Musicology (from Greek μουσική (mousikē), meaning "music", and -λογία (-logia), meaning "study of") is the scholarly analysis of and research on, music. Musicology is part of the humanities. A scholar who participates in musical research is a musicologist.

Traditionally, historical musicology (commonly termed "music history") has been the most prominent sub-discipline of musicology. In the 2010s, historical musicology is one of several large musicology sub-disciplines. Historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and systematic musicology are approximately equal in size. Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context. Systematic musicology includes music acoustics, the science and technology of acoustical musical instruments, and the musical implications of physiology, psychology, sociology, philosophy and computing. Cognitive musicology is the set of phenomena surrounding the computational modelling of music. In a few countries, music education is a prominent sub-field of musicology, while in others it is regarded as a distinct academic field, or one more closely affiliated with teacher education, educational research, and related fields.

Parent disciplines

The parent disciplines of musicology include:

Musicology additionally has two central, practically oriented sub-disciplines with no parent discipline: performance practice and research (sometimes viewed as a form of artistic research), and the theory, analysis and composition of music. The disciplinary neighbours of musicology address additional forms of art, performance, ritual and communication, including the history and theory of the visual and plastic arts and of architecture; linguistics, literature and theater; religion and theology; and sport. Musical knowledge is applied in medicine, education, and music therapy—which, effectively, are parent disciplines of applied musicology.


Historical musicology

Historical musicology, which was traditionally the most prominent subdiscipline of musicology, studies the history of music. Central to this study is the examination of historical scores, such as this original manuscript sketch by Ludwig van Beethoven for Piano Sonata No. 28, Movement IV, Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr und mit Entschlossenheit (Allegro), in his own handwriting. The piece was completed in 1816.

Music history or historical musicology is concerned with the composition, performance, reception, and criticism of music over time. Historical studies of music are for example concerned with a composer's life and works, the developments of styles and genres (e. g. baroque concertos), the social function of music for a particular group of people (e. g. court music), or modes of performance at a particular place and time (e. g. Johann Sebastian Bach's choir in Leipzig). Like the comparable field of art history, different branches and schools of historical musicology emphasise different types of musical works and approaches to music. There are additionally national differences in various definitions of historical musicology. In theory, "music history" could refer to the study of the history of any type or genre of music (e.g., the history of Indian music or the history of rock). In practice, these research topics are more often considered within ethnomusicology (see below) and "historical musicology" is typically assumed to imply Western Art music of the European tradition.

The methods of historical musicology include source studies (especially manuscript studies), paleography, philology (especially textual criticism), style criticism, historiography (the choice of historical method), musical analysis (analysis of music to find "inner coherence"), and iconography. The application of musical analysis to further these goals is often a part of music history, though pure analysis or the development of new tools of music analysis is more likely to be seen in the field of music theory. Music historians create a number of written products, ranging from journal articles describing their current research, new editions of musical works, biographies of composers and additional musicians, book-length studies or university textbook chapters or entire textbooks. Music historians might examine issues in a close focus, as in the case of scholars who examine the relationship between words and music for a given composer's art songs. On the additional hand, a few scholars take a broader view, and assess the place of a given type of music, such as the symphony in society using techniques drawn from additional fields, such as economics, sociology, or philosophy.

New musicology is a term applied after the late 1980s to a wide body of work emphasising cultural study, analysis, and criticism of music. Such work might be based on feminist, gender studies, queer theory, or postcolonial theory, or the work of Theodor Adorno. Although New Musicology emerged from within historical musicology, the emphasis on cultural study within the Western art music tradition places New Musicology at the junction between historical, ethnological and sociological research in music.

New musicology was a reaction against traditional historical musicology, which according to Susan McClary, "fastidiously declares issues of musical signification off-limits to those engaged in legitimate scholarship." Charles Rosen, however, retorts that McClary, "sets up, like so a large number of of the 'new musicologists', a straw man to knock down, the dogma that music has no meaning, and no political or social significance". Today, a large number of musicologists no longer distinguish between musicology and new musicology, after a large number of of the scholarly concerns once associated with new musicology have now become mainstream, and they feel the term "new" no longer applies.

Cultural musicology or ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicology, formerly comparative musicology, is the study of music in its cultural context. It is often considered the anthropology or ethnography of music. Jeff Todd Titon has called it the study of "people making music". Although it is most often concerned with the study of non-Western musics, it additionally includes the study of Western music from an anthropological or sociological perspective, cultural studies and sociology as well as additional disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Some ethnomusicologists primarily conduct historical studies, but the majority are involved in long-term participant observation, or combine ethnographic and historical approaches in their fieldwork. Therefore, ethnomusiological scholarship can be characterised as featuring a substantial, intensive fieldwork component, often involving long-term residence within the community studied. Closely related to ethnomusiology is the emerging branch of sociomusicology. For instance, Ko (2011) proposed the hypothesis of "Biliterate and Trimusical" in Hong Kong sociomusicology.

Popular music studies, known, "misleadingly," as popular musicology, emerged in the 1980s as an increasing number of musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and additional varieties of historians of American and European culture began to write about popular musics past and present. The first journal focusing on popular music studies was , which began publication in 1981. The same year an academic society solely devoted to the topic was formed, the . The Association's founding was partly motivated by the interdisciplinary agenda of popular musicology though the group has been characterised by a polarised 'musicological' and 'sociological' approach additionally typical of popular musicology.

Music theory, analysis and composition

Music theory is a field of study that describes the elements of music and includes the development and application of methods for composing and for analysing music through both notation and, on occasion, musical sound itself. Broadly, theory might include any statement, belief, or conception of or about music (Boretz, 1995). A person who studies or practises music theory is a music theorist.

Some music theorists attempt to explain the techniques composers use by establishing rules and patterns. Others model the experience of listening to or performing music. Though extremely diverse in their interests and commitments, a large number of Western music theorists are united in their belief that the acts of composing, performing, and listening to music might be explicated to a high degree of detail (this, as opposed to a conception of musical expression as fundamentally ineffable except in musical sounds). Generally, works of music theory are both descriptive and prescriptive, attempting both to define practise and to influence later practice. Thus, music theory generally lags behind practise but additionally points towards future exploration, composition, and performance.

Musicians study music theory to understand the structural relationships in the (nearly always notated) music. Composers study music theory to understand how to produce effects and structure their own works. Composers might study music theory to guide their precompositional and compositional decisions. Broadly speaking, music theory in the Western tradition focuses on harmony and counterpoint, and then uses these to explain large scale structure and the creation of melody.

Music psychology

Music psychology applies the content and methods of all subdisciplines of psychology (perception, cognition, motivation, etc.) to understand how music is created, perceived, responded to, and incorporated into individuals' and societies' daily lives. Its primary branches include cognitive musicology, which emphasises the use of computational models for human musical abilities and cognition, and the cognitive neuroscience of music, which studies the way that music perception and production manifests in the brain using the methodologies of cognitive neuroscience. While aspects of the field can be highly theoretical, much of modern music psychology seeks to optimise the practises and professions of music performance, composition, education, and therapy.

Performance practise and research

Performance practise draws on a large number of of the tools of historical musicology to reply the specific question of how music was performed in various places at various times in the past. Although previously confined to early music, recent research in performance practise has embraced questions such as how the early history of recording affected the use of vibrato in classical music, or instruments in Klezmer.

Within the rubric of musicology, performance practise tends to emphasise the collection and synthesis of evidence about how music should be performed. The important additional side, learning how to sing authentically or perform a historical instrument is usually part of conservatory or additional performance training. Notwithstanding a large number of top researchers in performance practise are additionally excellent musicians.

Music performance research (or music performance science) is strongly associated with music psychology. It aims to document and explain the psychological, physiological, sociological and cultural details of how music is actually performed (rather than how it should be performed). The approach to research tends to be systematic and empirical, and to involve the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. The findings of music performance research can often be applied in music education.

Education and careers

Music historian Jack Stewart lectures at a conference.

Musicologists in tenure track professor positions typically hold a Ph.D in musicology. In the 1960s and 1970s, a few musicologists obtained professor positions with an M.A. as their highest degree, but in the 2010s, the Ph.D is the standard minimum credential for tenure track professor positions. As part of their initial training, musicologists typically complete a B.Mus or a B.A. in music (or a related field such as history) and in a large number of cases an M.A. in musicology. Some individuals apply directly from a bachelor's degree to a Ph.D, and in these cases, they might not receive an M.A. In the 2010s, given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of university graduate programs, a few applicants for musicology Ph.D programmes might have academic training both in music and outside of music (e.g., a student might apply with a B.Mus and an M.A. in psychology). In music education, individuals might hold an M.Ed and an Ed.D.

Most musicologists work as instructors, lecturers or professors in colleges, universities or conservatories. The job market for tenure track professor positions is quite competitive. Entry-level applicants must hold a completed Ph.D or the equivalent degree and applicants to more senior professor positions must have a strong record of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Some Ph.D-holding musicologists are only able to find insecure positions as sessional lecturers. The job tasks of a musicologist are the same as those of a professor in any additional humanities discipline: she teaches undergraduate and/or graduate classes in her area of specialisation and, in a large number of cases a few general courses (such as Music Appreciation or Introduction to Music History), conducts research in her area of expertise, publishes articles about her research in peer-reviewed journals, authors book chapters, books or textbooks, travels to conferences to give talks on her research and learn about research in her field, and, if her programme includes a graduate school, supervises M.A. and Ph.D students and gives them guidance on the preparation of their theses and dissertations. Some musicology professors might take on senior administrative positions in their institution, such as Dean or Chair of the School of Music.

Role of women

Rosetta Reitz (1924–2008) was an American jazz historian and feminist who established a record label producing 18 albums of the music of the early women of jazz and the blues.

The vast majority of major musicologists and music historians from past generations have been men, as in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, women's involvement in teaching music was mainly in elementary and secondary music teaching. Nevertheless, a few women musicologists have reached the top ranks of the profession. Carolyn Abbate (born 1956) is an American musicologist who did her PhD at Princeton University. She has been described by the Harvard Gazette as "one of the world's most accomplished and admired music historians". Susan McClary (born 1946) is a musicologist associated with the "New Musicology" who incorporates feminist music criticism in her work. McClary holds a PhD from Harvard University. One of her best known works is Feminine Endings (1991), which covers musical constructions of gender and sexuality, gendered aspects of traditional music theory, gendered sexuality in musical narrative, music as a gendered discourse and issues affecting women musicians. In the book, McClary suggests that the sonata form (used in symphonies and string quartets) might be a sexist or misogynistic procedure that constructs of gender and sexual identity. McClary's Conventional Wisdom (2000) argues that the traditional musicological assumption of the existence of "purely musical" elements, divorced from culture and meaning, the social and the body, is a conceit used to veil the social and political imperatives of the worldview that produces the classical canon most prized by supposedly objective musicologists.

Other notable women scholars include: