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University of Cambridge students told classical music is an 'imperialist phenomenon'

Cambridge is not the only university to roll out such courses in its music department. Following the Black Lives Matter protests, many institutions sought to "decolonize" their curriculums for courses related to arts and culture.

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Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver BC
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A course at University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom is urging students to look at classical music through a post-colonial lens.

There has been a growing trend in academia in recent years of trying to "decolonize" the curriculum. This typically involves deconstructing topics and seeing how they fit into a framework of power dynamics.

The latest victim of such deconstruction is classical music, as students at Cambridge University are asked to relate it to things such as imperialism, colonialism, and class.

The Telegraph reported, Cambridge recently rolled out a new course titled "Decolonizing the Ear," which aims to teach students how to engage with music through various academic frameworks, largely those related to power dynamics.

One such topic in the course is analyzing how classical music might have been "complicit ... in projects of Empire and neoliberal systems of power."

The course also deals with how "Empire … affected our understanding of what constitutes 'music'," as well as how "genres like opera seem particularly susceptible to racialised representations."

No artist, regardless of their position in the halls of musical greatness, is safe from being lumped in with others and charged with being products of imperialism, and in some cases, white supremacy.

Mozart and Verdi are reduced to mere pawns in the imperial conquests of Europe, their art not appreciated, but deconstructed to reveal not what they were thinking, but what was being experienced by society at large.

These, and so many others, are noted in the course materials as being part of a "musical establishment that was leveraged in the service of patriarchy, class aspiration, and imperial expansion."

As the Telegraph reported, students requested content warnings for all courses within the faculty of music so they could prepare themselves for the "potentially distressing" topics discussed.

Cambridge is not the only university to roll out such courses in its music department. Following the Black Lives Matter protests, many institutions sought to "decolonize" their curriculums for courses related to arts and culture.  

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