AMSGNY Meetings

Summary of "Future of Musicology" Panel from Fall 2012 Meeting

“The Future of Musicology”: a Panel Hosted by the Greater New York Chapter
On October 13, 2012, the Greater New York Chapter of the American Musicological Society convened at Hofstra University. A portion of their meeting was dedicated to a panel discussion titled “The Future of Musicology.” The discussion was led by Dr. Jeff S. Dailey (Five Towns College) and David Blake (SUNY-Stony Brook), and touched on many topics, including current job availability, the role of musicology outside of academia, the “consumer mentality” of university students and its effect on music pedagogy, the growth of popular musicology, and the position of musicology within the larger humanities.
The first topic of discussion, unsurprisingly, was the contentious job market. Sylvia Kahan (College of Staten Island) sounded an optimistic note by arguing that as musicologists hired in the 1960s are now arriving at retirement age, this year marks a rise in the availability of academic jobs. Robert Waters (Seton Hall University) agreed, but pointed out that the pool of applicants is also large. A few attendees, led by Jeff Dailey, upheld musicological activities outside of academia, questioning the dominant hierarchy between tenure-track and unaffiliated or “public” musicologist. For example, Sarah Hoover (Hofstra University) argued that there is important work to be done in the realm of public musicology, and noted her work in teaching introductory music courses to retirees eager to learn. Bethany Cencer (SUNY-Stony Brook) affirmed AMS’s recent interest in encouraging public musicology as indicated in the February 2012 issue of this newsletter.
The discussion then turned to a reflection on the supposed “lost generation” of musicologists referred to in a contentious AMS-Listserv post. David Blake acknowledged that most meeting attendees had earned their degrees between 1980 and 2010, questioning the invisibility of this generation. He also explained that during the past decades, the idea that one should attend graduate school as a necessary path toward a career emerged, producing a tension with the liberal arts philosophy of disinterested learning. His comment led back into a pedagogical discussion. Jessica Chisholm (Rider University) rightly pointed out the university’s growing emphasis on music appreciation, and the potential conflicts of student interest that arise when trying to sustain a course that incorporates both Western Classical music and popular music for the sake of increasing “approachability” (some students want to learn terminology, others want an easy A). Benjamin Bierman (John Jay College, CUNY) responded by claiming that “popular music is not a carrot,” questioning the familiarity of today’s students with older popular music. David Hurwitz (music critic) argued that whether popular or classical, music is ultimately one of two things: good or bad. He suggested that instructors of musicology should deemphasize the classical/popular dichotomy, and proposed that they teach on a genre basis, using the example of a song as a genre existing in both Western classical music and popular music. 
The perceived expansion in music appreciation courses undergirded a larger discussion on the growing autonomy of popular musicology as a discipline within popular music studies. David Blake called attention to the wide array of popular music panels at the upcoming national conference, and noted the growth of degree programs in popular music, including a newly formed program at Rider University. The discussion then returned to the growing presence of popular music courses in university curricula. Jane Hettrick (Rider University) expressed concern over the growth in popular music as a mainstream component in university music education, arguing that it could result in fewer opportunities for musicologists specializing in “serious” music. Styra Avins (Drew University) shared similar concerns, arguing that Western musicology is “academically in trouble.” The discussion concluded with a reflection on the necessity of adapting to the changes within the discipline. Jeff Dailey acknowledged the importance of interpersonal skills and networking during the job search. Jonathan Waxman (Hofstra University) argued that a music degree provides a different perspective that can benefit any career. Though participants hardly came to a consensus, the discussion highlighted the rapid changes in musicology over the past decade, revealing that the discipline’s future will only be determined by engaging with the very real problems and polemics of the present.
Bethany Cencer
Secretary, Greater New York Chapter

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