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The German Musical Exile and the Course of American Musicology

Josephson, David

On the face of it, the subject would seem not to need a paper. Musicology
was a European discipline fed from many sources, named by Friedrich
Chrysander (1863, 1867), defined by Guido Adler (1885), and, during its
early twentieth-century course, shaped by Friedrich Ludwig and Hugo Riemann.
Like other humanities during the muscular growth of Wilhelmine
Germany, it became a German province. As America had taken its classical
music from Germany during the nineteenth century, so it took its musicology
from Germany in the early years of the twentieth. But our pioneers
soon set out to create a distinctly American musicology, and were on their
way to doing so from the founding of the Musical Quarterly in 1915 to the
creation of the New York Musicological Society in 1931 and its reorganization
as the American Musicological Society (AMS) three years later.3 They
were soon overtaken by an unexpected influx of emigre scholars in flight
from central Europe whose numbers and prestige charted the course of the
fledgling discipline anew. Eventually, as the emigres passed from the scene,
and the generations of those they had taught began to pass from it as well,
their influence eroded and American musicology reclaimed its national
character, however that character would come to be construed. It seems a
straightforward story.
It isn't. That story tells us little about why we did what we did during
the early decades of our Society's existence. It narrates the meteoric rise of
the emigres' influence, but fails to account for its seemingly sudden collapse.
When in 1985 Joseph Kerman published a stunning critique of postwar
Anglo-American scholarship-he had been fighting the battle for twenty
years before that-Margaret Bent responded as President of the AMS with
an Address at the Society's annual meeting that year in Vancouver, defending
the classic paradigm with the authority of one who was its elegant voice and
the passion of one who recognized what was at stake (Kerman 1985; Bent
1986). But by the annual meeting in 1990 in Oakland the field had become
a Babel of voices.

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Columbia University
Published Here
October 29, 2014