This course is an introduction to the
disciplines in systematic musicology, offering a broad overview of traditional
areas of scholarship and applying them to questions of musical meaning.
Engaging in systematic musicology involves eclectic exploration within
multiple disciplines that include: ethnomusicology, music theory, music philosophy, acoustics, psychoacoustics,
cognitive and behavioral psychology of music, experimental aesthetics,
philosophical aesthetics, philosophy of science, sociology of music, and music
criticism. The fundamental nature of
systematic musicology is explored. For
example, is systematic musicology a field? Is it a method of research?
If we accept that what we know depends on what we ask
and how we ask it, the diversity of approaches within music scholarship indicates
that, at various times and for various reasons, a great variety of different
types of questions have claimed our interest and efforts. Such investigations have resulted in a body
of knowledge that seems to be made out of the independent compartments we call
music disciplines. And although it is
neither possible nor desirable to subsume all musical investigations under a
single aegis, understanding them as a system has important academic advantages.
By understanding music scholarship as a system, all
questions and perspectives become interconnected. In a system, the answer to any question can
be seen as leading to other questions (i.e. interdependence) and any one
question can be rephrased in terms of another (transposition). By transposing questions and following out
their branches of interdependencies we are able to compare the most diverse
theoretical orientations, orientations that begin from different perspectives
and ask seemingly different questions. This does not mean that all the answers given to music questions will be
the same from the perspective of all disciplines or that all disciplines
necessarily ask similar questions. What it does
mean is that the study of music is a logical enterprise. Each discipline approaches music logically,
in that it poses a question that it considers important and, having answered that,
it is forced to ask other related questions.
All music disciplines boil down to a
labyrinth-like dialectic of questions and answers. A systematic approach
to music scholarship entails the initiation of dialogues across disciplines.
The term systematic musicology does not
therefore denote a field or even a method of study. Rather it reflects an investigator’s
willingness to accept the existence, importance, and urgency of musical
questions other than those he/she is usually prone to ask, and as an extension,
the possible existence of important questions not yet asked.
In an effort to expose students to this form
of music scholarship, the course involves discussion and critical analysis of
diverse readings from the related literature, examining their logical intra-
and inter-consistency and exploring the various possible relationships between musical
scholarship and musical experience.