Intersects in the Musicological Juncture: On the Relationship Between History, Theory, and Criticism

In the relatively brief history of musicology there have been a number of attempts to define the field and to provide schemes or models for musicological activity. Guido Adler's is probably the most famous and has been the most influential,1 yet Charles Seeger's in many ways may be more remarkable. Seeger was very tenacious; in an article in Musical Quarterly in 1924 he began an exposition which produced a half-century of permutations.2 He once stated that a summary chart which appeared in 1975 was only the latest of dozens. Not only did he approach the problem again and again in new articles, but when the University of California Press published a collection of his writings in 1977, a comparison of the reprinted versions with many of the originals revealed that they had been thoroughly revised.3

Seeger's thought is rooted in idealism. He was constantly searching for an all-embracing unity. One of the most common words in his theoretical writings is "universe." Seeger does not speak of one but of many universes: a universe of speech, a universe of music, a universe of culture, and others.4 He defines the term universe to mean "world view," but at times seems to imply more. In reference to the physical universe he states, "But while they are exploring theirs (that is, the physicist is exploring the physical universe) it is, in a sense, in their heads, is it not. While you are explaining yours, you know that there are lots of things that are not in theirs."5 At another time in referring to Bach's Art of the Fugue, he distinguishes the phenomenological aspect, that is "its printed page, the sound of its performance, and its aesthetic or other effect, as separate from its musical idea."6 The breadth of his vision was indicated when he suggested—even before the ink was dry—a sequel to his 1975 summary:

I shall have to add three more universes—one each for dance, painting, and sculpture. You can throw in drama, drawing, and architecture for inclusion, respectively, in the three. That gives us, in place of our two-dimensional road map that is our conspectus, a nine-dimensional world view through whose domain the musicologist may drive at his pleasure. I shall try to reduce the number of controls of the vehicle from the theoretical more than a hundred parameters of speech semantic variance to a bare minimum of two or three dozen that are primary and essential for general theory, which is what I am dealing with here.7

Today the field of musicology stands in stark contrast to Seeger's idealism and striving for the universal. Methodological rigor polices all that is done, and empirical reality dominates not only research but statements of purpose as well. The result has been a narrowing of scope, a narrowing of purpose, a narrowing of intention, and in many ways a narrowing of vision.

Subcategories and new societies have proliferated. The old German concept of Musikwissenschaft, as outlined by Adler, encompassed virtually all nonperforming, noncomposing, investigative aspects of musical study. Today it is insufficient to claim to be simply a musicologist; one must be a historical musicologist, a systematic musicologist, a comparative musicologist (if one lives in Europe), or (in this country) an ethnomusicologist. Or one may not be a musicologist at all, but a music theorist or a music critic. Such proliferation is a reflection of the explosion of knowledge and of contemporary demands for greater precision in defining issues and solving problems, a tendency in itself as commendable as it is irreversible. Yet it has led to a series of correlates which have recently been pointed out and which have presented the field of musical scholarship with a set of paradoxes which threaten or at least limit the future. The most basic of these involves the tension between ultimate purposes and perceived reality. A second involves the question of objectivity, and the third—actually a derivative of the first—that of potential audience.

This tension has been most evident in historical musicology. Alan Tormey pointed out in his review of Leonard Meyer's book Explaining Music that music theory is still in a state of definition.8 It is still unclear exactly what a theory of music is a theory of; and while the issue will undoubtedly remain an evolutionary one and the question itself rather than the answer will remain a prime justification for the field, it is nonetheless reflective of the still unsettled state of a young discipline. Historical musicology has already undergone considerable evolution; recently there has been serious concern about its relationship to the field of history. It is significant that the term historical musicology should be a more precise definition of the activity of the traditionally trained musicologist than the term music historian.

I shall argue that the historical musicologist is essentially a historian, that the fruits of his efforts fall primarily into the field of historical learning, and that neither his research nor his orientation is fundamentally different from that of other historians. The reader may well have one of three reactions: (1) That is obvious. (2) So what? (3) Nonsense! That such a statement is tautological is indicated by the literature of the last several years, where an attempt has been made to distinguish between the work of the musicologist and the music historian. That such a statement is trivial is countered by the continuing attempts to define the field, and the level of polemical invective which some have engendered. That such a statement is false is a more serious and thought provoking response, and requires a fuller explication of the argument. As will be developed, the contra argument, which is most prevalent, is the source of the first paradox; it is based on an insufficient distinction between the nature of goals and purposes and immediate reality.

In a recent article Robert Copeland wrote:

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.9

This seems to be derived from Gilbert Chase, who in 1973 claimed Seeger as a source.

The problem of synthesis constitutes one of the principal differences between musicology and music history. If I remember rightly, Charles Seeger once said (more in sorrow than in anger?) that "synthesis is a 'dirty word' in musicology." Anyhow musicologists don't like it, because it runs counter to their monographic and monolinear concept of musical history. For historians, on the contrary, synthesis is essential. In the words of Pirene: "In order that history may progress, the parallel development of synthesis and source criticism is indispensable."10

It does not require a close reading of these two articles to understand the reasons behind these positions and the fatal error in them. There is no question but that historical musicology has tended toward the monographical (although I would deny the monolinear), and toward detailed studies concerned with thorough investigation of topics of limited scope. Discussions are often so complex and technical that only specialists could hope to follow them, and conclusions are often tentative, narrow and cautious. It is as likely that the Journal of the American Musicological Society will become a mass circulation journal as it is that Erik Bergman's Concerto da Camera will make Billboard's top ten. Yet is this tendency necessarily an unhealthy one? Chase and Copeland seem to say yes. In opposition to the activity of the musicologist is placed that of the music historian, one who "synthesizes and generalizes," for whom "the important question about any statement contained in a source is not whether it is true or false, but what it means."11 (Chase's italics)

 

Both writers may have exaggerated the case to make a point. Copeland admits as much. But for both the lines are drawn clearly between the fundamental tension of all historical pursuits, between too much and too little synthesis and generalization. Too much and the results are at best suspect, at worst fictional; too little and the activity becomes a meaningless exercise, what Marc Bloch termed "le goût de l'infiniment petit,"12 or a deadly academicism sets in. As the "History" volume of the Princeton Studies in the Humanities noted, "Whenever the technical difficulties of research are unusually formidable and the interested segment of the intellectual community is small, the general danger of academicism increases. A preoccupation with minutiae is encouraged, the larger action of the intellect clogged."13

Chase and Copeland's errors are two-fold. (1) They have drawn an either/or conclusion from evidence that suggests only degrees of emphasis. Synthesis in their eyes tends to be equated with broad studies encompassing the work of many specialists, in other words with general history. (2) They have confused chronology with field. Chase gives it away when he provides a list of historical thinkers who have especially influenced him. With one exception all of the names are well known: Dilthey, Collingwood, Croce, Santayana, George Frederick Turner. Having examined the National Union Catalogue and consulted three historians (one of whom, R.K. Webb, is the former editor of the American Historical Review), I find that the name of George Frederick Turner is still a puzzle. One wonders if there is some confusion here over the names Frederick Jackson Turner and George Frideric Handel. All the other names are primarily philosophers of history, not historians. Furthermore, they clearly represent an earlier age and outlook. The birth dates of these four men are 1833, 1889, 1866, and 1863.

If one examines more recent historical writing, statements of historians sound much like what the thoughtful musicologist would say. At the Wingspread Conference on New Directions in Intellectual History held in 1977, the problem of synthesis and rigor was addressed by Lawrence Veysey:

Over the last fifteen years there has been a quiet but definite upgrading of standards of rigor in historical argument. . . . Consciousness of the need for rigor has advanced on two major fronts: in a demand for greater precision in defining the social aggregate one selects to discuss, and in an expectation of greater precision in the inferences one makes from the varying kinds of historical evidence.14

Later he states:

Generalizations, in other words, to be credible must be extremely hard earned. They require far more arduous preparation, far more careful spadework, far closer attention to logic, than many of our predecessors a generation ago were aware. Here lies the central shift in the writing of history in the meantime, I believe. . . . Let the memory of the giants of thought survive on a proper, if somewhat reduced basis.15

The issue is not between musicology, but between good history and bad history. It is not between the presence or the absence of synthesis, but rather about the extent of synthesis. In any historical endeavor a balance must be struck between synthesis and perspective on the one hand and the limitations of the evidence on the other. What generalization the evidence will allow is as dependent on the time and school of the historian as the evidence itself, and when, today, we are less comfortable with sweeping generalizations than our predecessors, we are only reflecting, not contradicting our sister discipline.

Yet while the historical musicologist's work may be similar to the historian's, is it history? Whom does the musicologist address and to what extent does his work enter the mainstream of historical endeavor? And (lest you think I have forgotten) how does the writing of history, theory, and criticism relate to this line of inquiry? These questions encompass not only the first paradox but also lead to the second and third paradoxes and require, as a conceptual framework, consideration of further ideas of Seeger.

There are two themes that run through Seeger's writings on musicology. The first is a division into historical and systematic musicology. These are Adlerian terms and Seeger not only admits that they are derived from Adler but publishes Adler's chart on the back of his own.16 In 1975 Seeger added an important element: the equating of the terms systematic and historical with synchronic and diachronic. This did not appear in Seeger's original papers. They are derived from linguistics, synchrony meaning "at any one time (internal, static, structural) for system," and diachrony meaning "through or over the course of time (external, evolutionary, functional) for history."17

Seeger's terms historical and systematic do not correspond precisely with any of the generally held concepts of the division of labor within the musicological spectrum but are used in a unique way which cuts across both Adler's and other classifications. The heart of his distinction lies in the nature of space-time. Seeger not only postulates a space-time continuum, but a musical space-time distinct from general space-time. Musical space-time is defined through its contrast with general space-time in a sevenfold complex involving occurrence, provenience, identity, continuity, control, measurability, and variability.18 Reduced to its essence his basic idea is similar to the concept of musical time presented by the philosopher Joan Stambaugh, who distinguished between music as an art of time and drama as an art in time, where the former depends on its internal proportions to create its own temporal framework and the latter exists within the framework of external clock time.19 It has also been expressed in somewhat more poetic terms by the French philosopher Brelet.

A musical work supposes the silence which precedes it; it cannot be born until it has effaced the exterior world and space in order that the hearer, turning in upon himself, may find in himself that active and pure duration which music will fill with life. That silence into which music is born is not pure nothingness; in it dwell an attentiveness and an expectation. Therefore the original silence must be respected—both by the performer and by the listener—for in it music, isolating itself from all that it is not, confronts us with the pure possibility of itself. . . . The musical work, which has a certain duration, is not compelled to occupy a given moment of time. And, transcending that actual time from which it takes its flight, in time music escapes from time; for the nature of music is to be forever contemporaneous with those very moments during which performance makes it actual.20

Seeger distinguishes the systematic and historical orientations in musicology chiefly by their relationship to either musical or general space-time. Systematic musicology occurs within music space-time and historical musicology within general space-time. When the musical event exists in general space-time, Seeger refers to it as a phenomenon; when it exists in musical space-time he calls it a normenon. The term phenomenon is common, but the term normenon is Seeger's own.

I have wanted first of all to emphasize the patterns or norms of tradition whose linking in small and large units constitutes the essential process of production of the communicative product. At the same time, it has seemed desirable that the work denoting the product as an event in production timespace have a form resembling that denoting it as an event in general spacetime, even if the artifice seems a bit more pat than I would like it to be.21

The difference between the two is illustrated if we take any piece of music or part of a piece, Seeger's own example being the tenth to the twelfth measures of the first violin part of the Eroica Symphony (A-flat, G, F, G, A-flat).22 Each occurrence of this event—that is the performance of it—would be a phenomenon in general space-time. But in music space-time all of these collectively are of the same musical event, that musical event being called a normenon. This distinction is relatively close to the type-token distinction made in philosophy, where type refers to a class of objects, definable within tremendously varying limits, and token refers to a specific instance or object within that class.

If we may pursue the example of the Eroica further, precisely what kind of scholar examines the Eroica and writes on it? Here is an extensive bibliography on the Eroica, most of it either by music theorists or by historical musicologists (in the traditional meanings of the term); but if these writings are examined, most of them by Seeger's definition fall under the systematic orientation. Even though the musicologist is dealing with a work in terms of structure and style, when dealing with it as a normenon or type, he is dealing with it in terms of musical space-time and hence by Seeger's definition in systematic musicology. When does he cross the borderline? In the most obvious instance when he begins discussing events surrounding its first appearance, such as the misunderstanding that ensued with the early horn entry or the response of early critics. In a more important and less literal sense, the musicologist crosses the borderline when he begins discussing the Eroica as a cultural phenomenon. Even though the discussion may not center on a specific performance, it is thought of as an event within general space-time and is placed within the context of general space-time. Thus we may discuss the Eroica in the context of opening new avenues of stylistic possibility to the composer of the early nineteenth century, or in terms of the effect it had on cultural trends, such as romanticism in the nineteenth century.

There is a second element to Seeger's thinking that may be even more crucial. This is the very fundamental problem of talking about music. Seeger actually postulated three space-times, not two, the third being a speech space-time.23 He recognized the problem of expressing in speech space-time our understanding of musical space-time in itself and our understanding of the relationship between musical space-time and general space-time to be the central issue of musicology. That is what musicology is all about. What can be communicated by music, what can be communicated by speech and what in music can be communicated by speech occupied much of his attention; that is attested by the titles of many of his articles: "Speech, Music, and Speech about Music," "Music as Concept and as Percept," "Prolegomena to Musicology: The Problem of the Musical Point of View and the Bias of Linguistic Presentation," are only a few.24 When asked by a student in an imaginary dialogue where to begin in order to understand the issue, Seeger's reply was, "In the middle, and then work out in all directions." That middle was the musicological.juncture, whose final conceptualization necessitated two lengthy and complex articles, "The Musicological Juncture, Music as Fact," and "The Musicological Juncture, Music as Value."25 Quoting Seeger,

The situation in which we place ourselves when we talk or write about music must be regarded in barest outline as a sixfold complex that may be referred to as "the musicological juncture": (1) As students, each with our own singular competences and conceptual and perceptual banks of factual and valual behavior, (2) we meet, within certain limited extents of space and time, (3) in a particular biocultural continuum and social context, two of its principal traditions of communication, (4) of a music, (5) of a language, (6) and a subtradition, a musicology, the extents of whose spatial and temporal currencies are, in the constantly renewable collectivity of biocultural continuum, to [the] best of our knowledge, unlimited.26

The extent to which we cultivate the two traditions 4 and 5 and how we integrate them with each other and with the other factors, 1, 2 and 3, determines 6, our musicology. Limiting our thoughts for a moment to 4, 5 and 6, Seeger defined that relationship precisely:

When we talk about music, we produce in the compositional process of one system of human communication, speech, a communication "about" another system of human communication, music, and its compositional process. The core of the undertaking is the integration of speech knowledge in general and the speech knowledge of music in particular (which are extrinsic to music and its compositional process) with the musical knowledge of music (which is intrinsic to music and its compositional process).27

Within this all-inclusive summary it is possible to focus on two specific issues that bear directly on the topic under consideration. These appear mostly under 6, although they clearly overlap into some of the first five, and they might be called intersects within the musicological juncture. They are the analytical-critical intersect and the analytical-historical intersect.

The term "criticism" is one of the most difficult to deal with in musicological thought. It is closely related to analysis, yet fewer groups seem further apart than theorists and critics. The problem is compounded today because there seems to be such a gap between criticism as a concept and criticism as a practice. As a practice it is mainly journalistic, with its own set of limitations and necessities. As a concept it is more difficult to define. I shall argue that as a practice the essential difference between music theory and criticism lies on the speech side of the musicological juncture, and that as a concept it is an unnecessary term, not because it is unimportant, but because it is ubiquitous.

In the broadest sense criticism is a perpetual necessity, an inherent reality, not a separate mode or endeavor. It is rooted in the nature of musical investigation itself. We engage in criticism as soon as we crank up the musicological juncture, that is as soon as we begin to speak about music; for the instant we do, we begin to make choices and establish priorities. Even when analysis seems the most objective, a constant process of valuation occurs. The term itself may not be on the lips of the analyst, but every step is an implicit value statement about what is important. The choice of technique itself is a selection process. LaRue may be able to explain, in a highly perceptive article, the harmonic rhythm of Beethoven's symphonies,28 but to search for the same in Xenakis would be ludicrous. Other areas are grayer. Does the technique of functional analysis work for Bartók, or Barber, or Byrd? And what are the stylistic limits of the Schenkerian levels of fore, middle, and background? Finally, is not the application of the Schenkerian approach in itself a value judgment that the work in question either does or should have an overall organic unity?

In practice the difference between analysis and criticism is often in the choice of rhetoric, and ultimately may reside more in the first part of Seeger's juncture, "our own singular competences and conceptual and perceptual banks of factual and valual behavior." Both the critic and the analyst seek explanation, and both are guided by intuition and observation, although the mix may be different. The difference is similar to that which writers tried to draw between musicology and music history. It is more one of degree than kind. The critic more readily admits the importance of intuition, whereas the analyst relies more heavily on objective observation and manipulation of data. Yet the best criticism seeks convincing, rational, demonstrable, factual arguments to support intuition. In discussing the problem when observation and intuition conflict, Kerman pinpoints these differences of orientation:

Three obvious moves are possible in dealing with the problem. The first follows the instinctive tendency of the analyst, which is to instruct himself (and others) to experience as aesthetic fact what begins merely as observed fact. This tries to bring intuition around. The opposite move is to call the served data into question on ground of error, irrelevance, taking out of context, and so on. This tries to bring observation around. Only if these do not meet the situation should an aesthetic breach be conceded between ends and means within the work of art itself.29

As a concept the distinction between criticism and analysis exists partly because analysis has not always been able to keep up with intuition. Cone addressed himself specifically to this point in his article "Beyond Analysis."

. . . if we as critical listeners conclude that the composers were right, it should not disturb us to find that our own reasons are often beyond analysis, and that, when we try to explain the superiority of a composition over any alternative version, sometimes all we can say is "it sounds better." . . . Surely the single most important thing anyone can say about a composition is beyond analysis; namely, "I like it."30

The fundamental challenge of analysis is both to refuse to ignore and to refuse to accept Cone's statement. The fact that analysis has nothing to say beyond "I like it," or that analysis and intuition may at times conflict is no condemnation of analysis per se, but only a recognition that not all the battles have been won, that there are still problems to be solved, and that values (that is, aesthetic fact) may not be universal any more than the methodologies which the analysts develop. This brings us full circle to the analytical-historical intersect and the recognition of the close interaction of all three segments of investigative activity.

Here I would disagree with Seeger. Seeger follows Adler in placing music aesthetics, defined by Adler as "Kriterien des musikalischen Schönen," under systematic musicology. This implies a timelessness and a universality to questions of musical beauty—and hence value—independent of the historical and cultural continuum. Ethnomusicology more than any other area has demonstrated the need for cultural consideration in order to understand why a body of music operates as it does, but beyond the important categories of role and purpose there is a more fundamental reason closely tied with the Western mind's sense of history. To us, history is part of the aesthetic response. Our sense of the past, of chronology, of innovation and of change, is a significant factor in shaping our response to music, not only intellectually but at the most direct, intuitive level. When a painting considered to be a masterwork is found to be a forgery, should that change our aesthetic response, as Leonard Meyer has asked?31 It does, because the fact of forgery changes the place in history which the painting has occupied. Why do we listen to Beethoven's Wellingtons Sieg and not Peter Winter's Schlachtsymphonie, written about the same time? Would we find Mozart's musikalischer Spass less amusing if we discovered that it was written by Pankrazio Huber? Why in our culture do we prefer performances of older music on original instruments? We want to recreate the music of the past as accurately as possible, even if it means using older versions of instruments which have subsequently been given more potential and flexibility, because in so doing we not only perceive but are stirred by a kinship with the past. In our heart we might be more agitated by a sonata played on James Galway's gold flute, but when we hear it played on a one-keyed Baroque flute, there is an element of excitement to the performance that transcends its intrinsic worth. We are forming a cultural bridge; we are more acutely aware of the transcendence of time; we feel—rightly or wrongly—that we have somehow been provided an insight into another time and place, and we value this opportunity. This in one sense represents our interest in Ranke's dictum "wie es eigentlich gewesen."32 We want more than to know how it was; we want to experience it.

Of course, no one wishes simply to recreate the past in our attempt to perform music "wie es eigentlich gewesen." How far are we really willing to go? According to some reports, the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was at times substituted for the second movement of the Second or the Eighth in early performances.33 Do we wish to do that? Such a practice would violate another fundamental assumption, respect for the integrity of the art work as an entity. What would happen if we should recreate some of the original programs of late eighteenth-century music, and here I am thinking of no issue other than their length. When historical evidence and musical sensibilities clash, which wins? Before answering in favor of historical evidence I hope that every musicologist who has attempted to edit a manuscript will consider his own experience.

Probably the greatest albatross of contemporary musical scholarship is the elevation of Ranke's dictum to an absolute principle, an extension that not even Ranke accepted. Again and again scholars have been asked why the Norton volume on classical music has not been written, and again and again scholars have replied: there is too much we do not know. Why do historical musicologists fear the interim? Why is the word revisionism, one of the most common terms in history, so seldom used in musicology? The implication is that a study must be definitive, an aspiration both history and musicology share, but musicology expects it to be objective, a position in which revisionism would be tantamount to an admission of failure.

Not only historical musicology but music theory as well considers objectivity to be an important, even essential component of research. Here Chase may be accurate. Objectivity has become a means of valuing, and as such results can be determined to be right or wrong. The argument against objectivity suggests its linguistic opposite, subjectivity, an approach most scholars would want to shun. Strict objectivity tends to deny questions of interpretation or questions of meaning and significance, but by the very nature of both historical and theoretical writings it is a goal not only attainable but also misleading. The reluctance of many scholars toward interpretation exists because the term objectivity has been misused. Often what is meant is rigor, and on that point I would have no quarrel. Modern scholarship rightly demands high standards of rigor in dealing with evidence and in reaching conclusions, but that does not carry the implication that questions of interpretation, value, and meaning are antithetical. Such a thesis is equally valid for both history and theory. The reason criticism is often held in low esteem is that behind the charge of subjectivism is really the assessment, rightly or wrongly, that equal demands for rigor are not levied.

The further we pursue the systematic-historical distinction, the clearer it becomes that they can never be totally separated. Seeger himself observes that once beyond the repertorial or "catalogue of ships" phase of historical writing, an element of systematics is inevitable. No system can ignore the tradition that shaped the body of work under study; yet Seeger also makes clear that they can never be totally joined. The distinction at times is blurred but not obliterated; it resides in the individual musicological work, in its emphasis, and in the musicological tradition to which it belongs.34

The historical musicologist's residence is in the historical viewpoint partly because of its diachronic nature. Whether or not he specifically refers to general space-time—the monograph might be a very limited study on details of musical style of a small body of literature—the implication is there; the musicologist is a historian in part because he is governed by the most fundamental temporal concept, chronology. Chronology by nature is rooted in general space-time. At the heart of the historical musicologist's efforts is T.S. Eliot's time.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps in time future
And time future contained in time past.35

The archivist poring over Wolfenbüttel II or a biographer determined to pinpoint rumors of Beethoven's syphilis may not look at what he does in such poetic terms, but fundamental to the historical musicologist's work is a sense of both chronology and continuity. The historical musicologist seeks to establish connections, priorities, influences, and (if possible) causes. The scope may be small but it is inherent in chronology as a fundamental underlying assumption which separates the work of the historian from that of the theorist, for whom chronology may be omnipresent, but not central.

The work of the theorist is essentially Seeger's systematic approach. Chronology is less important since the theorist is interested in a group of works which exhibit certain properties in common, and which may be defined within musical space-time. In this sense, it matters little whether the theorist is considering the unique properties of a single work within that collectivity or attempting to summarize principles for the collective body as a whole. Neither endeavor exists independently of the other, and the interplay is too constant and too close to consider them as separate approaches, although specific studies may lean more toward one or the other. I would disagree with Meyer's distinction between style analysis and critical analysis.36 Style analysis either shades into historical musicology if treated diachronically or remains at the heart of music theory if treated synchronically, but as long as it remains within the systematic orientation, the discovery of norms and of deviations are part of the same continuing process.

Much earlier the question of ultimate purpose or goal was raised. I am prepared to answer it at least from the point of view of the historian, and will hesitatingly suggest that it might be applicable to the theorist as well. There have been many statements to the effect that the ultimate purpose of musicology is the understanding of man. Seeger himself has so argued, as have Sachs, Harrison, Bukofzer, and Ringer, among others.37 Yet this seems rather removed from the reality of both musicological and historical writing. Musicology has played a virtually negligible role in the field of intellectual history, and while the sociological aspects of music making have been treated to an extent, discussion of the inner process of music, that is to say the significance of the musical work itself as a prime historical document has been sparse to nonexistent.

There has been some movement within the last generation. Richard Crawford has argued for the value of musical documents in interpreting early American history,38 and Seeger provided a model in his study of the three-voice shape-note hymn.39 The American Historical Review has begun to review books such as Charles Rosen's The Classical Style, and Rossiter's and Perry's studies on Charles Ives. I am certain that 20 years ago these works would not even have been considered as possibilities for review. Most importantly, the field of history in general seems more aware of the importance of source material of a variety of types.

Whether a tendency which is still so incipient will continue rests largely with musicologists, who are the only scholars trained to interpret these documents. Reality will change very little. Detailed studies which deal with relatively limited areas of investigation will continue to prevail, just as they do in history. Yet the musicologist must continuously look outward. His provenance in general space-time automatically links him with disciplines outside his own. Arguments against this purpose have been advanced mainly on practical grounds, not that this should not be the purpose of musicology, but that it is not.

To return to the Princeton statement quoted earlier: "Whenever the technical difficulties of research are unusually formidable and the interested segment of the intellectual community is small, the general danger of academicism increases. A preoccupation with minutiae is encouraged, the larger action of the intellect clogged."

Historical musicology, with its formidable technical challenges, and its relatively small readership, constantly stands on the brink of this trap. While broad goals and ultimate purposes of not only historical musicology but all musical scholarship may seem only a distant dream, neither our rigor nor our empiricism is sufficient cause to abandon them as goals. I do not believe that we have done so, but the state of the discipline suggests that to look up occasionally from our plicas or Grundgestalten to the broader question of direction or purpose, and to occasionally confront an idealism such as Seeger's may be useful. That is really the whole point of this article.


1Guido Adler, Methode der Musikgeschichte (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1919). Originally formulated by Adler in "Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft," Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft I, No. 1 (1885), 5-20.

2"On the Principles of Musicology," Musical Quarterly X, No. 2 (April 1924), 244-250.

3Charles Seeger, Studies in Musicology, 1935-1975 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977); hereafter referred to as Studies.

4"Toward a Unitary Field Theory for Musicology," in Studies, pp. 102-138.

5Idem, p. 107.

6Studies, "Introduction," p. 11.

7Studies, p. 127.

8In the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism XXXIII, No. 3 (Spring 1975), 351-2.

9Robert M. Copeland, "Music Historiography in the Classroom," SYMPOSIUM XIX, No. 1 (Spring 1979), 147.

10Gilbert Chase, "The Musicologist as Historian: A Matter of Distinction," Notes XXIX, No. 1 (September 1972), 12-13.

11Idem, p. 14.

12Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch, Apologie pour l'histoire, ou Métier d'historien (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1949), p. 15.

13John Higham, with Leonard Krieger and Felix Gilbert, History, Humanistic Scholarship in America: The Princeton Studies (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965), p. 54.

14Laurence Veysey, "Intellectual History and the New Social History," in New Directions in American Intellectual History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), pp. 19-20.

15Idem, pp. 23-24.

16In Studies, pp. 114-115.

17Studies, "Introduction," p. 1. The original paper which dealt with this concept was "Systematic Musicology: Viewpoints, Orientations, and Methods," Journal of the American Musicological Society IV, No. 3 (Fall 1951), 240-48.

18Studies, pp. 8-9.

19Joan Stambaugh, "Music as a Temporal Form," Journal of Philosophy LXI, No. 9 (April 1964), 265-281.

20Gisele Brelet, "Music and Silence," in Reflections on Art, ed. Susanne K. Langer (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1958), p. 104.

21Studies, p. 10.

22Idem, p. 11.

23Idem, p. 7.

24The first two are in Studies, pp. 16-30 and 31-44, the third in Eolus IV, No. 2 (May 1925), 12-24.

25In Studies, pp. 45-63.

26Studies, p. 45. An earlier and less complex definition of this term appeared in "Preface to the Description of a Music," Société Internationale de Musicologie, Cinquieme Congres, Utrecht, 1952, Compte rendu (Amsterdam, 1953), p. 363.

27Studies, p. 16.

28Jan LaRue, "Harmonic Rhythm in the Beethoven Symphonies," The Music Review XVIII (1957), 8-20.

29Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets (New York: Knopf, 1967), p. 27.

30Edward T. Cone, "Beyond Analysis," Perspectives of New Music VI, No. 1 (Spring/Summer, 1967), 57.

31Leonard Meyer, "Forgery and the Anthropology of Art," in Music, the Arts and Ideas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 54-67.

32"As it really was." Georg G. Iggers, "The Image of Ranke in American and German Historical Thought," History and Theory II (1965), 17-33, discusses the significance of this idea in Leopold Ranke's thought and the importance of the phrase to early twentieth-century American historians.

33George Grove, Beethoven and His Symphonies, 3rd edition (New York: Dover Publications, 1962; originally published 1898), p. 255. Donald Francis Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), I, 59.

34Studies, pp. 4-5.

35Opening lines of "Burnt Norton" from Four Quartets.

36Leonard Meyer, Explaining Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 6-9.

37Seeger, "Preface to the Description of a Music," p. 366. Curt Sachs in an editorial in JAMS II, No. 1 (Spring 1949), 3-6. Frank L. Harrison in Musicology, Humanistic Scholarship in America: The Princeton Studies (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965), p. 6. Manfred Bukofzer, The Plan of Musicology in American Institutions of Higher Learning (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957), p. 26. Alexander Ringer, "Guidelines for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Musicology," 1st ed., December 1969, pamphlet published by the American Musicological Society.

38Richard Crawford, A Historian's Introduction to Early American Music (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1980).

39Seeger, "Contrapuntal Style in the Three-voice Shape-note Hymns of the United States," in Studies, pp. 237-251.

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