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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

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
Which is more important?

Object of research

  • person
  • music

Context of object

  • society
  • history
  • culture
alterity and the other
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

music ology
  • 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)

psych ology
  • 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
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

humanities some slightly dangerous generalisations
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
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 objectivity ambiguous value judgments
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 cook music a very short introduction oxford 1998
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 introduction dominance of sciences in the 20th century
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
(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
(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 today a strained relationship
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 century revival of the humanities
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
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 disciplines some problems
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
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 icmpc10 sapporo japan 2008
Abstracts at ICMPC10Sapporo, Japan, 2008

Subjective classification based on main content of abstract

Other = methods, pedagogy, software development, analysis…

international music psychology too much data oriented empiricism
International music psychologyToo much data-oriented empiricism!

We need a better balance of:

  • empirical and theoretical papers
  • pure and applied research
german music psychology no problem
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
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 sciences why is it so difficult
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
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 productivity 20th century contexts
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 collegiality some general strategies
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 collegiality some specific strategies
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
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
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
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 collegiality in conjunction with performance orientation
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 orientation a spiral of positive reinforcement
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 scientists take humanities seriously
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 scholars open up
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
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