Sirius-XM Sexualizes and Politicizes Classical Music

One of the cherished respites in my life is the Symphony Hall channel on Sirius-XM Radio. It’s a getaway, an oasis, a safe-space from the political madness and cultural insanity ruining so much of everyday life. When I need to escape the nattering news cycles, the toxic noise, the gagging cultursmog, the Symphony Hall channel is there for me. No politics. No ideological agenda. No culture war. A place of peace. The channel sticks to the timeless, even the transcendent, outside the silliness and ugliness of the zeitgeist. That is what classical music is.

Well, not anymore. At least not at Sirius-XM.

While riding in my car over the weekend I heard Robert Aubry Davis, one of the radio hosts at Symphony Hall, herald his channel’s commemoration of LGBT Pride Month. The channel this month is highlighting the music of “gay” composers. My child, sitting in the car with me, immediately pondered that one: What’s a “gay composer?”

I’m sure the people who run Symphony Hall could care less about how I try to explain that to my child. It’s my hang-up, I guess.

Rather, the folks at Symphony Hall have decided to sexualize and politicize their classical music channel, whether longtime faithful listeners like it or not. The powers-that-be have opted to hijack classical music to advance an agenda, an ideological-cultural agenda.

Indeed, ask yourself: Why does a premier classical music station suddenly decide to focus on the sexual orientation of certain composers? Obviously, it isn’t necessary. A person’s sexual inclinations should have nothing to do with classical music—unless, that is, the station has made a commitment to push an agenda. And that’s clearly what has happened here. The Symphony Hall crew has chosen to get behind the political left’s fundamental transformation of sexuality, gender, and marriage.

It’s sad. Can’t these people leave us alone to simply enjoy classical music on a classical station? Why do they insist on shoving their secular values down our throats? Why drag your listeners into your culture war?

What of the many traditionalists and religious people who comprise a large chunk of Symphony Hall’s audience? For many of us, our faith traditions are fully at odds with radical aspects of the LGBT program, especially the redefinition of marriage. Is Symphony Hall sensitive to us? Clearly not. We’re unseemly reactionaries and Neanderthals to be sniffed at. By wading into this cultural-moral minefield, Symphony Hall is okay with peddling religious bigotry—that is, a prejudiced disregard of religious people who do not support the goals of the “LGBT” movement.

And what of the “LGBT” movement? Even then, Symphony Hall’s efforts really aren’t all that inclusive. In this zeal to be tolerant, who is Symphony Hall excluding in its celebration of “LGBT” persons? Consider:

Notice that Symphony Hall has banished the “Q” from the much more commonly used “LGBTQ” label. Why has the channel left out “Queer” people? Actually, the slight is larger than that: Don’t the old fogies at Symphony Hall know that the LGBTQ movement has expanded to the “LGBTQIA” movement? In addition to leaving out “Queer” persons, Symphony Hall is also not allowing its diversity to encompass “Intersex” and “Asexual” persons.

Still, that’s just the start: Consider, for instance, that New York City offers employees the option of choosing from a minimum of 31 different gender identities, and Facebook lists anywhere from 51 to 71 “gender options.”

Well, whether 31 or 51 or 71, that’s well beyond the narrow number of gender identities that Symphony Hall is recognizing this month. Why is Symphony Hall excluding all of those communities? Symphony Hall is showing just how un-inclusive it really is.

In point of fact, when I was listening on Saturday morning, I heard host Robert Aubry Davis say that his colleague Martin Goldsmith would be celebrating “gay composers” in the week ahead. But I heard nothing about lesbian and transgender composers (let alone intersexual and asexual composers). In fact, when I checked the station’s Facebook page, I saw references only to homosexual or bisexual men. It looks like Symphony Hall’s rainbow extends only to gay men. I suggest that LGBT groups monitor Symphony Hall to see if its hosts are discriminating against lesbian and transgender composers.

Worse still, I saw the names of only gay white men. Is Symphony Hall not including people of color among the featured LGBT composers? I’ve noticed for a long time that not one of Symphony Hall’s hosts is a person of color. With the exception of one white woman, they’re all white men. And are any of the hosts LGBT persons? If not, how hypocritical is that? Someone from the Human Rights Campaign should contact the Symphony Hall station to ask if any of the hosts are LGBT persons.

And yet worse, what about these gay white men that Symphony Hall is calling out as featured composers? The gay men that I know angrily insist that they do not want to be identified by their sexuality.

I personally knew well two elderly men who were prominent conservatives and were bisexual/homosexual. Both kept it as secret as they could, one of them guarding it very tightly from his children. They would be enraged if, say, the Patriot channel on Sirius-XM ran an “LGBT” month and highlighted them as “gay conservatives.”

If, say, composer Leonard Bernstein regularly had intercourse with men, would Bernstein want that to be public? Do the Sirius-XM people know the answer to that?

What right does Symphony Hall have to engage in this kind of exposure—and perhaps violation—of people’s private lives? Is not the “right to privacy” sacrosanct anymore?

How does Symphony Hall know whether certain “gay” composers, especially those of the classical period who are long deceased, would want to be “outed” by their sexual orientation?

Well, that’s exactly what Sirius-XM is permitting to happen at the Symphony Hall channel.

Obviously, I’ve raised a myriad of questions here. But such is the can of worms pried open when a classical music station decides to sexualize and politicize its music—when ideology sticks its big nose into programming that should have nothing to do with ideology.

Symphony Hall, channel 76, Sirius-XM: By leaping into politics, the channel’s political agitators are offending a lot of people. As for me, I’ve now switched to other options. It’s time to move to classical stations that don’t insist on sexualizing and politicizing their music.

Paul Kengor

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Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new books are A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism (2017).

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