Does Music Theory Need Musicology?

Agawu, Kofi

Understood as a search for "the abstract principles embodied in music and the sounds of which it consists,"l music theory casts a wide net: it calls for a comparative sample and insists on a systematic methodology. As "the scholarly study of music, wherever it is found historically or geographically," musicology casts an even wider net. In practice, however, it has not been possible to transcend historical and geographical boundaries. (How often have you read an article on contemporary rock in JAMS or on Asian music in 19th-Century Music?) Obviously, any attempt to explore the juncture between music theory and music history-my particular brief from the editors of Current Musicology will not get very far on definitions alone. Are not disciplinary boundaries convenient tags sanctioned by a certain distribution of economic, political, and intellectual power? Better, then, to focus on what some theorists and some historians do than to dwell abstractly on
the purviews of music theory and music history. Agawu asks these questions and more as he explains the relationship between musicology and music theory.



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Columbia University
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January 29, 2015