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Bringing together humanities, sciences and practice within musicology and psychology. Richard Parncutt University of Graz, Austria 25th anniversary conference of the German Society for Music Psychology, 12-14 September 2008 This file was revised and extended following the presentation.

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Bringing together humanities, sciences and practice within musicology and psychology

Richard Parncutt

University of Graz, Austria

25th anniversary conference of the German Society for Music Psychology, 12-14 September 2008

This file was revised and extended following the presentation.


Musicology: the study of music

  • any study of any music

    Psychology: the study of soul, self or mind

    (e.g. via behavior and experience)

     any study of any soul, self or mind

Which is more important?

Object of research

  • person

  • music

Context of object

  • society

  • history

  • culture

Alterity and the Other

The subject (speaker/writer)

  • tacitly assumes a superior position

  • perceives Other relative to that position


  • gender alterity

    women: the Other sex

  • cultural alterity

    non-western: Other peoples

  • academic alterity

    humanities: Other disciplines


  • Object of research

    • music in different representations

      • signal, experience, performance, memory, score…

    • systematic musicology

      (the Other musicology)

  • Context of object

    • society, history, culture

    • historical musicology & ethnomusicology

      (the Real musicology)


  • Object of research:

    • behavior/experience of individuals

    • psychology

      (the Real study of human behavior)

  • Context of object:

    • human society, history, culture

    • anthropology

      (the Other study of human behavior)

and by the way:“Science” is not Wissenschaft!

In modern British and American English, “science” implies “positivist” scholarship

 natural sciences

  • disciplines with similar methods (e.g. social sciences)

    “Humanities” and “sciences”

    are mutually exclusive categories!

    Wissenschaft = scholarship, research, academe

    wissenschaftlich = scholarly, research-based, academic

HumanitiesSome slightly dangerous generalisations

  • object of research

    • specific manifestations of culture (e.g. music performances, works)

  • epistemology (knowledge acquisition, “truth”)

    • personal experience and observation

    • intuition and introspection

    • expert discussion (a kind of intersubjectivity)

  • research methods

    • qualitative, analytic, critical, speculative, “subjective”

  • researchers

    • institutionally qualified or well recognized

    • expected to come to different conclusions

Sciences (of culture)More slightly dangerous generalisations

  • object of research

    • general issues (about culture, e.g. what is musical emotion?)

  • epistemology

    • systematic observation

    • data analysis

    • comparison of hypotheses with evidence

  • research methods

    • quantitative, data-orientiert, empirical, “objective”

  • researchers

    • not necessarily institutionally qualified or well recognized

    • expected to come to similar conclusions (the implied “truth”)

Subjectivity, objectivityAmbiguous value judgments!

Three cases:

1. the research object itself (Geist / Natur)

2. distance between researcher & research object

3. agreement among researchers

Subjectivity is considered…

  • good in humanities

  • bad in sciences

Music (ology) according to Nicholas CookMusic: A very short introduction(Oxford, 1998)

Exposes musicological prejudices against:

  • popular and non-western musics (musical Others)

  • women and non-westerners (human Others)

    Seems unaware of prejudice against:

  • musical sciences

  • non-Angloamerican musicology

    Contents page could have included:

  • musical perception, cognition, emotion

  • music, rhythm and movement

  • music and personality; development of ability

  • music, the body and the brain

  • the nature, functions and origins of music

Academe: A very short introductionSome broad generalizations and idealisations

Academe: A very short introductionSome broad generalizations and idealisations

Academe: A very short introductionDominance of sciences in the 20th century

  • scientific progress

    • physics: atom, universe; nuclear weapons (Einstein)

    • biology: evolutionary thinking (Darwin)

  • explosion of technologies

    • positive impact on everyday life

    • exacerbation of international conflict

(Music) psychology becomes a science

Fechner, 1801-1887

Helmholtz, 1821-1894

Wundt, 1832-1920


  • Introspective psychology is subjective in all three ways

    • research object = researcher

    • no distance between researcher and object

    • diverse findings and theories

  • Empirical methods are possible

    e.g. psychophysics

(Music) history remains in humanities


  • History is less subjective than introspective psychology

    • research object not necessarily the researcher

    • more distance between researcher and object

    • tolerable diversity of findings and theories

  • Empirical methods are impossible

    • composers and listeners mostly unavailable

    • performance traditions lost or uncertain

German historical musicology and international music psychology todayA strained relationship

Two sources of long-term resentment:

  • English, the international academic language

    • German, the Other language

  • Sciences, the main form of scholarship

    • Humanities: the Other scholarship

Academe in the 21st centuryRevival of the humanities?


  • human identity

  • interculturality

  • means to prevent intercultural conflict?


  • quality of life

    • in industrialised countries

  • self-destruction of humanity

    • exhaustion of resources

    • climate change

    • nuclear war

The return of the humanities

  • create new institutions

    • Islamic studies

    • intercultural studies

  • improve finances

    • research (positions and support)

    • professorships

  • improve quality control

    • peer review

    • teaching evaluation

  • reward interdisciplinarity

    • especially with sciences

      (natural, social, formal)

Categorization of disciplinesSome problems

  • Psychology as science

    • power: obsession with methods and statistics

    • content: neglect of cultural, historical, political and even social (!) contexts and implications

    • quality: obsession with peer review and English

  • Musicology as humanities

    • power: domination by qualified/eminent researchers

    • content: neglect of research methods, which determine content/validity of findings in any discipline

    • quality: rejection of peer-review and English

Categorization of disciplines

  • good for administrators 

    strengthens hierarchy

    faster decisions

    less conflict

  • bad for academic creativity 

    suppresses interdisciplinarity

    biased answers to central questions

    myopic academic culture

    Interdisciplinarity must be directly promoted!

Abstracts at ICMPC10Sapporo, Japan, 2008

Subjective classification based on main content of abstract

Other = methods, pedagogy, software development, analysis…

International music psychologyToo much data-oriented empiricism!

We need a better balance of:

  • empirical and theoretical papers

  • pure and applied research

German music psychologyNo problem 

  • institutionalisation of music psychology

    • Germany: mp is a musicological Other (“systematic”)

    • USA: mp is officially external to “musicology”

  • recent German texts on music psychology

    • Oerter & Stoffer

    • de la Motte & Rötter

    • Bruhn, Kopiez & Lehmann

      Needed: English translation of the best chapters

Expansion and specialisation

  • typical duration of study and doctorate

    • 10 years or 10 000 hours (Ericsson)

  • expansion of research literature

    • specialisation, subdisciplines, sub-subdisciplines

    • experts no longer know their own discipline!

      Plausible expertise in both humanities and sciences is no longer possible!

      Collaboration is inevitable!

Collaboration humanitiessciencesWhy is it so difficult?

  • very different concepts of “truth”

    • nature

    • acquisition

    • application

  • political dominance of sciences

    • sciences: deep-seated arrogance

    • humanities: deep-seated resentment

Discrimination in psychology, musicology

  • increasing power of dominant subdisciplines

    democratic professorial selection procedures tend to

    • squeeze out disciplinary minorities

    • sharpen disciplinary categorizations

    • reduce interdisciplinary collaboration

    • increase dependency of “truth” on power (Foucault)

  • solution: complex, sensitive democracy

    not only one person, one vote

    but also explicit promotion of minorities & interdisciplinarity

    (“explicit” = financial!)

Collegiality & academic productivity20th-century contexts

If interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary, collegiality is also necessary! But we cannot take it for granted:

  • social and historical context

    • schools: decline of religion and moral education

    • undergraduate study: no training in academic collegiality

    • research, teaching: collegiality within, not between disciplines

    • politics and economics: neo-liberalism, Geiz ist geil

  • academic context

    • cold war between humanities and sciences

    • multiple distinctions between Real and Other disciplines

    • evolutionary psychology: harassment is “natural”

Achieving academic collegialitySome general strategies

  • clarity

    • non-overlapping job descriptions

    • mission statements, transparency

  • supportive atmosphere

    • recognition of achievement

    • mutual constructive criticism

    • solidarity

  • objective quality control

    • teaching: student and expert evaluation

    • research: peer review

  • fair competition

    • common goal: academic quality

       mutual trust and respect

Achieving academic collegialitySome specific strategies

  • awareness raising, discussion

    • discrimination of Others (sexual, racial, academic)

    • definitions of collegiality

    • strategy development

    • guidelines to promote collegial culture

  • research

    • publication of objective performance indices

    • effect of diversity on creativity and productivity?

  • selection procedures

    • professors, administrators

    • statements on collegiality, affirmative action…

  • rewards for good practice

    • ceremonies, awards, financial incentives

History of collegiality

Sharing of responsibility in

  • Roman republic

  • Catholic church

    Reformation universities (16th C.) trained humanism:

  • civilised behavior

  • social responsibility

  • promotion of culture

    Walter Rüegg (Ed., 1992). A history of the university in Europe, Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press.

Collegiality and the 19th-Century German university model

  • Humboldt’s educational ideal

    • combination of arts and specialised academic discipline

    • unity of research and teaching

    • academic freedom through independence from private sector

  • Teachers and learners are:

    • autonomous citizens of the world

    • concerned with global issues such as peace, justice, cultural exchange, natural environment

  • common goals and supportive atmosphere

  • collegiality

Antifascism in global scholarship

Fascism (especially Nazism) is based on:

  • belief in the fundamental superiority of one’s own group

    …and involves:

  • institutionalised victim mentality, intolerance, envy, marginalisation

  • authoritarian rule, violence, instability, destruction

    Historical, sociological, evolutionary evidence:

    Fascism is latent in all cultural groups incl. countries & disciplines*

    Antifascism is necessary in all countries & disciplines

    Antifascism is based on:

  • fundamental respect for both Own and Other groups

    …and involves:

  • institutionalised empowerment, acceptance, collegiality, solidarity

  • democracy, peace, stability, abundance

    * cf. Kenneth Westhues: academic mobbing

Spinoffs of academic collegialityin conjunction with performance orientation

  • job satisfaction

    psychological identification with institution

  • conflict-free environment

    openness; diversity of opinions/approaches

  • intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

    willingness to perform and serve

    • risk taking and entrepreneural attitude

       academic creativity!

Collegiality and performance orientationAspiral of positive reinforcement?

improved research and teaching

recognition of university and its members

attractivity for external academics and students

  • good job applicants; good students

  • even better research and teaching

  • even more recognition

  • even better staff and students…

Tips for scientistsTake humanities seriously!

  • investigate, teach and report the historical, social and cultural background and implications of research

  • present sciences as dangerous, humanities as a solution

  • expose and reduce arrogance

    in (music) psychology:

  • more logic, speculation, reflection

  • cultural turn (Allesch)

Tips for humanities scholarsOpen up!

  • develop / publish methodologies for specific purposes

  • integrate scientific / computational methods

  • be more international (not necessarily in English)

  • create / support peer-review conferences and journals

  • collaborate!

Tips for both humanities and sciences

  • study, apply, develop qualitative methods

    • Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

    • systematic exposure of researcher bias

  • explicity promote collegiality at all levels

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