12 November 2016

Theme 1

[Conference themes]

[Theme 2 : Music analysis and music in act]

[Free themes]

Theme 1 : Extrinsic issues, intrinsic challenges: what is the future for music analysis?

The 9th European Music Analysis Conference (EuroMAC 9) will be focusing particular attention on the issues and challenges facing music analysis that impact on it both externally and intrinsically, and which have a considerable bearing on its future. The ‘Music Analysis Today’ conference held in Strasbourg in 2009 and the edited volume of the same title (Delatour France, 2015) that arose out of it highlighted the depth, diversity and even at times the disparity of work and approaches in this field. Music analysis has a long tradition that goes back to the end of the 19th century. Nevertheless, that tradition has not been immune to the intellectual currents that have irrigated its development since its inception: the structuralism expounded in the second half of the 20th century and schools of thought such as the New Musicology of the 1980s and ‘90s being two cases in point. However, music analysis is today confronted with intellectual and political paradigm shifts linked to globalisation, the domination of economic models, and profound changes in social structures. Music analysis today finds itself inextricably meshed with contemporary issues that both transcend and threaten it. Given such a context, how are we to envisage and develop the future of music analysis?

Consideration of these issues will be addressed via a twofold call for papers.

A call to reflect on the epistemological status of music analysis as a discipline

If music analysis is indeed a fully-fledged discipline as evidenced, for instance, by the various European conferences on the subject (and the research community that gathers regularly under its banner), can it still be considered as being an autonomous one? The close ties that music analysis maintains with musicology will require clarification from institutional as well as scholarly perspectives. To what extent does it still correspond to the branch of ‘systematic musicology’ as defined by Adler in 1885? Music analysis also has a long tradition of interdisciplinary dialogue with various fields in the humanities and the so-called ‘pure’ sciences. What then has the impact of these disciplines and their evolution been on music analysis itself?

Finally, music analysis is often associated with music theory, whose role will need to be clarified. Is theory a necessary condition for a scientific approach to musical phenomenon? Or does the confrontation between theory and analysis reveal cultural rather than epistemological differences resulting from a number of national ‘traditions’ or linked to geographic and linguistic areas? Do not such differences reveal a form of immaturity in the discipline and its pre-scientific status? Is the fragmentation of music analysis into increasingly irreconcilable approaches, compounded by linguistic obfuscation and parochial interests not contrary to the very spirit of research?

A call to consider the new challenges that music analysis needs to face in the present century

The future of music analysis is today conditioned by two major challenges, namely the steadily growing corpus of musical works and the increasing financial pressure on academic and research resources. On the one hand, the scope of analysis has expanded to cover works from a wide range of musical cultures that are studied from their various geographic, historical and social perspectives. How can music analysis – a product of Western high culture – embrace such cultural diversity as well as assimilate the new ways of communication and diffusion that have facilitated and generalised access to it? More generally, can analysis postulate unresolved problems that are actually amenable to receiving a solution, as for example the conceptual schism between differing approaches or how the relationship between the model and the musical reality it describes should be considered?

At the same time, the place that music analysis occupies in the academic world and society in general has come under fire with the subordination of research to demands for immediate returns. In a context of never ending budget cuts, a complex and saturated academic recruitment market and, more generally, a knowledge-based economy increasingly based on business models of organisation, how can music analysis demonstrate what it can offer in terms of research, innovation and dissemination of knowledge without compromising the academic pursuit of truth that it sets out to produce? Given the necessity of proving its social utility, its contribution to the employability of students trained in its use and of demonstrating tangible results, can it even possibly begin to justify its existence?