Musical notations branded ‘colonialist’ by Oxford professors hoping to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum


Musical notation has been branded “colonialist” by Oxford professors hoping to reform their courses to focus less on white European culture, The Telegraph can reveal.

Academics are deconstructing the university’s music offering after facing pressure to “decolonise” the curriculum following the Black Lives Matter protests.

The Telegraph has seen proposals for changes to undergraduate courses, in which some staff question the current curriculum’s “complicity in white supremacy”.

Professors said the classical repertoire taught at Oxford, which spans works by Mozart and Beethoven, focuses too much on “white European music from the slave period”.

Documents reveal that faculty members, who decide on courses that form the music degree, have proposed reforms to address this “white hegemony”, including rethinking the study of musical notation because it is a “colonialist representational system”.

Teaching notation which has not “shaken off its connection to its colonial past” would be a “slap in the face” for some students, documents state, and music-writing studies have been earmarked for rebranding to be more inclusive.

Academics have also proposed that musical skills such as learning to play the keyboard or conducting orchestras should no longer be compulsory because the repertoire “structurally centres white European music” which causes “students of colour great distress”.

It is also noted that the “vast bulk of tutors for techniques are white men”.


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