[Smt-talk] Advocating for the humanities

David Carson Berry david.berry at uc.edu
Tue Apr 8 02:01:22 PDT 2014

Hello all,

It may not matter too much to some of the arguments advanced previously, 
but still: Are we sure we're all on the same page as to which agency 
we're discussing/debating?

Broadly speaking, it's the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that 
has stirred controversy in the past (e.g., through Serrano's P*** Christ 
and Mapplethorpe's photography -- both, by the way, from a 
quarter-century ago, though often referenced as if they were yesterday's 

On the other hand, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) -- 
the agency we are allegedly discussing -- has not been the subject of 
such controversies (real or manufactured).

An example: Many of us -- still today -- consult microfilms of old U.S. 
newspapers, and marvel at the continued availability of what was once 
considered ephemera. And yet, there was no financial incentive (read: 
free-market reason) to catalog and preserve many of these (very local) 
papers. Instead, it was done to ensure that an important part of 
America's history would continue to be available to its citizens. And 
who helped fund the so-called United States Newspaper Program? The NEH. 
(They are now helping to fund a National Digital Newspaper Program, by 
the way.)

I write the above not to condemn the NEA with the same hand I’m using to 
extol the NEH, but rather to point out that the two agencies are quite 
different. Music theory is part of the humanities, and the work the NEH 
funds goes to our core mission without -- as far as I know -- the 
concomitant contentions (and "political" discourse) of NEA funding.


David Carson Berry, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music Theory
University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
Email: david.berry at uc.edu

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