c o u r s e s

f o u n d a t i o n s   i n   s y s t e m a t i c   m u s i c o l o g y


Course Description
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.