Music Historiography in the Classroom

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For the teacher of music history, no less than the teacher of any other subject, the selection of materials and methods for class use is an important decision. For the beginning instructor, the problem is especially acute, as he or she has no experience with either materials or students and often no help from experienced teachers. (Thus he tends to imitate or to react against the ways in which he was taught.) Since survey courses in music history are required of all music majors in most colleges and universities, the methods and materials employed affect a great many human beings and influence the morale and welfare of a great many departments. More fundamentally, if musical scholars are unaware of the consequences of their ideas (i.e., fail to translate their presuppositions and musicological concepts into practice in the classroom), they open themselves to the charge of intellectual schizophrenia.1

How indeed does one select his materials and the content and method to be used? On the basis of intuition? whimsy? social pressure?

Take, for example, the question of textbook selection, which after all is only a part of the total problem. To the young instructor in particular, the options do not seem cheering. Of course, one may be bound by a departmental selection and thus have no individual choice at all. Assuming that one has freedom of choice, however, he may choose "The Book" or he may select an alternative and become an iconoclast. Upon asking an experienced colleague for advice, one hears, "Why, the others are all right; but of course every really serious musicologist of my acquaintance uses You Know Who." In such a situation, the only remaining question which can be entertained is, "Can my students understand the sentences in You Know Who?" Two processes are at work here: social pressure (the urge to conform in order to be Respectable) and dogmatism (the almost religious belief that there can be only one ideal text, one ideal testing procedure, etc.).

Practical considerations may play a superficial role in the text-selection process. One may note, for example, that available textbooks range from "solid" (i.e., no pictures, illegible examples) to "appealing" (i.e., color plates and wide margins). One may select the text to which he is aesthetically or intuitively most attracted, or which he imagines will most appeal to his students.

From time to time, materials are perhaps selected by following the old adage, "Choose three textbooks for every course: one for the lectures, one for the students to read, and one for the examinations."

Classroom procedure may legitimately influence selection. The question is sometimes asked, "Which book contains the greatest number of facts?" Perhaps the questioner assumes that "more is better" (which is not always the case). Perhaps he assumes that if "only the facts" are in the text, the instructor can provide in class the insights and viewpoints by which to understand the facts. This is a reasonable approach, although it may not be suited to all students or all instructors.

Indeed, does an instructor want to have "all the facts" in the textbook, so that the students can read (and memorize?) them? In other words, should a music history textbook be also a detailed General History of Music? If so, will the class meetings be occupied in repeating and perhaps expanding upon those facts? in explaining the facts (i.e., giving perspective to develop understanding)? in playing recordings of suitable instances of musical fact? Or does the instructor wish the textbook to contain a mixture of facts, interpretations, and examples? If so, what remains to be done in the class sessions? Present erudite lectures on alternative interpretations?

As other factors in course design are added (course content, testing procedure, collateral readings, &c.), the complexity of the problem increases rapidly. It is a problem which is incapable of solution at the levels hitherto described, and a problem about which relatively few clear notions have been publicly articulated.2 Yet the problem must be confronted. Every instructor in any field has a responsibility to his students as well as to himself to examine his courses in light of his presuppositions and his philosophical commitments. Clarifying certain basic issues will provide a rational basis for decisions about course materials and methods.

In the present discussion we shall touch upon several of these issues, both fundamental and secondary, all of which are genuine problems. No attempt can be made here to raise all possible questions or to resolve all of the questions raised. (Indeed, a fundamental hypothesis here is that pre-theoretical commitments, which by nature preclude resolution through theoretical reasoning, determine both theory and practice, and thus make a final or universally-acceptable answer humanly impossible.) Rather, what is attempted here is a sort of road map of the territory, showing the principal routes and where they lead, their intersections, and some of the roadblocks and hazards likely to be encountered.

 

I. THE NATURE OF MUSIC

Interminable arguments about the "real" nature of music are of course ancient in origin, assuming only slightly different guises in each age. The older aesthetic arguments defining music as "autonomous" or "heteronomous" have been in our generation superseded by extended debates between the "ethnomusicological" and "historical musicological" points of view.

In one view, music is seen as only a single factor in a more comprehensive study of a particular culture. Musical phenomena, past or present, are to be regarded as "the result of human behavior in a total cultural context"; the aim of the study, then, will be to find covering general laws in explanation of musical behavior, and musical behavior will be only one among many kinds of behavior which make up an entire cultural pattern. This is essentially the standpoint of ethnomusicology.

On the other hand, one may view musical phenomena primarily as unique events, occurring in time in an ascertainable order of succession, each event having interest in and for itself; each (and their succession) being explicable to some extent by means of general historical principles (not only "covering general laws"), but the focus of attention being on the event itself and on the musical work as an object of aesthetic value, with historical explanations serving primarily as a means toward understanding, evaluating, "appreciating" the unique event. This is the general standpoint of historical musicology.3

One need not resort to the camp of the ethnomusicologists, however, to take exception to the concept of music as the object of study (with emphasis on the word object). Frits Noske has pointed out that European music until the Renaissance was regarded as a process or activity, rather than as a product or subject. "To put it briefly: in the course of time music develops from 'activity' to 'object'. The origins of independent musical criticism and historical musicology (both dating from the eighteenth century) have something to do with this development. Both aim at the completed piece of music. . . . Since [the recorded] composition is considered an object, it is treated in a spatial way. . . ."4

This distinction, between viewing music as an object or as an activity, is of wider application than that originally intended by Professor Noske, and avoids some of the pejorative connotations which now unfortunately attach to the labels "ethnomusicological" and "historical musicological." It also offers the dubious advantage of resembling the historians' arguments whether history is structure or process. In the teaching of music history, what are some of the implications of these two views of the nature of music?

1. Object. This is a static view of music, in which music (either the notated score or a performance) is regarded primarily as an object of knowledge, an item or a corpus to which intellectual processes (such as analysis) are to be applied. It is but a small step to imagine that this object is somehow independent of human beings. This view of music as static motivates traditional historical musicology insofar as it insists that its sole concern is with the musical work of art itself. For a person holding this concept of the nature or function of music, it is entirely consistent to insist that social life, manners and costume, the economic status of musicians and their audiences, the qualities of the texts set, are all "non-musical" and unworthy of study. From this viewpoint, the ideal music history course concentrates exclusively on historical examples of music; the ideal text deals only with "the music itself" and is a "history of musical style" which in some senses merely supplements the collection of scores with which the course is preoccupied.

2. Process. In this dynamic view, music is regarded principally as a social activity, an operation in which people engage and interact.

. . . In the words of Jacques Handschin, one of the most original and far-sighted musicologists: "le véritable objet de la musicologie n'est pas la musique en tant qu'un fait donné par lui-même, mais l'homme, pour autant qu'il s'exprime musicalement." Parallel to this statement is a recent observation of the ethnomusicologist John Blacking: "The most meticulous analysis of a song loses its value if it has been divorced from the reality of its social context." The material of the musicologist remains, as always, music; his task of style criticism and analysis becomes if anything more demanding in its requirements of exactitude and discrimination, but his aim becomes the study of men in society insofar as they express themselves through the medium of music.5

Thus those who subscribe to this view quite logically emphasize the human and inter-personal aspects of music—how human beings have created and used music and what music in turn has done with, for, and to human beings.6 This view is not only basic to ethnomusicology and to the study of music as a means of interpersonal communications (semiotics), it has also animated many defenses of musicology as a humanistic discipline and as part of the artes liberales.7 In this view, nothing which deals with musicians, audiences, patrons, performances, or motivating concepts is irrelevant to the task of the music historian. The ideal music history course therefore is one which incorporates such data and demonstrates the organic relationships between music itself and the people who made it and listened to it.

The phenomena generally understood under the rubric "music" are sufficiently broad legitimately to include both views; indeed, both are necessary to a proper understanding of "music." The instructor of a music history course needs, however, to be aware of these basic and contrasting concepts of music and of their implications for "doing" music history. This awareness, particularly if coupled with a conscious personal choice between the alternatives, will give him or her at least one rational basis for choosing between, say, Lang's Music in Western Civilization and Ulrich and Pisk's A History of Music and Musical Style.

 

II. THE NATURE OF MUSIC HISTORY

This is not the same as the previous problem. Even the person who is aware whether he regards music as object or as activity may not be aware of his concept of the nature of music history. To be sure, the basic viewpoints outlined above have their implications in music history. One may choose to believe that music history is a chronological list of a corpus of objects (notes, structures, genera, styles), or else that it is a part of general human society and its history: whether, in short, music history is akin to geology or to anthropology.

In fact, both extremes are incompatible with genuine music history. Music history is synthetic; that is, it is both a specialized branch of music and specialized branch of history at one and the same time. Arthur Mendel has expressed this mutual dependence this way: "We study music in order to understand history; we also study history in order to understand music."8

A. Musicology and Historical Musicology

Earlier writers on musicology (e.g., Adler, Pratt, Haydon) generally defined the discipline very broadly, to include historical, systematic (e.g., acoustics, theory, psychology, and sociology of music), and comparative (i.e., ethnomusicology). This broad concept of the discipline continues to attract lip-service and even a few followers. However, it bears little practical resemblance to the actual work and interests of many who call themselves musicologists.

Within the past generation, a period in which the prestige of musicology and the number of its practitioners have increased dramatically, a narrower concept has prevailed. "Musicology" is now quite commonly regarded (for good or for ill) as synonymous with "historical musicology," while theory and comparative musicology are regarded as separate (and even competing) disciplines, and other branches of systematic musicology are regarded as auxiliary disciplines or even pseudo-disciplines. As evidence of this, consider the "American Musicological Society," whose annual meetings and whose estimable journal are devoted almost entirely to historical musicology. Separate societies, journals, and graduate programs have been developed for ethnomusicology and music theory. The acoustics and aesthetics of music remain low-prestige branches of general acoustics and philosophy. Efforts to broaden the scope of musicology once again, as in the program for IMS Berkeley in 1977, are (informally) resented by many members of the AMS.

Historians long ago recognized that the writings of philosophers about historical writing ("speculative historiography") were only of limited practical use for working historians. A sizable literature has grown out of investigating what historians actually do ("critical historiography"). On the analogous premise, that the behavior of musicologists is more revealing and of greater practical value than idealized, quasi-philosophical definitions of the field, the ensuing discussion will regard the term "musicology" as synonymous with "historical musicology." This synonymity is not to be regarded as ideal; it simply reflects the state of our discipline(s) at present.

B. Music History and Historical Musicology

The relationship between musicology and "music history" is complicated. Musicologists and music historians are often uncertain of the distinctions: Charles Rosen has attacked music histories on the assumption that music history and musicology are identical, an assumption for which he was severely taken to task by Joseph Kerman.9 Nevertheless, Gwynn McPeek again united the two fields when he described several histories of music in order to demonstrate that musicology has generally adopted a broadly humanistic perspective.10 Such hesitation, however, should not be permitted to obscure the legitimate distinction between the two fields.

At one level, the two are for practical purposes synonymous: (a) they must both ask the philosophical questions at the base of the present inquiry—the nature of music, the nature of music history, the value of studying music history, etc.; (b) they overlap in practice: most musicologists teach courses in music history; most music history courses are taught by musicologists; most music histories (both general and period) are written by musicologists.

At another level, however, their similarities are less impressive than their differences. In current practice, musicology and music history represent two distinct types of endeavor. Most musicologists when "doing" musicology do not write music history; instead, they write monographs, journal articles, and other research reports quite limited in scope (e.g., style analysis, bibliography), usually with little or no attempt to place their subject in any but the most restricted perspective.

The musicologist, then, is primarily concerned with discrete musical data, and typically does not attend to larger questions of perspective. The music historian, on the other hand, synthesizes and generalizes, normally on the basis of information supplied by musicologists, historians, economists, psychologists, and the like.

A general historian, by and large, is dependent on the work of specialists (except in matters where he may be a specialist himself) for usable editions and evaluations of source materials. This does not, of course, absolve him from the obligation to treat such editions and evaluations critically and to check them against the sources wherever he can; but he must still rely to a large extent on what his colleagues, working more intensively in more concentrated areas, have been able to furnish him. When in the course of time the specialists provide more material or better evaluations, the general historian may find it necessary to modify his own selections and conclusions. Such modification is, of course, a continuous process . . . ; the only alternative would be to wait to generalize until all the evidence is in, which in effect would be to wait forever.11

This distinction is not merely the obvious difference between a generalist and a specialist. Rather it is a central difference between the kinds of events studied. To the musicologist, the "event," the object of study, is the music itself. (Such emphasis is implicit in the very term used, in which the adjective "historical" modifies "the study of music.") A musical event, as both Donald Grout and Arthur Mendel have pointed out, is unusual among the class of items we call events in that, being an aesthetic object, it is repeatable.12 That is to say, to a variable extent, modern performers and audiences can experience an event (a composition) which originated many years in the past. That type of event thus lies outside the framework of normal clock- or calendar-time and so is altogether unlike purely historical events. Beethoven's Eroica, for example, is not merely reviewed or summarized, but experienced during a performance. The Battle of Waterloo, however, can never be re-experienced or repeated (except in imagination or in a fictive mode such as cinema).

The music historian, like the historical musicologist, is concerned with musical (non-historical) events. However, he is in addition also concerned with genuinely historical events, such as the act of composing or a specific act of performing. Such historical events are imbedded in the time-frame (calendar time), and cannot be explained by purely musical (technical) means. The music historian as distinct from the musicologist must have constant reference to history and her handmaidens (e.g., sociology, anthropology, semiotics). In other words, "the music itself" is very far from being the sole source of data for the reconstruction of musical history.

Music history thus partakes fully of both music and history. It is a specialized branch of history because it uses the tools and techniques of historians to investigate a special category of historical events—much as an economic historian treats historical economic data. It is at the same time a specialized branch of the study of music because it uses the tools of musicologists (in the older, broad sense) to deal with musical events and data. Music history is important to general history because music is an essential part of human life, and no image or account of humanity (past or present) is complete without a consideration of music. It is important to the study of music because no human or social event or process can be understood apart from its context and antecedents. It must, therefore, use both musical (a-historical) and non-musical (historical) data. To concentrate only on "the music," even while using historical data incidentally, is to be anti-historical; but to concentrate only on the historical data is to be a musical dilettante.

The implication of this for the selection of materials and procedures for music history courses is that making either the musical or the historical data the exclusive focus is contrary to the essential synthetic nature of music history.

These distinctions between musicology and music history have been deliberately drawn too sharply, since probably neither extreme exists in "pure" form, at least in materials for music history courses. The music-history viewpoint is fundamentally reflected in such texts as Curt Sachs' Our Musical Heritage or Alfred Einstein's Short History of Music; the musicological viewpoint in, for example, Richard Crocker's History of Musical Style.

While most of the "music history" texts are reasonably self-consistent, it is remarkable that books which claim to embody the musicological model inevitably cite purely historical elements in addition to musical data. An example, selected somewhat arbitrarily from a large number of possibilities, is David G. Hughes' A History of European Music,13 which very commendably and clearly specifies its orientation in the Preface:

. . . the history of music is here presented almost exclusively as a history of musical styles. While there is occasional reference to general cultural trends, to events in the lives of composers, to the place of music in society, the primary emphasis is on the music itself.

The author does not explain why or under what circumstances he will have recourse to historical events, but simply introduces them at various points in the text. For example, the Protestant Reformation and Copernican theory are used to explain the heightened emotionalism in music of the later 16th century, and the account of 17th-century English music makes reference to the contemporaneous political disorders.

To justify such allusions in a musicological work, two reasons suggest themselves:

1. Historical references aid pedagogically by helping students to relate the unfamiliar (a musical style) with the familiar (general history). If students are reasonably familiar with general history (an assumption which seems to be progressively less true in recent years), this approach is valid educationally.

2. Historical references help to explain the musical data. This is the viewpoint for which Joseph Kerman argued in 1964 at AMS Washington: "Men in society are studied as a means of furthering the comprehension of works of art . . . History and sociology are not valued as ends, but as means."14 This is in reality a confession that "pure" musicology is not adequate to explain musical data, a situation which calls to mind Georg Knepler's remark that "It is traditional to write music histories as narratives and somehow to smuggle in the unavoidable explanations."15

Thus even the most ardent advocates of the musicological viewpoint in music history are compelled, both in principle and in practice, to utilize historical (non-musical) data. However, in the case of both reasons cited above, "history" is being used rather than valued in its own right. Thus what may appear at first to be positively music-historical is in fact firmly (and in Kerman's case boldly) anti-historical.

One's solution to this problem (music history versus historical musicology) must be consistent with one's answer to a previous question, whether music is object or process. One who regards music as an object, and thus views musicology as analogous to geology, is entirely consistent to emphasize style analysis and criticism in a music history course or textbook, and to use (in the pejorative sense) history merely as a means to an end. Such a view, unfortunately, neglects or rejects a vitally important qualification which is basic to the entire concept of "history." That qualification is that the subject matter of history is "past events which involve human agency."16 In other words, the normal events with which historians concern themselves are the actions (and, by inference, the thoughts) of human beings, whether those of an individual, a group, or the population of an empire. Non-human events such as floods and earthquakes are of interest to the historian only insofar as they influence or result from human activities. The music historian (as distinct from the musicologist) emphasizes that music is a human activity, like making war or eating a meal. There is no use pretending that it is not; no amount of wishful thinking or intellectual isolationism can transform it into a natural substance such as volcanic ash. It is this concept of music as a process by or among human beings which animates what we have here called the "music history" point of view, and which therefore values history in its own right and not merely as some sort of educational mistress.

If the preceding remarks seem unduly critical of "musicology," it is entirely because the subject of the present discussion is the teaching of music history. These remarks imply no negative judgments on musicology when it is taught and practiced as musicology. The musicological viewpoint is problematic only when it is taught under the guise of music history.

 

III. THE PROBLEM OF HISTORICAL SYNTHESIS

Perhaps the most fundamental historiographical problem underlying music history survey courses is the question whether generalization (historical synthesis) is possible. There are practical problems; the specialization of research as knowledge expands inevitably means that no scholar can be expert in the music of every period or place, so that he feels something ranging from mild discomfort to panic in attempting to teach bright students everything from Pythagoras to Penderecki. More troublesome than such practical problems, however, is the widespread philosophical doubt about the continuity of history itself. This historical skepticism is an academic reflection of the existential isolation revealed in poets and novelists such as Sartre; in painters such as Marcel Duchamp; in composers such as John Cage. This doubt arises from the belief that human life is intrinsically meaningless; that it consists of small, random units which lack genuine interconnections. Many historians sensitive to this Zeitgeist tend to disbelieve the possibility of creating historical surveys or generalizations, since human life, past or present, lacks genuine coherence.17 This problem is significantly different from that of previous generations: they were concerned to search for the pattern of history (of course, they never reached agreement), whereas many in our generation declare that there is no pattern to find.

At the same time, the curriculum within which we work is so structured, for practical and pedagogical reasons, that we are obliged to teach courses which offer a historical survey and create in some sense a concept of pattern or shape in the diachronic (chronological narrative) treatment of music. In other words, (1) we offer survey courses out of an awareness that students must grasp something of the sweep and variety of historical styles in order to understand any style adequately; (2) such survey courses, out of metaphysical necessity, create a continuity of some sort; (3) such a continuity is inconsistent with the prevailing philosophical dogma.

This dilemma admits of several possible solutions. One, as Siegfried Kracauer suggests, consists in writing histories which attempt "to reconcile the establishment of long-term developments with the acknowledgment of all the facts and circumstances defying them."18 Music historians create increasingly sophisticated narratives which at one and the same time offer generalizations and declare that generalizations are impossible.19 Such solutions have the advantage of appearing on the surface to offer that which is required by practical considerations; viz., historical generalization or synthesis; while at the same time enabling the cognoscenti to recognize the irony of it all.

This solution is different from acknowledging the difficulty of generalization, particularly when all the facts are not in. Both D.J. Grout and Edith Borroff are admirably cautious about generalizations, but both continue to attempt them and to accept the possibility of their validity.20

A second solution to the dilemma posed is "the compilation of inclusive macro histories by way of cooperative effort . . . stringing together, and adjusting to each other, monographs by specialists . . . [wanting] to construct macro history by aligning a series of micro histories."21 This, of course, is the procedure utilized in the Oxford History of Music, the New Oxford History of Music, the six basic volumes of the "Norton Series," the much more modest "Prentice-Hall History of Music Series," and similar sets. But while the quality of individual contributions may be (and often is) quite high, such compromises inevitably fail of consistency and wholeness. This rather mechanical solution is in fact no solution at all to the dilemma of general history, since it obviates synthesis. Woodrow Wilson long ago pointed out that "No amount of uniform type and sound binding can metamorphose a series of individual essays into a book."22

A third solution is to teach historical material in some random order—i.e., presentation which is both non-diachronic and non-synchronic, presentation which deliberately violates the temporal, generic, and stylistic relations and similarities in the material. One might, for example, begin with 19th-century program music, move to plainchant and computer music, thence to the concerto grosso and the trecento madrigal, flitting from flower to flower, as it were, in no logical sequence. It is difficult to imagine that students would learn much music history while following such a method, or that an instructor could explain any genre or style clearly or adequately in such curious contexts; but the method would at least be consistent with the metaphysics of many existentialists.

A related solution is to eliminate survey courses at all levels and to teach only period or genre courses. The pedagogical difficulties of such an approach are identical with those described in the previous paragraph; in addition, students would be compelled to complete many more course units in order to investigate the history of music with anything like thoroughness—and the demands on music students' schedules simply will not permit that. Not to require all of these specialized courses would compel students to specialize narrowly quite early in their education and without the opportunity to consider alternative specializations.

A less radical solution for one caught in the dilemma of synthesis would be to utilize chronicle; that is, a chronological list of musical data, such as Oscar Thompson's Tabulated Biographical History of Music,23 while attempting to treat all data as discrete facts. The chronological arrangement would impose an excusable order (it is as good as any other) and might assure balanced coverage of the material; employing such an organization might not be inconsistent provided one could avoid the impression of pattern or meaning caused by historical sequence or simultaneity.

A more direct solution, though admittedly a more difficult one for the individual, is to abandon the skepticism of existentialism and accept at least tentatively the view that human life—and thus history—has continuity and meaning. The precise nature of that continuity and meaning remains to be seen; but positing their existence would at least eliminate the "dilemma of historical synthesis."

 

IV. MISCELLANEOUS PROBLEMS IN STUDYING MUSIC HISTORY

1. Relevance. Students approach Music History with widely divergent backgrounds, ranging from strong performance skills and a familiarity with the standard concert repertoire to complete ignorance of any music except rock or gospel music. Some are favorably inclined; some are apathetic; but perhaps a majority are essentially or even actively hostile, seeing in music history no positive and many negative values. In order for music history to secure so much as a fair hearing, it is helpful to discuss with the class the reasons why the subject is included in the curriculum. Several appropriate items might be placed on reserve in the library.24 Alternatively, the instructor might find that writing a careful essay or lecture of his own would help to clarify his own thinking and would be just as useful to his students.

It is true, obviously, that the reasons for including music history in the curriculum vary from one institution or program to another. A conservatory logically tends to value music history as a means of enriching the repertoire of performers or the technique of composers. A liberal arts college, in principle, values music history as a means toward understanding mankind and enriching human life. A teacher-training program justifies the course as a broadening experience, preparing students to teach "general music" and "music appreciation" classes. Such correlations are generally utilitarian and fairly obvious.

At a more philosophical level, the question of the relevance of music history is related to the question whether music is structure (object) or process. The instructor who agrees with Charles Rosen that "music can be taught effectively only from the point of view of the contemporary composer"25 will probably regard the body of past music as a warehouse or museum of techniques and styles—i.e., of objects. His method of teaching will emphasize the technical details of past music, and such considerations as the social status of musicians or the dominant cultural concepts of the past will be regarded as irrelevant. His course will in actuality be a "Chronicle of Musical Styles." On the other hand, an instructor who sees music as "a manifestation of the human spirit, as a part of the history of ideas,"26 regards not only past music but related historical evidence as records of human activity and interaction. His music history course will include the technical aspect of music "not for its own sake, but as the indispensable means for gaining an insight into language. The grammar of music is only a part of a more comprehensive picture. . . ."27

Thus the proponents of either viewpoint can demonstrate the relevance of the study of music history in terms which are consistent with their own presuppositions. In either case, student motivation and learning may be expected to improve if the instructor demonstrates and articulates a clear concept of that relevance.

2. Permanence and change. In a period when music history, in common with virtually all other disciplines, has expanded both its techniques and its data-base at breathtaking speed and has proliferated specializations, the instructor needs to ask himself which facts, and of what types, successful students should remember. "Future shock" is here, and our students no less than the rest of the world must know how to continue learning beyond the academy. Do music history courses in fact help students to develop such skills?

For example, all music graduates, and not only graduate students, need to be able to find certain types of information in the music library and to express themselves in their mother tongue in a literate manner. However, it appears that relatively few music history surveys for undergraduates include instruction in the use of reference tools in music, the differences between primary and secondary sources, or the writing of formal prose about music. Such considerations are normally the exclusive province of the "Introduction to Graduate Study" course, where they can be covered rather extensively. However, graduate school is too late for young musicians to learn where to find Grove's, how to write a program note, or how to tell a reliable edition from a bad one. One reason is that many of them will not enter graduate programs in music, or at least their entry will be delayed; another is that they need those skills, at least to some degree, now. Therefore, a music history course should not only include facts, but also techniques for locating and verifying facts. Graduates of such a course are less dependent upon auctoritas and better able to cope with change and with the proliferation of knowledge than are graduates of a course lacking such instruction.

Testing policies are also related to the question of permanence and change. How much data is sufficiently important to become a permanent part of a student's mental baggage? Which facts are better left in reference tools? Naturally, the ratio between what is taught and what is remembered is not 1:1, and it may be wise to test students for some details which are not considered essential. If an instructor believes that synthesis is important, he will choose testing procedures which require synthesis (e.g., thoughtful essay questions); if he believes that synthesis is impossible, he will favor "objective" tests for discrete bits of information.

3. A sense of history. A difficulty which seems to be shared by teachers in all the historical disciplines is the lack of historical thinking by many students of the present generation. Taught by parents, the media, "sensitivity-groups" and "relevant" high schools to live for the present moment, many have no defined mental concept of the past. Indeed, everything that happened prior to their own birth is all contemporaneous: Hitler, the Crusades, Jesus Christ, and Plato are all "back there." In addition, many of them accept uncritically the Existentialist concept of the discontinuity or atomization of life, which provides a philosophical rationale for the belief that history is meaningless. Such students can with difficulty learn to cope with the chronology of a single style period (say, the Baroque), but quite often cannot grasp a sense of the sweep of history and therefore can state on a final examination that, for example, the Romantic period preceded the Baroque). Specific class instruction near the beginning and end of each term may help students to develop this sense. Some instructors ask students to create time-charts showing style periods and the careers of major composers. Perhaps as a trend among colleges and universities to reinstate Western Civilization requirements continues, the problem will ease somewhat, but it promises to remain a significant problem for some time to come.

 

SUMMARY

Every instructor approaches his course with a collection of presuppositions; in the case of music history survey courses, relevant presuppositions concern the nature of music, the nature of music history, and the continuity of history itself. The beliefs held in each of these areas will be manifested in the content, materials, and methods used in such courses. In addition, such problems as the understanding of relevance, preparation for "future shock," and the students' concept of the past will influence decisions in course planning. In short, there are rational and philosophically sound ways in which to design and plan one's music history survey course.


1It is sometimes imagined that musicology is free of philosophical values or presuppositions. For example, Manfred Bukofzer, in The Place of Musicology in American Institutions of Higher Learning (N.Y.: Liberal Arts Press, 1957), p. 26, assures us that "musicology has no axe to grind." Such myopia, from one of the best minds in the discipline, is simply part of the "general unselfconsciousness of American musicology" which Joseph Kerman laments (in "A Profile for American Musicology," JAMS XVIII [1965], 61), and calls to mind John Warwick Montgomery's remark that "the most dangerous historians have not been those with definite convictions, but those who have been unaware of their convictions" (The Shape of the Past, Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1975, p. 41). Musicology, as a product of human mental activity, is ontologically incapable of avoiding values and presuppositions. Cf. Hermann Dooyeweerd, In the Twilight of Western Thought: Studies in the Pretended Autonomy of Philosophical Thought (Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1972), passim.

2Surveys of the field of musicology exist in quantity, but many of these make little or no reference to music history texts or courses. Claude V. Palisca, in the Princeton volume on Musicology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), quickly surveys general histories of music written by Americans (Ritter, Pratt, Lang, Grout, and Cannon, Johnson, and Waite), identifying each by its characteristic emphasis (biography, culture, style-history, etc.). Gwynn S. McPeek, in "Musicology in the United States: A Survey of Recent Trends" (Studies in Musicology . . . in Memory of Glen Haydon [Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1969], pp. 266-269), provides a very helpful evaluation of some twenty textbooks from the perspective of their relative emphasis on the integration of music with culture and society. The most recent is that by Mary Jane Corry (SYMPOSIUM XIV, 122-26), which suggests that instructors ". . . choose a text which will best serve the kind of students for whom the course is set up." This utilitarian criterion provides a satisfactory framework by which to organize that survey, but the philosophical aspects of the problem are scarcely suggested. The most valuable discussion from a philosophical standpoint is Leo Treitler's essay "On Historical Criticism" (Musical Quarterly, LIII [1967], 188-89, 193), in which he traces the presupposition of the concepts of "development" and "essentialism" in a number of music history books and studies.

3Donald Jay Grout, "Principles and Practice in the Writing of Music History," Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van Belgie, Klasse der Schone Kunsten, Jhrg. 24 (Brussels, 1972), p. 6.

4"Forma formans," International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, VII (1976), 44.

5Frank L. Harrison, Musicology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), pp. 78-79.

6These scholars would tend to agree with Georges Florovsky: "The ultimate purpose of a historical inquiry is not in the establishment of certain objective facts, such as dates, places, numbers, names, and the like, as much as all this is an indispensable preliminary, but in the encounter with living beings . . . History, as a subject of study, is history of human beings, in their mutual relationship, in their conflicts and contacts, in their social intercourse, and in their solitude and estrangement, in their high aspirations and in their depravity. Only men live in history—live, and move, and strive, and create, and destroy. Men alone are historic beings, in a full sense of the word. In the historical understanding we establish contact with men, with their thoughts and endeavors, with their inner world and with their outward action. . . . In the last resort, history is history of man, in the ambiguity and multiplicity of his existence. This constitutes the specific character of historical cognition and of historical knowledge. Accordingly, methods must be proportionate to the aim . . . historical knowledge is not a knowledge of objects, but precisely a knowledge of subjects—of 'co-persons,' of 'co-partners' in the quest of life. In this sense, historical knowledge is, and must be, an existential knowledge. This constitutes a radical cleavage between the 'study of Spirit' and the 'study of Nature,' between die Geisteswissenschaften and die Naturwissenschaft." Florovsky, "The Predicament of the Christian Historian," from Religion and Culture: Essays in Honor of Paul Tillich, edited by Walter Leibrecht (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1959), reprinted in God, History, and Historians, edited by C.T. McIntire (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1977); the passage quoted is found on pp. 418-19 of the latter. Although Florovsky describes history rather than music, the similarity of principle is obvious. In the quotation, substituting the word music for history produces a statement with which the proponents of "music as process" would agree. Moreover, when these proponents turn from music to music history, they can apply Florovsky's insights to music as a category of history.

7Harrison, Musicology, pp. 79-80; Bukofzer, The Place of Musicology, passim.

8"Evidence and Explanation," in International Musicological Society, Report of the Eighth Congress New York 1961, edited by Jan LaRue (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1962), II, 16.

9Charles Rosen, "The Proper Study of Music," Perspectives of New Music, I (Fall 1962), 80-88; Joseph Kerman, "The Proper Study of Music: A Reply," same journal, II (1963), 157.

10McPeek, "Musicology in the United States." For further discussion of this subject, see Gilbert Chase, "The Musicologist as Historian: a matter of distinction," Notes XXIX (1972), 10-16.

11Grout, "Principles and Practice," p. 7.

12Grout, op. cit., p. 9; Mendel, "Evidence and Explanation," pp. 15-17.

13(N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1974).

14Kerman, "A Profile for American Musicology," p. 62.

15"Music Historiography in Eastern Europe," in Perspectives in Musicology, edited by Barry S. Brook, Edward O.D. Downes, and Sherman Van Solkema (N.Y.: Norton, 1972), p. 236.

16Donald Jay Grout, "Current Historiography and Music History," in Studies in Music History: Essays for Oliver Strunk, edited by Harold Powers (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 24.

17"Siegfried Kracauer, History: The Last Things Before the Last (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. 182-90.

18Ibid., pp. 187-88.

19Such accounts, in Hayden White's brilliant analysis of the deep structural content of historical writing, are identified with the literary trope of irony. "The basic figurative tactic of Irony is catachresis (literally 'misuse'), the manifestly absurd Metaphor designed to inspire Ironic second thoughts about the nature of the thing being characterized or the inadequacy of the characterization itself. The rhetorical figure of aporia (literally 'doubt'), in which the author signals in advance a real or feigned disbelief in the truth of his own statements, could be considered the favored stylistic device of Ironic language, in both fiction of the more 'realistic' sort and histories that are cast in a self-consciously skeptical tone or are 'relativizing' in their intention.

"The aim of the Ironic statement is to affirm tacitly the negative of what is on the literal level affirmed positively, or the reverse." Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), p. 37.

20Grout, A History of Western Music (N.Y.: Norton, 1960; rev. ed. 1973); and Borroff, Music in Europe and the United States: A History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971). Borroff is rather more successful at generalizations; see especially her excellent Chapter 30, "The Value of History." This success is related to her breadth of coverage as well as general accuracy of detail. Her discussions of non-"art" music (folk, popular, black, and Amerindian), of American music (six chapters), and of 20th century music (five chapters) are unequalled in general music history textbooks. On the duty of the music historian to synthesize in the face of a lack of details, see Chase, "The Musicologist as Historian," p. 12, including his quotation of Henri Pirenne.

21Kracauer, History, p. 188.

22"The Variety and Unity of History," Congress of Arts and Science (Boston, 1906), II, 14; quoted in Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), p. 142.

23(N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1936).

24Some possibilities include Paul Henry Lang, "The Place of Musicology in the College Curriculum," Proceedings of the Music Teachers National Association, 1934, 144-49; Willis J. Wager and Earl J. McGrath, Liberal Education and Music (N.Y.: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1962). Hugo Leichtentritt, in Music, History, and Ideas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), emphasizes in his Introduction the study of music as a part of general culture, as does P.H. Lang in the Introduction to Music in Western Civilization (N.Y.: Norton, 1941). Warren D. Allen, in the Introduction to his Philosophies of Music History (N.Y.: Dover, 1962), includes several pages which are very helpful. Some older textbooks contained useful hints, although not sustained discussions; for example, Waldo S. Pratt, The History of Music (N.Y.: G. Schirmer, 1907, 1927, 1935).

In addition, two books designed for college students in general history courses provide much that is relevant for music history students: Carl G. Gustavson, A Preface to History (N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1955), and Bernard Norling, Towards a Better Understanding of History (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960).

Sir Jack Westrup's invaluable Introduction to Musical History (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1955; 2nd ed., 1973) offers much that is helpful to undergraduates in this respect, although it presupposes a commitment to the study of music history and addresses questions of procedure and technique.

25Rosen, "The Proper Study of Music," p. 80.

26Bukofzer, The Place of Musicology, p. 16.

27Idem.

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