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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Toward a new comparative musicology: Five key areas and debates (Pour une nouvelle musicologie comparée : Cinq champs de recherche, cinq débats essentiels)

Patrick E Savage and Steven Brown (2014)

Toward a new comparative musicology: Five key areas and debates (Pour une nouvelle musicologie comparée : Cinq champs de recherche, cinq débats essentiels)

Anthropologie et Sociétés, 38(1):193-216.

We propose a return to the forgotten agenda of comparative musicology, one that is updated with the paradigms of modern evolutionary theory and scientific methodology. Ever since the field of comparative musicology was redefined as ethnomusicology in the mid-twentieth century, musicologists have all but abandoned many features of its original research agenda, not least the overarching goal of cross-cultural musical comparison. We outline here five major themes that underlie the re-establishment of comparative musicology: (1) classification, (2) cultural evolution, (3) human history, (4) universals, and (5) biological evolution. Throughout the article, we clarify key ideological, methodological and terminological objections that have been levied against musical comparison. Ultimately, we argue for an inclusive, constructive, and multidisciplinary field that analyzes the world's musical diversity, from the broadest of generalities to the most culture-specific particulars, with the aim of synthesizing the full range of theoretical perspectives and research methodologies available.

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