Friday, February 15, 2008

Is there hope for musicology?

In Kyle Gann’s lecture, he discusses, at some length, Leonard Meyer’s three phases of development within musicological movements: Pre-classic, Classic, and Mannerist. However, simultaneous and pluralistic musical movements, coupled with a lack of historical perspective on recent movements in music, make it impossible to empirically categorize modern music using Meyer’s methods. Furthermore, this issue makes it impossible to use ANY pre-existing musicological method to categorize or quantify new music.

This is not, however, to say that musicological study of modern music is impossible. Gann, himself considered one of the foremost chroniclers of new music, admitted to me in conversation that he had little, if any, grasp of popular music, and imparted in his lecture that he did not purchase his first “pop” record until he was 22 (even then, Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” is a pretty left-of-field recording for “popular music”). Gann went on to say that he is no longer an appropriate chronicler of new music, because he can not critique music from a holistic perspective; the convergence of “popular” and “art” music have made it difficult to undertake study of one without study of the other. The terms “popular” and “art” are, in my opinion, ridiculous and outmoded- “popular” music has been art music since the release of Sgt. Pepper’s in 1968, and “art” has been pop since the same time, since Yoko Ono decided to open her loft to “classical” musicians and take art music into the realm of rock and jazz.

The point I am trying to make, however discursive, is that there is hope for musicological study of contemporary music, but that musicology needs, in the face of continually subdividing musical currents, to become LESS concerned with sub-stratifying specific movements and more concerned with total, non-exclusive study of ALL forward-thinking music.

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