Sunday, December 20, 2015

Young, gifted, black and inappropriate


Since 2011 two posts about Philippa Schuyler On An Overgrown Path have reached a very wide audience. One is a portrait by me of the controversial child prodigy, pianist and composer and the equally controversial treatment of her by the American establishment. The other post featured an embedded audio file of a performance of Philippa Schuyler's Nine Little Pieces for piano recorded specially for the blog by John McLaughlin Williams, together with a written analysis of the pieces by John. Unfortunately the hosting service used for the audio file has become defunct. So yesterday I uploaded the nineteen minute audio file to YouTube, together with the image seen above, an edited version of the introductory paragraph to my biographical article, and links to the two posts.

Within an hour I received an officious email telling me that the YouTube community had flagged the video as inappropriate, and, after reviewing the content, they had determined that it violated their Community Guidelines, and, as a result, Philippa Schuyler's Nine Little Pieces played by John McLaughlin Williams had been removed from YouTube. (See below.) Traffic blogs for the blog showed that just before the removal of the file, a visitor from Google's IP address had followed the links to my two articles (Google owns YouTube), and a non-Google visitor from the U.S. (one of the community vigilantes?) had followed the link from my biographical article to a graphic showing the cover of the December 1962 edition of 'Jet - the Weekly Negro News Magazine' featuring Philippa. This cover carrys the headline 'What happens to Negro child geniuses?'

No explanation was given as to why content which had been hosted on Google's Blogger platform for four years and read/listened to by more than 50,000 people without any adverse comment, was deemed inappropriate for YouTube. In the absence of any explanation I have to conclude that the totally unacceptable and arbitrary control that Google exercises over our lives (search engine, operating system, email, video sharing, mapping etc) means that a small but, I believe, valuable musical document has been censored.

Update - twelve hours later the video is reinstated.



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2 comments:

Kevin Scott said...

This is, in a word or two, downright despicable.

The music of Philippa Duke Schuyler should be better known. We have seen child prodigy composers emerge since Mozart - Mendelssohn, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Jay Greenberg, to name but a few - but for some reason or another we have forgotten, or have shunned, Ms. Schuyler.

Was it because of her controversial upbringing? Was it because of her parents? Was it because she went through a psychological turmoil in her adult life that caused considerable crises within her identity as a bi-racial woman? These questions and many more must be addressed, but most important are the works she left behind in her brief life, not only the ones that are completed such as the orchestral scherzo Rumplestiltskin and her two versions of the Nile Fantasy for piano and orchestra, but many unfinished or barely completed works such as her setting of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".

Ms. Schuyler's music has always been on my mind for over thirty years since I went to the Schomburg branch of the New York Public Library and reviewed the manuscripts of her scores. The good news is that the scores and parts for her completed orchestral works are intact and need minor editing, and her solo piano works are also in excellent order. All it would take is someone with capital to burn for someone - either John McLaughlin Williams, or myself, or both of us - to record her music and make it available for the public to decide about her compositions, but most important, also add a piece to the puzzle about this complex and intriguing American woman.

Philip Amos said...

I am outraged -- yet again. The question to pose to YT is which of their stated community standards did your video violate: copyright, pornography, illegal acts, gratuitous violence, or hate speech. But I think we know the answer -- it is the last one. I gather it takes but one protest to cause Google to remove a video, and I think the crucial one here is that visitor from the U.S. That complaint, I must also think, was induced by the 1962 cover of Jet. I've come to take it as a general principle that all movements, policies, trends, processes, etc., regardless of their initial merit, have their own dynamic, and once unleashed that dynamic increases until it leads to extremism. Political correctness is an obvious current example of this. My own academic discipline, History, has suffered much from this. Any historian had better think twice about using what is now referred to as the 'N-word' before he uses it in a lecture on the history of African Americans or a related subject. Just about anything about the history of Israel could blow up in your face.

Thus, we have here an example of that extremist dynamic. I could write reams about other examples. And it has itself here done damage. When you put up those posts, I did myself post comments about Schuyler, Dean Dixon, and Winifred Atwell (whose recording of the Grieg concerto is on YT). I think we discussed others also. The intent of your posts and others' comments was to shine a light on the injustice in the way racial discrimination affected or destroyed the great talents of musicians, most notably in the U.S., so there is irony in Google's censorship, as well as idiocy. In that the topic of the posts went back some 70-plus years, this is in fact censorship of historical writing. It is censorship of knowledge, knowledge of an issue people should be informed on. I'm frankly glad I got out of academe before this became rampant in universities. It is a menace to Knowledge, a menace to Truth, and it is intolerable.