musicology

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

musicology

musicology, systematized study of music and musical style, particularly in the realm of historical research. The scholarly study of music of different historical periods was not practiced until the 18th cent., and few published efforts were rigorously researched. Notable exceptions include the works of two Englishmen, Charles Burney's General History of Music (1776–89) and J. Hawkins's General History of the Science and Practice of Music (1776).

In the 19th cent. the general interest in antiquity induced curiosity in older music and the key problem of understanding obsolete forms of musical notation. François Joseph Fétis (1784–1871) and August Wilhelm Ambros (1816–76) were among the first to publish satisfactorily researched overviews of the development of Western music. Their inclusion of transcriptions of unknown medieval and Renaissance pieces is especially important.

Today, the domain of musicology is defined by universities, where such study is centered, and includes study of form and notation, national, period, and personal styles, the lives of composers and players, musical instruments, acoustics, ethnomusicology, and aesthetics. Ironically, the study of musical compositions as such, as distinct from the study of data related to them, is not regarded as within the sphere of musicology but rather in the academically separate branch of study called music theory (see theory, in music).

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