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December 2023 Vol. 61 No. 4

University of Michigan Press

The following review appeared in the December 2023 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Performing Arts - Music

Ewell, Philip. On music theory and making music more welcoming for everyone. Michigan, 2023. 332p bibl index ISBN 9780472055029, $85.00; ISBN 9780472055029 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780472129430 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this book Ewell (Hunter College, CUNY) examines racism in American music theory, not merely in employment but also in the structural, scholarly underpinnings of the discipline. Of course Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868–1935) receives much attention here, since his work continues to be venerated despite his profoundly racist and nationalist views—views long ignored or suppressed in the world of theory. In 2019 Ewell delivered a talk titled "Music Theory and the White Racial Frame" at the Society for Music Theory's annual meeting, and he published a corresponding paper, by the same title, in Music Theory Online (June 2020). This proved disruptive, and Ewell describes some of the (surprising, disheartening) consequences in detail. The final section provides a positive prescription for music theory and classical music generally to broaden the outlook, consider the many preconceptions, and do better. This book may represent the cusp of a racial reckoning for music theory in the US. Ewell does not eschew technical matters, so the book may be a bit out of reach for nonmusicians. However, everyone—students and faculty—involved in music theory should read it.

--B. J. Murray, Miami University

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.