Musicology at ICMuS

Musicology at ICMuS is an inter- and multi-disciplinary field of studyMusicology at ICMuS is a large field of study, with more than half the academic staff engaging in research and teaching in this area. Both staff and students at ICMuS are interested in thinking about how what we ‘know’ about music is shaped by the history of our discipline; we have developed a culture of critical scholarship and challenging teaching, together with a nurturing and supportive learning environment, in which we are keen to encourage thorough-going (and sometimes quite uncomfortable) questioning of our discipline and the assumptions under which it continues to operate.

The term musicology is a translation of the German Musikwissenschaft (literally ‘music scholarship’, ‘music knowledge’ or ‘music science’). For the purposes of studying at ICMuS, we can say that musicology is the name we give to all 'academic' or 'reflective' fields of musical study. With its origins in the late nineteenth century, the discipline of musicology has changed enormously in the last 30 years. The advent, in the late 1980s and 1990s, of the so-called ‘new’ musicology from North America and the development of its sister phenomenon of ‘critical’ musicology in the UK, the proliferation of new paradigms of music history, especially from scholars of early music, the challenges to musicology made by developments in ethnomusicology from the 1960s onwards, and the rise of music analysis and popular music studies, for example, have all had a profound impact on the study of music in the English-speaking world.

Since its inception in the late nineteenth century, musicology has changed almost beyond recognitionAt ICMuS, in our research and teaching in musicology, we are fully conscious of the far-reaching challenges facing the discipline at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Indeed, Guido Adler, the ‘inventor’ of the discipline in the late nineteenth century, would have found much of the interdisciplinarity and pluralism of what we now call musicology perplexing.


Musicology at ICMuS certainly includes the usual range of sub-disciplines such as historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music education and music analysis: Adler would have recognised most of these. We also work and teach in the more recent sub-disciplines of musicology such as music and gender studies, music and politics, music and psychoanalysis, music and consciousness, listening ecologies of modernity and postmodernity, popular and vernacular musics, performance analysis, music and globalisation, music and empathy, the history of recording and other sound reproduction technologies, the history of the voice, musical meaning (semiotics and semiology), music and sexuality, music and race and many other areas.

Psychonalaysis, cultural studies and recent developments in continental philosophy continue to impact upon musicology as a disciplineIn a large department like ICMuS, there are bound to be many different approaches to the study of music, but there is strong agreement among scholars here that musicology needs constant renewal from outside itself: hence the strong interdisciplinary emphasis in our research and teaching in musicology; we also host the international online journal Radical Musicology, which aims to 'encourage work which explicitly or implicitly interrogates existing paradigms, and which acknowledges that musicological work will always have a political dimension.' Most academic staff at ICMuS and some of our research students are members of the editorial collective of the journal.

Feminism, gay and lesbian studeis and other academic encounters with identity politics have had a profound impact on musicology in the English-speaking worldStaff at ICMuS teach and research in a number of periods, including medieval, early modern, the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. They also teach and research across a range of geo-political contexts and regional, national and transnational traditions, including Western Europe (Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy), North America, Latin America, Africa (Tunisia, South Africa and the Congos) and the Caribbean. Most staff are specialists in the so-called Western Art Music tradition (sometimes shorthanded to 'classical' music), but many also work on popular, traditional and other vernacular traditions, and musics from other cultures.

So, whatever your interests, whatever your musical background, you will flourish at ICMuS if you are prepared to ask difficult, challenging and searching questions about the meaning and uses of music, its political and aesthetic importance to us and to others, and its role in shaping societies, cultures and, perhaps most importantly, our sense of who we are.

Staff working in this field include Paul Attinello, Ian Biddle, David Clarke, Eric Cross, Nanette De Jong, Richard Elliott, Paul Fleet, Kirsten Gibson, Bennett Hogg, Felicity Laurence, Bethany Lowe, Simon McKerrell, Goffredo Plastino, Jamie Savan, Roz Southey, Desmond Wilkinson, Magnus Williamson. See people for more details of their work.