Society dedicated to ‘preserving’ Western classical music sparks accusations of racism

17 January 2022, 12:56 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 13:06

@SpencerArias. Picture: Twitter

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

A newly formed music society has come under fire on Twitter for its ‘racist’ and ‘exclusionary’ mission statement.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Twitter has been awash with debate after a composer shared an email he had received, from the so-called ‘Society for the Preservation of Western Music’ (SPWM).

On Sunday night, composer Spencer Arias tweeted a screenshot of an email he received from the new music society, which claims to be dedicated to ‘preserving’ certain elements of the genre.

The email starts off with a simple call-out to academics to write for a new journal run by the SPWM organisation. However, the subsequent mission statement at the bottom of the email has sparked outrage among classical musicians across the social media platform.

Read more: Women compose only 5 percent of the pieces scheduled in classical music concerts today

Screenshotted email from Spencer Arias
Screenshotted email from Spencer Arias. Picture: Twitter

“Founded in 2021, Society for the Preservation of Western Music (SPWM) seeks to actively promote canonical masterworks of the Western Classical tradition from antiquity to the present day,” reads the screenshotted message.

It continues, “Begun as a consortium between a dozen composition and theory faculty across the United States and Canada in response to the virulent spread of identity-based concert programming, SPWM currently boasts a roster of over 100 members, staunch advocates for the foundations of our traditionally Western artistic practices.”

Twitter has reacted mostly negatively to the email, with the majority of the almost 200 retweets questioning the undertones of the message, such as ‘virulent spread’ – a term used to describe how viruses replicate – when referring to concert-programming based on “identity”.

The mass email from this society has reportedly been sent to a majority of “queer, and BIPOC composers”, causing some to believe the message takes on the form of harassment, and an attack on underrepresented composers.

Read more: 63% of Black musicians have experienced racism in the UK music industry, says new report

Some have since suggested, perhaps in hope, that this could just be a ‘troll’ (online joke designed to cause a reaction) email, thought up by one individual.

However, due to the division which this debate causes in the industry, many have said the email is all too believable. Some have even suggested that the society – real or fake – is in fact a reflection of the programmatic bias classical institutions can also be found guilty of.

Read more: Barbican staff claim world-leading arts centre is ‘institutionally racist’

One uniting factor that many engaged in this conversation have discovered, is that when searching online for this supposed society, the majority of results show groups which promote the preservation of country and western music.

Read more: The greatest Western movie scores

A final retaliation to this email comes in the form of a purchase of the domain name, which now redirects to the website -; a platform for underrepresented composers to have their works heard.