Constructing Musicology: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Constructing Musicology

1st Edition

By Alastair Williams


176 pages

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Paperback: 9780754601340
pub: 2001-11-20

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This title was first published in 2001: Unlike many other academic disciplines, musicology has been somewhat reluctant to explore the possibilities that critical theory might offer to our understanding of music and the ways in which we study it. In recent years, however, both the general impact of theory on humanities research and the wider repertoires now studied on music degree courses have urged a paradigm shift in musicology. Looking at both these trends, Alastair Williams examines and explains the theoretical issues raised by different musics, including the Western canon, popular music, folk music and music by women. A theoretically informed musicology, he argues, can reflect on its own procedures and create strategies for particular problems as they arise. In this sense the book offers a musicology under construction. To appreciate how theoretical discourses function and the interests they serve, it is important to understand their roots. Chapter One begins with a presentation of traditional musicology in the context of Joseph Kerman's call for a shift from fact-finding to critical interpretation. Discussion then moves to the scrutiny of the bourgeois tradition by Adorno and Dahlhaus. Chapter Two explores Kerman's critique of structural analysis, together with the impact of poststructuralism on musicology. Awareness of new repertoire and its consequences becomes evident as the book unfolds, with Chapter Three considering music by women and examining how gender is constructed in music. Chapter Four extends this discussion to the field of popular music and the ways in which this genre negotiates identity. Challenges to the dominant values are further explored as Chapter Five looks at how non-European cultures are presented in European music and reflects on perceptions of self and other in ethnomusicology. Chapter Six charts the emergence of modern subjectivity and its formations in music, arguing that musicology should not lose sight of modernity's critical resources.


'Alastair Williams' Constructing Musicology provides a useful conspectus of salient trends in the discipline over the last half-century or so…. an intelligent short guide to the discipline…' BBC Music Magazine ’Williams’s book is both broad and deep, covering a wealth of critical approaches to a diversity of classical, popular, and non-Western musics. Unfailingly clear, accurate, and fairminded in its mix of summary and critique, Constructing Musicology conveys the reasons why theory� has become so fundamental to current musical scholarship, while at the same time conveying the sense of challenge and excitement that theory, when well used, can create. This book is at once a gift to students and an important work of scholarship that helps advance the new construction it describes.’ Lawrence Kramer, Fordham University, USA. ’The 1990s were a time of rapid change in musicology, prompted largely by a dizzying array of influences from different strands of critical, literary, and inter-disciplinary theory. In this concise book Alastair Williams separates, orders, and explains the principal intellectual currents involved, charting their influence across a range of musicological subdisciplines. To those coming for the first time to contemporary musicology, the result is an accurate and up-to-date road map, a kind of Rough Guide to a changing discipline; others will recognize familiar theoretical landmarks but gain a new sense of how they link up with one another. Constructing Musicology is a one-stop shop for contemporary thinking in and around musicology.’ Professor Nicholas Cook, University of Southampton, UK 'Williams provides much food for thought. This book can be read profitably by both music faculty and graduate students.' Choice

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Traditions: Kerman; Adorno; Dahlhaus; Discourses: Structuralism; Poststructuralism; Texts; Semantics; Voices: Gendered music; Embodied music; Lacanian psychoanalysis; Identities: Critique; Value; Perspectives; Places: Orientalism; Ethnomusicology; Positions: Modernity; Musicology and postmodernism; Culture; Framing the fifth; Reconstructing musicology; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Alastair Williams is Reader in Music at Keele University, UK. He has research interests in modernism and modernity, Austro-German music, critical theory, and subjectivity in music. He is the author of New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate, 1997), Constructing Musicology (Ashgate, 2001), and Music in Germany since 1968 (Cambridge, 2013), and a contributor to The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (2004). He has also published articles in a wide range of music journals. He has received funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General