The Music Column

My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!

History is rewritten, memory is transformed, recognition is withdrawn, and the cultural context is recast.  The recent toppling of historical statues has proceeded so effectively that we can hardly remember a previous period of statue erection or insertion in Richmond, Virginia.  The former capital of the Confederacy had to be punished for its Monument Avenue, so in 1996 the tennis champion Arthur Ashe was put in a sequence with Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart.  Did the ambiguous word volley have an equalizing effect on the rationalized incongruity?  Another statue—of Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad—was surreptitiously placed on Tredegar Street in 2003.  Those were the days—and nights—when statues went up rather than down.

There have been many removals of statues, and complaints extending even to “Defacing Columbus.”  There were the removals of statues in Texas of Albert Sidney Johnston (“the General of Three Republics”) and of Dick Dowling of the celebrated Battle of Sabine Pass, making it all the more puzzling why Texans today would be so indifferent to such Texans then.

I do admit that this is an oblique approach to matters of musical interest, but I think that as with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Francis Scott Key, historical revisionism does leap from category to category.  And music is a monument...

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