A group of professors at Oxford University are unhappy with the institution’s classical music curriculum, as they consider that it focuses too much on the “white supremacy” of “European music of the slave-holding period”.
This was reported by The Telegraph, which revealed part of the content of documents where some professors suggest “decolonizing the curriculum” of the classical music course.
“Academics are deconstructing the university’s music offerings after facing pressure to ‘decolonize’ the curriculum following the Black Lives Matter protests,” The Telegraph reported. The newspaper said it saw “proposals for changes to undergraduate courses, in which some staff question the current curriculum’s ‘complicity in white supremacy’.”
The documents, the British newspaper claims, say that teaching the course without shedding “its connection to its colonial past” is a “slap in the face for some students.” For this reason, the professors proposed some changes that could be made to turn the supposedly “colonizing” curriculum into a “more inclusive” one.
“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’, the newspaper explained.
According to the report, the papers also express concern that “the vast bulk of tutors for techniques are white men.”
While Oxford University includes hip hop and jazz in its curriculum to meet the quota of “non-Eurocentric” subjects, some disgruntled professors expressed that most of the curriculum structure “supports white hegemony” and this is worrying because the university is, according to them, “almost exclusively white” and gives “privilege to white music.”
Recommendations to reform Oxford’s curriculum
The report outlines several of the recommendations made by the professors to make the curriculum more diverse and not so “hegemonically white”.
The first proposal is that the “special topics,” i.e., those courses that students at the university can choose to supplement their professorship, be renamed “Introduction to Sociocultural and Historical Studies.”
On the other hand, another proposal is to replace the compositions of the French Guillaume de Machaut and the Austrian Franz Peter Schubert with “African and African Diaspora Music,” “Global Music,” and “Popular Music”.
Among the recommendations, it is also suggested that the repertoire of the classical music department be updated, making room for pop culture and adding political nuances. For example, one proposal is to allow “students to study pop culture events such as “Dua Lipa’s record-breaking Livestream” and “Artists demanding Trump stop using their songs,”” explained The Telegraph.
All of these proposals by teachers to rethink the classical music curriculum are the product of pressure and “anti-racist” demonstrations led by the far-left “Black Lives Matter” movement.
However, the documents also point out that there are members of Oxford University who are not in favor of changing the curriculum. Indeed, those who were reticent about the changes explained that it is not fair to accuse those who teach the classes of only being interested in “white” and “Western” music.
There was also criticism of the use of the term Western Art Music, which is intended to replace the term “classical music” by being a bit more inclusive of other cultures.
Classic FM, which picked up the exclusive, consulted Oxford University about The Telegraph’s story. In that regard, a spokesperson told them that “While we maintain (and by no means diminish) our traditional excellence in the critical analysis, history and performance of the wide range of Western art music, we are exploring ways to enhance opportunities for our students to study a wider range of non-Western and popular music from around the world than is currently on offer, as well as music composition, the psychology and sociology of music, music education, conducting, and much more.”
In any case, we will have to wait to know if the modification of the curriculum is confirmed, as the university will only publish the plans next summer, after evaluating them with students and professors.
This evaluation process comes on the heels of the “historical revisionism” that the University of Oxford has been pursuing since June of last year when officials of the Faculty of Oriel voted to topple the statue of Cecil Rhodes.
At the time, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lamented the removal of the statue, saying that monuments help to “understand the past with its imperfections.”
“If we go around trying to edit our history in this way it’s like some politician trying to edit a Wikipedia entry,” the prime minister said of the event.
Now not only statues are being knocked down, but historical universities are considering stopping studying the musical creation of some European composers under the excuse of ending the “white supremacy.”