Larry Clark, a world-renowned composer in New York, was forced to apologize on social media after he was called out for using a fake Japanese name to profit off the demand for diversity in music several years ago.
Over the weekend, music teacher Owen Davis wrote about Clark’s deception via an impassioned Facebook post.
In his post, Davis lamented on his recent discovery that Clark, an American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) award-winning composer, generated income essentially intended for a person of color.
“*PSA* to all of my friends in music education and specifically the band world: Prominent composer/Arranger Larry Clark made a pen name ‘Keiko Yamada’ to pretend to be a Japanese Female composer in order to profit from calls for diversity in music education!” Davis wrote.
The teacher, who himself is a music composer, questioned what value publishing work under the name of Keiko Yamada would impart to the music community.
“This is disgusting, misleading, and just awful that we have students being subjected to not even appropriated music, but a fantasy of appropriated music. What does this accomplish? What goals of diversity and growth does this further?”
“To make things worse, after being pulled from some prominent music publishers after being publicly outed for this, some publishers decided to put his real name on the score. This winter he is an invited presenter at the prestigious Midwest Band Clinic leading a talk on ‘Selecting Quality Literature’ for band. There is so much music that exists in the world of band by diverse voices – why does this still need to be published?”
Davis ended the post by expressing his sadness and frustration over the incident, and it soon became widely shared among the music community.
On Monday, Clark addressed the controversy by offering what he considers his “heartfelt apology” on a Facebook post.
“To my friends and colleagues in the music community, I offer my heartfelt apology,” Clark wrote. “Several years ago, I wrote music using the pen name Keiko Yamada. I sincerely meant no harm by doing so. It has been common for composers and authors to use pen names for centuries. Times obviously have changed, and I realized that the use of this pen name was uninformed, insensitive, and out of touch with the need for diversity in music.”
After acknowledging the errors of his actions, he went on to note that he eventually corrected them in 2016.
“In 2016, together with my publisher at the time, we decided to eliminate the use of pen names altogether. I chose to have all of these pieces changed to reflect my name as the composer. Old inventory was removed and recalled from music retailers. New versions with my name as the composer were printed, at my personal expense.”
He then added that he is now trying to make things right by “seeking out composers of diverse backgrounds” through his own publishing company.
“I accept the responsibility for my uninformed decision to use this pen name. I believe in the music as I do all of the music I write, but what I did was wrong and needed to be corrected. I can’t change the past and am trying to make things right through my own company Excelcia Music Publishing. Cultural authenticity is paramount, and I will strive to put the composer first by seeking out composers of diverse backgrounds that better reflect the students that will perform our music. I hope that my actions going forward will demonstrate my desire to learn from my mistake. I am sincerely sorry and will continue to be better informed and sensitive to these important issues.”
Clark’s way of profiting off opportunities intended for people of color is reminiscent of C.B. Cebulski, Marvel’s current editor-in-chief who was caught pretending to be Japanese
to get more work from the comic book company.