An Open Letter to Chicago's New & Experimental Community

With the inauguration looming, the new and experimental music community has an ever increasing obligation to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. In the coming months and years, under a racist and oppressive government, we need this music community to be a haven, a place where diverse voices are welcome and safe. We need to encourage one another to actively counteract racism, misogyny and xenophobia in our daily lives and in our artistic practices.

This is not about pointing fingers, but a way for us to acknowledge our own cultural shortcomings. The current political climate is the product, not of a lonely fascist with bad hair, but of an entire system that is overwhelmingly white supremacist. Systems are made of communities. We are a community. We need to change.

How much? What’s wrong? Sometimes looking at actual numbers throws a situation into stark relief, so that’s what we have done. The following data is drawn from ensembles and venues that Cacophony has covered since its inception. Additionally, it includes data about Cacophony itself: the writers, photographers, and artists we’ve featured. It’s essential that we examine ourselves first, and we’re not proud of what we found.

The lack of representation of people of color in this alarming, unhealthy, and needs to be addressed. There is no shortage of talented artists of color in this city. There are barriers to entry to this scene, often starting with the economic oppression of poc, including the privilege required to receive an ‘establishment’ music education. But even after education and training, there are still barriers (look at the data!), and it’s worth examining how we are contributing to those barriers.

This August at the Summer Courses for New Music Darmstadt*, a wonderful group of women, trans folk and allies put together a panel on gender relations in the history of the courses. They started with this data, and the numbers are appalling**. During the panel, our friend Neele Huelcker read a statement which spoke, among many things, to the passivity from which so many of our prejudices come: who are our friends? Who do we consider our colleagues? Do we choose these associations, or do they just happen to us, based on our encounters with people who share similar schooling, socio-economic background, political goals?

How do we choose a community?
Let’s choose more intentionally.

We’re starting now. We will be covering more events that feature only or primarily artists of color and will be interviewing more artists of color. Our job is to build and connect communities, and we want to do better, and we encourage all of you to, too.

Sincerely,
Lia Kohl & Bethany Younge

*Summer camp for new music nerds
**Race was not even discussed, which says something about how that issue would fare under a microscope