Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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Systematic Musicology

The division of musicology into historical and systematic musicology goes back to the music historian Guido Adler. In his 1885 academic theoretical design of historical research, Adler pointed to the study of the laws of art of different times and their organic connection and development as being the central task of the field. However, systematic musicology had left Adler with the tasks of explaining and justifying the laws of art found in historical musicology, of developing criteria for establishing what constitutes beauty in art, and of cataloguing the results of his work for didactic purposes.

Adler's design formed the basis for the understanding of systematic musicology in the years that followed. However, the discipline has grown more modest in its claims. Mainly, because it was through the influence of ethnomusicology (which, for Adler, was known only as “a commendable secondary field”- emerging in the early 20th century with a multitude of new academic findings) did the realization occur that there are no universally valid music-related laws of art. At best, there exists a general framework, within which, music production and music reception take place. Despite this, the compiling of explanations of phenomena connected to music production and music reception (that are open to observation) remains a goal of systematic musicology. The processes of making music and listening to music, as well as the positioning of music in society and the social function that music plays (or, as the case may be, of different music styles) today form a central research focus within the discipline. Music-related acoustics (the acoustics of musical instruments and concert hall acoustics), music psychology, music sociology and music aesthetics are, therefore, currently significant sub-disciplines of systematic musicology. They also shape the methodological spectrum of research.

Research Areas of Interest

  • The appreciation of musical structures
  • The psychology of listening to musical structures, experiencing time while listening to music
  • The history of musical timing
  • The acoustics of musical instruments in relation to timbre (sound analysis and sound synthesis)
  • Sociomusicology (theoretical and empirical work)

Partnerships and Research Contacts

  • Institut für Psychologie der MLU (Prof. Dr. J. Lukas) (The Institute of Psychology at MLU)
  • Leopoldina – Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften (Halle) (Leopoldina – The National  Academy of Sciences at Halle)
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Empirische Ästhetik (Frankfurt am Main) (The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt)
  • Akademie nützlicher Wissenschaften (Erfurt) (The Academy of Applied Sciences in Erfurt)
  • Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting)