Asian people are represented in classical music. But have they been seen?


Artists of Asian descent have long been the subject of racist tropes and slurs, at least in the 1960s and ’70s, when musicians came from Japan, Korea, and other parts of East Asia to study and perform in the United States. . A 1967 report good Time magazine, titled “Invasion from the Orient”, depicts the thinking of the era.

“Stringed instruments were anatomically ideal for Orientals: their nimble fingers, skilled in delicate calligraphy and other crafts, readily adapted to the demands of the fingerboard,” the article states.

Over time, Asian artists gained a foothold in the orchestral and concert circuit. According to the League of American Orchestras, as of 2014, the last year for which data is available, musicians of Asian descent made up about 9 percent of the larger ensemble; In the United States, Asians represent about 6 percent of the population. In well-known groups such as the New York Philharmonic, the numbers are even higher: Asians now account for a third of that orchestra. (In Europe, it’s often a different story: in the London Symphony Orchestra, for example, three out of 82 players, or less than 4 percent, have Asian roots, while Asians make up more than 18 percent of London’s population. )

Yet the racist portrayal of Asian artists continues. Some have been told by conductors that they look like computer engineers, not classical musicians. Others are described as too weak and young to be taken seriously by audition committees. Still others have been told that their names are too foreign to pronounce or remember.

“You are written as an automaton,” said Akiko Tarumoto, instrumental concerto of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Turamoto, 44, who is Japanese American, said that musicians of Asian descent in the Philharmonic are sometimes mistaken for each other, and that in other ensembles they refer to fellow musicians as “Chinese girls” in the new. Heard about rent.



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