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.
THE FACTS: There are no plans under consideration to remove sheet music or western musical notation from the music curriculum at Oxford University, according to Stephen Rouse, head of university communications. Social media users circulated the false claim based on stories in the British media. “Attack of the woke: Oxford University is considering removing sheet music from its curriculum over claims that musical notation has roots in “colonialism” and “complicity in white supremacy,” one Facebook user wrote on Monday. The bogus claims, shared thousands of times, have roots in an article published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. The article reported that documents showed some faculty members had proposed reforms to address the music program’s focus on white European culture, including “rethinking the study of musical notation.” It did not report that the complaints meant the university was considering ditching sheet music altogether. Tabloids and right-wing media outlets made that false assumption in their coverage of the article. Rouse told The Associated Press that while the music faculty is planning to expand its music curriculum to broaden offerings, cutting sheet music is not part of the plan. He added that many of the views the Telegraph article attributed to “professors” came from a single individual. Rouse shared a statement from the university’s music faculty. “While retaining (and in no way diminishing) our traditional excellence in the critical analysis, history and performance of the broad range of western art music, we are exploring ways to enhance our students’ opportunities to study a wider range of non-western and popular music from across the world than is currently on offer, as well as music composition, the psychology and sociology of music, music education, conducting, and much more,” the statement read. The music faculty said claims that the university is considering removing sheet music from its curriculum are “completely incorrect.” “No such proposal or suggestion has been made about sheet music or western musical notation,” the statement read.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Seattle contributed this report