From Academic Kids

For the album by Prince, see Musicology (album).

Musicology "is 'the scientific study of music'" (Greek: musike = music and logos = word).

the whole body of systematized knowledge about music which results from the application of a scientific method of investigation or research, or of philosophical speculation and rational systematization to the facts, the processes and the development of musical art, and to the relation of man in that art (Harvard Dictionary of Music).

As "it 'must include every conceivable discussion of musical topics'," musicologists may study quite a wide range of subjects. Some, for instance, may specialise in English Tudor church music, others in the history of musical notation and others in the development of the flute.


What is music?

Main article: definitions of music.

Quid est musica? What is music? is the first and historical question of musicology. Through it, we can find the three sub disciplines of present musicology.

1. What is music? What structures of sound can we call music? How have the ideas and practices of music developed in different cultures and ages? Which pieces and systems of music can we form a body of knowledge from, because they have survived in notated, recorded or remembered form? These questions lead to the study of music history.

2. What is music? What is possible to know about the internal logic and functioning of this we call music? How shall we describe it? Notate it? Analyze it? What ideas and systems of meaning have been associated with music in different cultures and ages? These questions lead to the study of music theory (see also below).

3. What is music? What is it doing in the human world? How it is used? These questions about the place of music in society, leads to the study of ethnomusicology (see also below).


Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context. It can be considered the anthropology of music. Jeff Todd Titon has called it the study of "people making music". It is often thought of as a study of non-Western musics, but may include the study of Western music from an anthropological perspective.

Other theories and disciplines

The new musicology

The New Musicology is a term applied to a wide body of work produced by many musicologists who consider themselves neither new nor New. Often based on the work of Theodor Adorno and feminist, gender studies, or postcolonial hypotheses, the New Musicology is the cultural study, analysis, and criticism of music. As Susan McClary says, "musicology fastidiously declares issues of musical signification off-limits to those engaged in legitimate scholarship."

Music Cognition

Music cognition is the study of the perception and performance of music from the viewpoint of cognitive science. The discipline shares the interdisciplinary nature of fields such as cognitive linguistics.

Biomusicology and zoomusicology

Biomusicology is the study of music from a biological point of view. Zoomusicology is a field of musicology and zoology or more specifically, zoosemiotics. Zoomusicology is the study of the music of animals, or rather the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals.

See also


Musicology, "with a few exceptions (mostly recent)" has not studied popular music. "As a general rule works of musicology, theoretical or historical, act as though popular music did not exist." Musicologists who are "both contemptuous and condescending are looking for types of production, musical form, and listening which they associate with a different kind of music...'classical music'...and they generally find popular music lacking" (Middleton 1990, p.103).

He cites (p.104-6) "three main aspects of this problem":

  1. "a terminology slanted by the needs and history of a particular music ('classical music')."
    1. "on one hand, there is a rich vocabulary for certain areas [harmony, tonality, certain part-writing and forms], important in musicology's typical corpus, and an impoverished vocabulary for others [rhythm, pitch nuance and gradation, and timbre], which are less well developed there"
    2. "on the other hand, terms are ideologically loaded...these connotations are ideological because they always involve selective, and often unconsciously formulated, conceptions of what music is."
  2. "a methodology slanted by the characteristics of notation," 'notational centricity' (Tagg 1979, p.28-32)
    1. "musicological methods tend to foreground those musical parameters which can be easily notated...they tend to neglect or have difficulty with parameters which are not easily notated", such as Fred Lerdahl. "notation-centric training induces particular forms of listening, and these then tend to be applied to all sorts of music, appropriately or not."
    2. Notational centricity also encourages "reification: the score comes to be seen as 'the music', or perhaps the music in an ideal form."
  3. "an ideology slanted by the origins and development of a particular body of music and its aesthetic...It arose at a specific moment, in a specific context - nineteenth-century Europe, especially Germany - and in close association with that movement in the musical practice of the period which was codifying the very repertory then taken by musicology as the centre of its attention."

These terminological, methodological, and ideological problems affect even works symphathetic to popular music. However, it is not "that musicology cannot understand popular music, or that students of popular music should abandon musicology" (p.104).


  • Kerman, Joseph (1985). Musicology. London: Fontana. ISBN 0001971700.
  • Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0335152759.
  • Pruett, James W., and Thomas P. Slavens (1985). Research guide to musicology. Chicago: American Library Association. ISBN 0838903312.
  • Tagg, Philip (1979).

External links

fr:Musicologie ja:音楽学 ka:მუსიკათმცოდნეობა lb:Musekwssenschaft nl:Musicologie nn:Musikkvitskap sv:Musikvetenskap tr:Mzikoloji zh:音乐学 cs:Muzikologie


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