Sheet Music Burning

The latest target of the woke elites and their braying mobs is—that great symbol of imperialism and Western dominance—sheet music.

Apparently, some Oxford dons are considering removing sheet music and the ability to read traditional notation from its curriculum.  One quotation from The Telegraph article notes that “The Oxford academics went on to pronounce that teaching the piano or conducting orchestras could cause ‘students of colour great distress’ as the skills involved are closely tied to ‘white European music’.”

This latest crusade is the musical equivalent of the effort in English departments across the country to downplay the teaching of grammar.  Sure, one can make plenty of excellent music without knowing how to read notation, but why limit one’s self to tabs or lead sheets?  I can certainly communicate certain ideas without adverbs, adjectives, or even pesky commas, but doing so severely limits the range of expression.

Just as English and Creative Writing programs are shifting towards “spoken word” and “slam” poetry—heavily rhythmic forms of poetry that often present mildly clever puns and altered emphases as a substitute for imagery, symbolism, and depth—musical expression is increasingly rhythmically dominated, with melody and harmony taking a distant backseat.  Even melodies—if they can be called such a thing—are reduced to two- or three-note chants, whose appeal rests more on rapid-fire delivery and syncopated cadences than poetic lyrical content or melodic expression.

Learning some of those rhythmic techniques is fine, and adds to the palette of artistic options awaiting a composer or performer.  But eschewing foundational music theory and notation out of some misguided sense of “anti-racism” is foolhardy—and insulting, as if to suggest that black musicians are incapable of learning to read music (personal experience playing with many musicians of every background suggests, indeed, that the opposite is true).

If an institution as distinguished as Oxford University can ditch sheet music—or even consider it—the future of music as a vibrant, lively, expressive force for creativity and high culture is dim.  Indeed, it marks yet another all-too-familiar chapter in the sad history of social justice wreckers, burning down—literally and figuratively—all that elevates and inspires, out of the fear that because some geniuses exist, it might hurt the feelings of the mediocre.


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