Systematic Musicology, An Analysis

(this post is taken from a section of a paper in which I analyze the writings of various scholars within systematic musicology. This particular post focuses on a paper written by Roger Kendall and my professor Roger Savage.-Derek)

The first paper “Systematic Musicology Past and Present” chronicles the drastic changes that systematic musicology has had to endure throughout history, as well as how the discipline is represented academically throughout the world. The major change in this paper relates to the inclusion/exclusion of various disciplines in systematic musicology, specifically due to Guido Adler’s essay “The Scope, Method, and Aim of Musicology.” Prior to this paper, the field of systematic musicology synthesized chronological histories of music with “aesthetics, music theory, pedagogy, and comparative ethnography (1).” In Adler’s view, however, systematic musicology and historical musicology must be separated for more accurate research. The authors of “Systematic Musicology Past and Present” disagree with this conclusion, however, arguing that Adler’s conclusions must be understood within the decade he inhabited. They state “Adler aligns the science of music with the dominant cultural ethos of his time by erecting a unified framework for a comprehensive science of music (1).” Dr. Kendall and Dr. Savage go on to state that a systematic musicology minus historical musicology creates a body of research that is not nearly as complete. The authors are not the sole opposition to Adler’s alteration of systematic musicology, however, as they give examples of other scholars who seek to reunify the aforementioned disciples (such as William Hutchinson and Andrew McCredie).

The remainder of “Systematic Musicology Past and Present” contains information on the various academic institutions that represent, globally, the field of systematic musicology (either implicitly or explicitly). The countries mentioned are contained mainly within the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America.  The notable idea about all of these institutions (such as University of Vienna and Seoul National University) is that the global reach of systematic musicology is evident in a vast number of intellectual and cultural contexts. The final section of “Systematic Musicology Past and Present” deals with explaining how UCLA, the institution of the authors, is contributing to the field of systematic musicology. According to Dr.’s Kendall and Savage, what sets UCLA’s program apart is that it dialogues with ethnomusicology and critical musicology as well as focuses on “acoustics, psychophysiology, and psychoacoustics (9)” via computation and other scientific methods.  As time progresses, as “Systematic Musicology Past and Present” infers, every discipline within systematic musicology (no matter which academic institutions study it) will respond to the calls of scholars to progress according to what is required at the time.


3 thoughts on “Systematic Musicology, An Analysis

  1. Re: Globalization, the following extract from the Intro to my book may be of interest. Bear in mind that I’m not a musicologist as such.

    ‘These comments have a particular relevance to jazz which is in danger of becoming a charicature of itself, as if viewed from the outside looking in. Great music eventually succeeds because it is bravely different, not because it panders to notions of fashion and imagery so often seized upon by the media. In any case, the wide diversity of musical styles in
    existence would not have been born in the first place if we had always possessed the global communication and transport systems that we take for granted today. Communities were isolated by a geography
    that unfortunately also encouraged mutual distrust and prejudice. Thankfully, we are now witnessing the development of a global culture, the results of which will be difficult to predict’.

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