If one reads its disciplinary moniker literally, "musicology" is the scholarly study of music. In practice, however, its objects and methods are far narrower. In the postwar era, musicology was almost exclusively concerned with the verification, classification, and explication of pre-1900 European art music. Scholarship focused on the music itself apart from performance, consumption, and social context. In other words, it treated music as a set of works: autonomous aesthetic entities not subject to social, cultural, or economic forces. Such works were assembled into a canon, implying a clear trajectory of historical progress. Ethnomusicology and the so-called new musicology of the 1980s and 90s posed challenges to this musicological status quo. New approaches conceptualized music as an event unfolding in time rather than a reified artifact. Inspired by postcolonial, feminist, and queer theoretical models, scholars questioned the canon and its master narrative of great compositions by white men. They critiqued the positivist model of music scholarship as an accumulation of facts, chronologies, and authoritative printed editions. Despite this upheaval in the discipline, a quick survey of recent article and abstract titles in the American Musicological Society's quarterly journal or annual conference program shows that traditional research topics and methods persist.
This course will explore musicology's scholarly purview, history, methods, and debates, past and present. How do musicologists' and composers' pursuits intertwine in historical narratives and contemporary music departments? How do the "intermediaries" of notated score, performer, and sound recording influence scholarship? What's the purpose of musical analysis? How should analysis proceed when scholars have largely agreed that its "object" is not a fixed object at all? How does the study of popular music fit (or not) into the disciplines of musicology and ethnomusicology? What's at stake in keeping musicology separate from ethnomusicology in scholarly societies, journals, and, indeed, graduate training? Reading assignments will include a combination of influential "classics" (e.g., Eduard Hanslick's ON THE MUSICALLY BEAUTIFUL), watershed texts of the new musicology (e.g., excerpts from Joseph Kerman's CONTEMPORARY MUSIC and Susan McClary's FEMININE ENDINGS), and essays representing recent trends in the field (e.g., sound studies, ecomusicology, and the "affective turn" in the humanities). On our tour of the discipline, we'll also examine a variety of musical "works" and repertoires (recorded and notated), from Notre Dame Organum to C. P. E. Bach to Stravinsky to U. K. Punk.