Musicology: The Key Concepts

Musicology: The Key Concepts

Musicology: The Key Concepts

Musicology: The Key Concepts


Musicology: the Key Concepts provides a vital reference guide for students of contemporary musicology. Its clear and accessible entries cover a comprehensive range of terms including:

- aesthetics
- canon
- culture
- deconstruction
- ethnicity
- identity
- subjectivity
- value
- work

Fully cross-referenced and with suggestions for further reading, this is an essential resource for all students of music.


Music and musicology are both separate and related constructs. Music, as a practical activity, has its own history, but musicology, as a process of study, inquiry and reflection, while it forms its own context and employs distinct concepts, is clearly dependent upon and reflective of music as its subject.

Music has a long history while musicology has, by comparison, enjoyed a relatively short lifespan. Yet musicology, which can broadly be defined as the thinking about and study of music, could be argued to have been already present within the acts of composing and performing music. Music is an art form and context that has always invited theoretical speculation and critical reflection, and we can presume that composers, for example, have always thought about their own creative processes and that these processes are somehow informed by the study and experience of other, already existing, music. However, such reflection and interaction may be seen to stop short of a properly conceived musicology that could be understood to stand outside the creative process in order to provide a clearer perspective upon that process, its end product in the form of a musical work and, just as significant, the social and cultural contexts within which the process and product could be situated and interpreted. This broad conception of musicology is in contrast to the narrower focus of specific aspects of musicological activity Although earlier figures such as Forkel and Fétis outlined programmes of what could be conceived of as an early musicology, it was Austrian musicologist Guido Adler who provided the first description of, effectively a prescription for, musicology In an article titled ‘Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft’ (The scope, method and aim of musicology), published in 1885 in the first issue of Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft (Adler 1885; see also Bujić 1988, 348–55), Adler outlined a separation between the historical and systematic dimensions of music, with the rigour of the exercise reflected in the term Musikwissenschaft (science of music). He repeated this model in his Methode der Musikgesichte, published in 1919. For Adler, the historical field consisted of the organization of music history into epochs, periods and nations. In contrast, the systematic field was to consist of the internal properties and characteristics of music such as harmony and tonality. Clearly, a great deal of musicological activity after Adler could be seen to reflect this division, with the study of music history often reflecting large-scale categorization (see historiography) and the construction of a canon of the Western tradition of classical music. However, the systematic field could be seen to anticipate the development of music analysis and the emergence of specific theories of harmony, tonality and form (see theory). However, what is most revealing about Adler’s project in general is its quasiscientific nature, with the claim of the systematic reflecting the rationalizing and positivistic (see positivism) impulses and search for objectivity common to a number of musicological contexts. However one . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.