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Oxford may ditch sheet music because it's 'colonialist'
Mikhail Tereshchenko\TASS via Getty Images

UPDATE: Oxford music faculty reportedly calls sheet music ‘colonialist,’ questions program’s ‘complicity in white supremacy’ amid efforts to ‘decolonize’ curriculum

'Colonialist representational system'

Editor's Note: Following the publication of this article, music faculty at the University of Oxford told the Associated Press that claims suggesting faculty are considering removing sheet music from music curriculum are "completely incorrect." The faculty added that "no such proposal or suggestion has been made about sheet music or western musical notation."

However, the latter statement appears to be in contradiction to the Telegraph's original report, which stated that faculty had in fact made the suggestion in proposal documents amid the university's efforts to reform the program. In conversation with the AP, Stephen Rouse, head of university communications at Oxford, acknowledged that the proposals were real, but noted that many of the views the Telegraph article attributed to "professors" came from one individual.

With the statement, the university acknowledged the existence of many of the proposals outlined in the Telegraph report but denied that changes to sheet music were ever suggested. TheBlaze is seeking clarification on that point but in the meantime has updated this article's headline and body text to reflect the update.

Music faculty at the University of Oxford reportedly branded western musical notation as a "colonialist representational system" amid a revamp of their music education offerings, the Telegraph reported on Saturday.

What are the details?

According to proposal for change documents obtained by the news outlet, faculty at the university suggested rethinking the study of musical notation as part of sweeping changes intended to "decolonize" the program.

The notation, which has not "shaken off its connection to its colonial past" would be a "slap in the face" for some students of color, the documents reportedly stated. The university has since clarified that it has no plans to remove sheet music from curriculum.

Elsewhere in the documents, members of the music faculty allegedly questioned the current curriculum's "complicity in white supremacy."

They specifically took issue with the classical collection taught at the school — which includes works by Mozart and Beethoven — alleging it focuses too much on "white European music from the slave period."

Additionally, the faculty members proposed that certain classical musical skills such as playing the piano and conducting orchestral arrangements should no longer be mandatory, given that these "structurally center white European music," causing "students of color great distress."

What else?

Moving forward, the faculty members wish to address the supposed "white hegemony" by offering a more inclusive range of musical topics of study like "African and African Diasporic Musics," "Global Musics," and "Popular Musics."

One faculty suggestion even proposed allowing students to study pop culture events including "Dua Lipa's Record Breaking Livestream" and "Artists Demanding Trump Stop Using Their Songs."

Even though the university's music curriculum already includes "non-Eurocentric" course options, the professors proposing changes complained that the school's "almost all-white faculty" by default gives "privilege to white musics."

Professors also stated that the "vast bulk of tutors for [musical] techniques are white men."

Anything else?

The proposals were said to be driven in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In one of the documents seen by the Telegraph, professors state, "Arising from international Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the Faculty Board proposed making changes to enhance the diversity of the undergraduate curriculum."

Similar rebranding is ongoing in colleges, secondary, and elementary schools across the United States, as progressive educators and school board members push critical race theory ideas into classrooms.

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Phil Shiver

Phil Shiver

Phil Shiver is a former staff writer for The Blaze. He has a BA in History and an MA in Theology. He currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina. You can reach him on Twitter @kpshiver3.