Workshop Cultural Musicology

In the context of the DFG-financed project „Initiation and intensification of bilateral cooperation in relation to the theme ‘Thinking about the musics of the world; Towards the maturing of a changing discipline’”, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Göttingen organize a workshop titled “Cultural musicology; A workshop Exploring its ‘Method, Aim and Scope’”. This workshop will take place at the University of Amsterdam on November 9, 2012. Attendance is free of charge. For more information on the location and program, please contact Eva-Maria van Straaten at

Aim of the workshop:
In this workshop, we will bring together musicologists from the Departments of Musicology in Amsterdam and Göttingen, which have been critically engaged in recent years in the development of what can be termed cultural musicology. In addition to the scientific outcome that is to be expected, we anticipate substantial synergetic effects with respect to the proposed topic resulting from their interaction. In complementary ways, all participants have spent several years doing research from their own perspectives on the workshop topic. A secondary aim of the workshop is to facilitate constructive talks about future joint research projects related to the topic of cultural musicology.

Topic of the workshop:
The dimensions of musicology and their interrelationships have been subjects of ongoing debate in recent decades, despite their long-standing history. Adler, in 1885, used the binary historical-systematic, with comparative as a subdivision of systematic. Seeger, in 1939, continued along this line, though he seems to have used comparative and systematic interchangeably. In the second half of the twentieth century, the two main pillars of musicology were musicology and ethnomusicology, especially in the United States, in spite of Seeger’s complaint about the appropriation of the generic term ‘musicology’ by the students of ‘western art music’. In recent times, a number of scholars, among them Tia DeNora and Alistair Williams, have been circulating the expression ‘cultural musicology’. This designation first emerged in 1959 in an article by Fidelis Smith that went largely unnoticed. Gilbert Chase coined the term cultural musicology once again in 1972, using it simply as a replacement for ethnomusicology, which was taken up by Kerman reintroduced in 1985. In 2003, Lawrence Kramer reinvented the terminology to denote the ‘rapidly aging new musicology’ , and around the same time, Routledge initiated a series called ‘critical and cultural musicology’, edited by Martha Feldman. The foreword included with each volume in the series states the following:
Musicology has undergone a seachange in recent years. Where once the discipline knew its limits, today its boundaries seem all but limitless. Its subjects have expanded from the great composers, patronage, manuscripts, and genre formations to include race, sexuality, jazz, and rock; its methods from textual criticism, formal analysis, paleography, narrative history, and archival studies to deconstruction, narrativity, postcolonial analysis, phenomenology, and performance studies. These categories point to deeper shifts in the discipline that have led musicologists to explore phenomena that previously had little or no place in musicology. Such shifts have changed our principles of evidence while urging new understandings of existing ones. They have transformed prevailing notions of musical texts, created new analytic strategies, recast our sense of subjectivity, and produced new archives of data. In the process they have also destabilized canons of scholarly value. The implications of these changes remain challenging in a field whose intellectual ground has shifted so quickly. In response to them, this series offers essay collections that give thematic focus to new critical and cultural perspectives in musicology.
The smooth, loose and vague manner in which the terminology is applied would suggest that it is not a formal discipline. Perhaps it should be, however, as the old musicology (or pre-new musicology) would now definitely have to be renamed historical musicology, and ethnomusicology is no longer a viable denotation, as neither its subject matter nor its methods seem tenable. And what happened to systematic musicology? It survived in German speaking musicology departments, but elsewhere it transformed into theoretical musicology, music theory, empirical musicology and cognitive musicology. In Feldman’s series, cultural musicology is mentioned side by side with critical musicology, which is a very special branch which applies critical theory.

The question is, if cultural musicology according to Chase’s definition is ethnomusicology, and if according to Kramer’s definition it is new musicology, then do they have anything in common at all? Perhaps they have more in common than it initially appears, for new musicology was strongly influenced by the cultural turn that is so predominant in ethnomusicology. Tomlinson’s work, for instance, exemplifies this juxtaposition. Furthermore, if Chase considers the object of study to be ‘other’ music (including pop), and Kramer is a classicist, it should be recognised that those fences were torn down in the twentieth century. Now, in the twenty-first century, the boundaries between repertoires have become even more obscure. Therefore, the orientations in musicology should be primarily methodological. In this workshop, we will attempt to explore the imaginable dimensions of cultural musicology from the core to the boundaries.

Confirmed speakers:
Prof. Dr. Birgit Abels, Charissa Granger M.A., Julia Heuwekemeijer M.A., Dr. Wim van der Meer, Eva-Maria van Straaten M.A. Prof. Dr. Andreas Waczkat