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Musicology is a scientific discipline , the content of which is the practical and theoretical study of music , i. H. the exploration and reflection of all aspects of music and making music. The phenomenon of music is viewed from the perspective of all relevant disciplines (and their paths of knowledge); this includes cultural, natural, social and structural science approaches.


Musicology experienced a differentiation after 1945, which made it necessary to break down into sub-disciplines. Glen Haydon (1896–1966) and Friedrich Blume (1893–1975) advocated a threefold structure:

  1. Historical musicology , also music history;
  2. Systematic musicology ;
  3. Ethnic musicology , also called ethnomusicology or earlier comparative musicology.

This threefold structure replaced the division into historical and systematic musicology , which was shaped by Guido Adler (1855–1941). Music ethnology was one of Adler's area of ​​systematic musicology. Further classifications were the five-part division (historical, systematic, ethnomusic, music-sociological and applied musicology) by Hans-Heinz Dräger (1909–1968) and the four-part division (systematic musicology, music history, musical folklore and ethnology as well as regional and social music research) by Walter Wiora (1907–1997).

Historical musicology

The subject area of historical musicology is music and history. Source research, musical notation and musical text analysis are used to uncover facts from the past. Historical musicology wants to make sources available and interpret them. Only since the 1960s has the music of the 20th century been turned. Above all, it deals with the history of European music (art music). It has different areas:

  • The Instrument tuition treated under historical aspects construction, acoustics, sound, use and playing of musical instruments . She tries to classify musical instruments and provides advice on performance practice.
  • The iconography evaluates music-related image representations from as sources to gain knowledge about music and exercise -anschauung, instruments on individuals and social contexts.
  • The performance practice tries to develop the respective realization of musical texts in the spatial-acoustic, tonal, instrumentation and technical context. It creates the basis for historical performance practice that aims to reproduce the work or epoch.
  • The notation customer explores the recording of music, with the center of their interest, the transmission of works in a contemporary form of notation is.
  • The source client opens using philological , iconographic and diplomatic process primary and secondary sources for music history.
  • The biography , in the 19th century one of the major areas of research in Cultural Studies, describes the lives of people whose work is relevant to the history of music.
  • The sentence customer analyzes musical structure features such. B. harmony , rhythm , counterpoint , form or melody . Her research on the history of composition yields statements about the historical development of music theory .
  • The terminology interprets and defines technical terms used to describe music and to communicate about it. It aims at factual clarification and contributes to the general understanding on questions of music.
  • The Stylistics examined, like other cultural studies characteristics of music that are valid on individual works out to eras - and genre-specific work out peculiarities or characterize a human, group, genus, regional or national style.

Important auxiliary disciplines are:

Systematic musicology

From the original concept of Adler (1885) (keyword: "regularities") as well as today's international scientific practice it emerges that the subject of systematic musicology is not primarily specific manifestations of music such as pieces, works, performances, traditions, genres, composers, Styles, periods, etc., but rather the music itself and musical phenomena in general. In order to enable abstract, general statements about music, a “systematic” approach is necessary (examples: epistemology , logic , classification , measurement , empiricism , statistical analysis, modeling , prediction ). Systematic musicology is divided into the following individual disciplines:


Since Jaap Kunst 1950, the English word ethnomusicology introduced, have the terms of the German ethnomusicology or ethnomusicology over the previous comparative musicology enforced. The department deals with music outside of western art music. What remains is European folk music, the music of non-European indigenous peoples and the musical cultures that are not dependent on the European Occident, such as Asian culture.

Historical and systematic aspects are strictly integrated here. The isolation of the third branch is important, however, as the different cultures have different requirements here. The term “music” does not exist in every culture. And where does “music” begin for science? Often it is only field research that advances science, where people's daily lives are observed in the most unchanged form possible. Research areas:

History of musicology

Musical Sciences up to the Enlightenment

The curriculum developed in Hellenistic antiquity was based on the two pillars of music and gymnastics, which were intended to convey the formation of the mind and the body. That is why the subject of music, which has also dealt with mathematical and musicological issues since Plato at the latest , took a preferred place in ancient education in its original and broad meaning. The ars musica , which emerged from this tradition, also turned to topics that are today assigned to the subjects of musicology or a special branch of research in music theory . In the medieval university education, ars musica - as one of the four mathematical arts (quadrivium) of the septem artes liberales - was only assigned the place of a propaedeutic subject in philosophy . The latter, in turn, has been considered ancilla theologiae since the Middle Ages and, as a lower faculty compared to the highest theological faculty, only had a serving function in the Christian-Occidental education system. This was not without consequences for ars musica, which tried to justify itself to theology with relevant biblical quotations with regard to their spiritual historical relevance. A final emancipation of the philosophical from the theological faculties did not take place until the age of the Enlightenment from around 1740, whereby the music had meanwhile fallen out of the canon of the university education.

Musicology in Germany in the 18th century

Lorenz Christoph Mizler's Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences (1738–1761) is considered the first musicological society. With his lectures held from 1736 to 1742 at Leipzig University, Mizler was the first university professor to teach musicology at a university according to a curriculum he presented after the ars musica tradition had decayed. It was his declared intention "to put the musical sciences, as far as history is concerned, as well as what belongs to it from world wisdom, mathematics, rhetoric and poetry, as much as possible, in perfect condition." the musicology now practiced again in the philosophical faculties no longer applied to the noble music-art dignity (Werckmeister 1691) of the ancient concept of music, but turned primarily to other fields of activity.

Musicology during the Weimar Republic and National Socialism

As a university discipline, musicology saw itself increasingly pushed into a corner during the Weimar Republic. She was confronted with accusations of "elitism" and an "ivory tower existence". In addition, it had to prove its usefulness for society and play a "more active role in society." In particular, the dual experience of numerous musicologists as academics in the university business as well as practitioners in the field of music and music education was particularly important for this legitimation Significance and in the long run enabled a seamless transition into the National Socialist system in some cases. Musicology was a relatively young academic discipline at the beginning of the Weimar Republic in 1918, but it was the preparatory work by well-known musicologists of the first generation such as B. Hermann Kretschmar, Guido Adler, Erich von Hornbostel, Curt Sachs and many others who did pioneering work in the fields of historical, systematic and comparative musicology. For example, “German and Austrian scientists had pioneering work in research and methodology.” In the late phase of the Wilhelmine era, the so-called “Monuments to German Tonkunst” were considered a prestige project to prove the value of German music and at the same time to legitimize musicology as an academic subject and to prove their usefulness for the population. As “'educators', they had the task of educating the German people about their musical heritage and musical strength.” Despite all these efforts, musicology was never able to assume a significant cultural-political position during the Weimar Republic.

The role of musicology in the Third Reich has not yet been fully explored. After the forced release of Jewish scholars, convinced NSDAP members or like-minded people took over the institutes in many places and ran them as willing executors in the spirit of the regime. For example, the musicologist Wolfgang Boetticher, as a member of the special staff for music in the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, forged alleged letters from Schumann to Mendelssohn in line with the National Socialist ideology. The musicologists Theophil Stengel and Herbert Gerigk published the racist lexicon of Jews in music . The musicologist Joseph Müller-Blattau took over a professorship for musicology in Frankfurt am Main. Since 1933 member of the SA, he researched the Germanic heritage in German music art for the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe of the SS. In 1936 he played an inglorious role in the removal of Wilibald Gurlitt by the National Socialist rector of the University of Freiburg / Breisgau. In 1937 he was appointed Gurlitt's successor. At the first Reichsmusiktage in 1938, Friedrich Blume gave the keynote speech on music and race - the fundamentals of musical race research . Heinrich Besseler , member of the SA and the NSDAP , demanded at the music days of the Hitler Youth in Erfurt, "that the music care of the university must be permeated by the spirit of the new Hitler Youth song".

Even after the Second World War, many stressed musicologists determined the music discourse in the Federal Republic; some of them have been active as a journalist up to the present day. Otto Emil Schumann published “The History of German Music” in 1940; Standard works such as “The Great Concert Guide” and the “Handbook of Piano Music” followed in the 1980s. Other musicologists - e.g. B. Hans Schnoor - spread their anti-Semitic remarks on Mendelssohn on (quote: “Musical miracle without spiritual substance”). Wolfgang Boetticher , involved in the confiscation of Jewish property, taught at the University of Göttingen until 1998. From 1949 Friedrich Blume was the editor of the first edition of the music lexicon The Music in Past and Present , Heinrich Besseler accepted a call to the newly established Ordinariate for Musicology at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena , he received the National Prize of the GDR.

Popular music

The popular music is from the Popular Music Research treated. Where it used to be part of ethnomusicology, today it is either independent or part of systematic musicology.


  • Guido Adler : (1885). Scope, method and goal of musicology. Quarterly magazine for musicology, 1. pp. 5–20.
  • Herbert Bruhn, Helmut Rösing : Musicology. A basic course . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-499-55582-4 .
  • Dieter Christensen, Artur Simon : Ethnic Music. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in history and present , subject part 6, 1997, Sp. 1259–1291.
  • Carl Dahlhaus et al. (Ed.): New handbook of musicology . Laaber, Laaber 1998
  • Henkjan Honing: (2006). On the growing role of observation, formalization and experimental method in musicology. Empirical Musicology Review , 1/1, pp. 2-5. (PDF; 409 kB)
  • Heinrich Husmann : (1958). Introduction to musicology . Heidelberg.
  • Joseph Kerman : (1985). Musicology. Fontana, London, ISBN 0-00-197170-0 .
  • Richard Middleton: (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music . Open University Press, Philadelphia, ISBN 0-335-15275-9 .
  • Thomas Nussbaumer : (2001). Alfred Quellmalz and his South Tyrolean field research (1940–1942): a study of musical folklore under National Socialism . StudienVerlag, Innsbruck, Vienna, Munich, ISBN 3-7065-1517-2 .
  • Richard Parncutt : (2007). Systematic musicology and the history and future of Western musical scholarship. Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies , 1, 1-32. ( online ; PDF)
  • Potter Pamela : (2000). The most German of the arts. Musicology and society from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Third Reich, Stuttgart 2000. [Original 1998 / Yale University, Diss]
  • James W. Pruett, Thomas P. Slavens: (1985). Research guide to musicology. American Library Association, Chicago, ISBN 0-8389-0331-2 .
  • Hugo Riemann : (1914). Outline of musicology (2nd ed.). Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer.
  • Helmut Rösing, Peter Petersen (2000): Orientation Musicology. What she can do, what she wants . Reinbek, ISBN 3-499-55615-4 .
  • Albrecht Schneider: (1993). Systematic musicology: traditions, approaches, tasks. Systematic Musicology, Vol. 1, No. 2., pp. 145-180.
  • Uwe Seifert: Systematic Music Theory and Cognitive Science. On the foundation of cognitive musicology. Orpheus Verlag for systematic musicology, Bonn 1993

Web links

Commons : Musicology  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Musicology journals  - sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Musicology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Josef Dolch: Curriculum of the Occident. Darmstadt 1982, p. 25ff. Plato emphasized in Politeia (III. Book), the "arts and gymnastic education [as ...] principles for education and upbringing" source online
  2. In that year the philosopher Christian Wolff , who had been ostracized by the theological faculty in Halle and relieved of his professorship by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I in 1723 , was able to resume his university teaching activities in Halle. It was only from this point in time that philosophy and the disciplines connected to it were free to teach. On the dispute over priorities cf. Immanuel Kant: The dispute between the faculties in three sections, Königsberg 1798 ( text online ).
  3. Mattheson reports that a Leipzig professor, when examining 14 candidates who wanted to acquire the dignity of a master's degree in the seven liberal arts, omitted music "as an unworthy member, unauthorized and unchristian" (Johann Mattheson: Mithridat against the poison of a French satyre called La musica , Hamburg 1749, p. 189 source online )
  4. Lorenz Christoph Mizler: De usu atque praestantia Philosophiae in Theologia, Iurisprudentia, Medicina, breviter disserit, simulque Recitationes suas privatas indicat M. Laurentius Mizlerus, Leipzig 1736, p. 16: “Novam scholam musicam aperire constitui” etc. Source online . His lecture concept is described more precisely in “recitationes suas mathematicas philosophicas musicas de novo futur” as an appendix to the philosophical text Lorenz Christoph Mizler: De natura syllogismi , Leipzig 1742, p. 16 ( source online ) .
  5. Musikalische Bibliothek , I.4 [1738], pp. 73ff., ( Source online )
  6. a b c d Cf. Potter, Pamela: Die deutscheste der Künste. Musicology and society from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Third Reich. Stuttgart 2000, p. 56.
  7. Potter: The Most German of the Arts. Musicology and society from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Third Reich. P. 57.
  8. ^ Quote from Fred K. Prieberg , printed by Ernst Klee, Kulturlexikon. P. 48.