A blog post, that neither is likely to advance one's career, nor offer payment, is a fairly low incentive activity, but still I am shocked at how few posts there are:
Just for comparison, here is my blog archive for the same years:
According to the website for the AMS, they have some 3.500 individual members, nearly all of whom seem to see no particular reason to contribute a post to the blog, it seems!
In February last year I put up a post discussing a debate that was raging on the Musicology Now site. Go have a look. What are they up to these days? The top post right now is a digest of a dissertation on Cuban dance culture. Seems quite topical and ties into the Obama initiative to foster ties with Cuba. Here is how the writer describes her project:
What does a musicologist gain by studying popular dance culture? One might ask conversely what the discipline of musicology has to offer to the study of popular dance cultures. Certainly my desire to treat both the aesthetic elements and the evolving socio-economic contexts of a popular music-dance culture with seriousness and depth has forced me to adopt an interdisciplinary approach. Yet as a musician and musicologist, the music – its sounds and structures, their logics and meanings – is the touchstone from which I began and to which I repeatedly return. Even the “simplest” folk music has layers of meaning to unpack, once we pay close attention to its basic sonic elements - rhythm, timbre, form, and pitch, for example - and consider the ways in which these produce meaning within their “home” context. In the case of popular dance cultures, scholars of African, Cuban, and even North American dance genres have shown that the intimate relationship between music and dance requires a detailed examination of the dance within the context of a rigorous musical analysis.I would be curious to see a sample of this rigorous analysis, but I guess that would be too much to expect from a "digest." Here is the last paragraph, summing up the post:
In many ways, change and uncertainty are more palpable than ever at this writing, both on the island and off. Yet official postures and policies aside, musicians and dancers in Havana, New York, and elsewhere yearn to reenact the cultural connections that keep Cuban dance culture alive, and continue to do so through new projects and partnerships. Forms like timba and casino exist precisely because of those resistant acts. They are proof of and inspiration for further acts of mingling and sharing, reminding us of our humanity, resilience, and need for communal moments of pleasure and release. Understanding these deep-rooted connections – between musical sound, embodied listener, and socio-economic space – is the goal of my project and the work of today’s musicologist.
The next post is titled "Earth Music" and consists of musings about the, I guess, ontological status of the golden record that was sent out to the universe on both the Voyager deep space probes. What do the authors have to share with us?
Whether this Earth Music constitutes a flattening of musical features or a liberation is a matter of perspective. Either way, thinking through the Golden Record challenges us to refashion what we, as musicologists, do. Ultimately, the chief point of this interstellar exploration is firmly focused on the question of communication, starting with our communication here on Planet Earth. This musical anniversary affords us a great opportunity to raise some important questions about the reach of musicology. It asks us to consider our work in its capacity to communicate across the barriers of languages, cultures—indeed across whole worlds and planets—and to examine the very basis and purpose of our work. If we set the most ambitious goals, communicating across species, across exoplanetary systems, and renegotiate the very foundational terms with which we operate, perhaps the rest of our work will seem less daunting as a consequence. Space, it turns out, really is the final frontier.The next post praises film composer Rupert Gregson-Williams soundtrack to the recent Wonder Woman movie:
Gregson-Williams presents discernible musical themes without patterning his score on a Wagnerian model, and the soundtrack evenly balances music with sound effects during battle scenes, an unusual mixing decision since the development of Dolby surround sound in the 1980s. Critics and viewers have applauded the film’s representation of women both on- and off-screen. Gregson-Williams’s soundtrack also reflects Diana’s Amazonian warrior values and provides a model for future superhero scores. More memorable thematic cues that are balanced with sound effects in action-packed scenes should be applied to break the trope of forgettable superhero soundtracks.The next post is also on the film and discusses the nature of evil in Wonder Woman:
This “love,” or what Arendt would call an “understanding heart” differentiates Wonder Woman from Batman and Superman. Superman protects humanity from outside threats, and Batman roots out the bad apples. Only Wonder Woman grapples with the question of whether or not humanity is worth saving. Having faced that question, she insists on living in (and loving) the world as it is, enabling her to see the good in everyone, even Batman’s bad apples. Her “understanding heart” allows her to forge that new beginning that Arendt so prized.If we take this official blog of the AMS to be a valid index of what they are up to these days, then the news is dire. It seems that the Gramscian march through the institutions has triumphed! Why do I say this? Ironically, the new musicology is all about establishing the social context of music, but the first post, with its whitewashing of the real nature of the Cuban dictatorship, tries to conceal entirely the social context. The second post has as its fundamental assumption the erasing of all boundaries, national and other, and then proceeds to a really silly exercise in navel-gazing. The third and fourth posts are really exercises in feminism. My point is, whatever your position on these issues and questions, it is pretty much undeniable that they are all ones that embody the politics of the left. Also, only half of the posts actually deal with music as such.
But let me end on a much more cheerful note. JAMS, the Journal of the American Musicological Society offers quite a different picture of what musicologists are up to these days as a glance at the articles in the current issue (follow the link) will reveal. Lots of serious papers on actual music!
As one of the papers is about Boris Godunov, the opera by Musorgsky, let's have a little of that for our envoi.