Hurrian Hymn no.6
The internet was astir regarding an article in The Telegraph. The headline reads, “Musical notation branded 'colonialist' by Oxford professors hoping to 'decolonise' the curriculum.”
Musical pundits picked up on this as “the woke” trying to destroy Western Culture from within. After reading the article in The Telegraph, I must admit I was alarmed.
A few Google session later, I found an article from the Associated Press that reads:
Claim: The U.K.’s University of Oxford is considering removing sheet music from its music curriculum as part of sweeping changes intended to “decolonize” the program.
AP’s assessment: False. There are no plans under consideration to remove sheet music or western musical notation from the music curriculum at Oxford University. The music faculty are planning to add new offerings to the curriculum to be announced in the coming months, a representative from the university said.
The facts: Social media users this week are falsely claiming one of the oldest and highest-ranked universities in the world is ditching sheet music as part of an overhaul to combat racism and white supremacy.
The AP article mentions Oxford University head of communications Stephen Rouse. Rouse claimed that the Oxford faculty views discussed in The Telegraph article came from a single individual. Rouse assured the AP that there are no plans to discontinue sheet music at Oxford.
That is refreshing. Yet, I still can’t help but retain a low-key level of alarm.
The fact is that there is an individual, in the Oxford music department, who believes sheet music is a product of white supremacy. I can only stand in awe at the size of the disconnect created here.
Obviously, musical notation predates the African slave trade and colonialism by several centuries. The oldest musical notation discovered is the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 from the 15th Century BC. Interpretations of the musical notation vary. The origins of modern sheet music date back to the 10th and 11th Centuries AD.
The Oldest Known Melody (Hurrian Hymn no.6 - c.1400 B.C.)
Michael Levy on the lyre
It appears as if this individual believes that music was written down during the colonial period therefore it should be regarded as being colonialism itself. This boggles the mind.
The over-arching concern here is that Western Civilization is inherently abusive. Yet Oxford is a product of Western Civilization.
Is this individual, as an employee at a bastion of Western Culture, not a colonialist? Perhaps this person should consider canceling himself.
We find this type of ridiculousness in the arts. Do we hear science departments canceling the findings of Isaac Newton as being colonial?
In the final analysis, this is a case of an individual over-estimating the importance of classical music. Classical music is a niche product that has severe limitations baked into its very existence.
It's long. It's abstract. It's complicated. To most, its primary function is relaxation.
Classical music is, in a way, self-canceling.