKteolJv8

— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) July 2, 2020