Saturday, August 08, 2015

Kyle Gann on the status-mongering dynamic of academic musicology "the musicology ladder", and a question from Wenatchee The Hatchet

http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2006/08/the_musicology_ladder.html
...
Still, while I haven’t spent much time consorting with musicologists, I have spent enough to learn what a strict composer-based hierarchy the world of musicology is. I was once on a panel with some big names, and highly complimented a famous scholar on his book on Muzio Clementi, which had been a great help to me. He seemed almost irritated that I had brought it up, as though it were some secret from his past that he didn’t want mentioned in front of his colleagues. He had now written a book on Beethoven, which meant he had climbed a couple dozen steps up the musicology ladder. And I have learned in that world that to have written the first book on Nancarrow was a miniscule accomplishment, almost negligible, compared to writing the 67th book on Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms. In the world of music historians, your stature is exponentially proportional, not to the quality of your research and writing, but to the prestige of the composer you can claim to be an expert on.

So this gets me wondering, has anyone, ever, in the history of musicology, published a dedicated monograph on sonatas and sonata form composed and published by the early 19th century guitar masters?  Because it's Wenatchee The Hatchet's belief that the step from the themes and styles of early 19th century guitar composers to early 20th century ragtime is a very simple set of evolutionary steps. As often as the canard has come up that European art music and American popular music are somehow separated by a vast chasm in the imaginations of some musicologists, theorists and philosophers, for any open-minded and practical musician this is nonsense.

Wenatchee The Hatchet would be interested to find a book discussing the sonatas of the early guitar masters.  Barring the existence of such a book it'd be fun to write such a book, if it didn't seem that musicology as a whole and even the guitar world in particular has had no interest in such a project for decades.

But then that's what blogs can be for.

1 comment:

CoffeeMatt said...

Hard to say. One may exist as a 50-copy run gathering dust on the shelves of some University's publishing wing. If my memory of musicology land serves me right (15 years ago), guitar was (and likely still is) treated with much suspicion.

I remember trying to write a longer paper on Tarrega once and was dismayed by the lack of material, even scouring several distant copies via interlibrary loan. To this day, I believe there exists only one bio, and it's only been published in Spanish.

The field is ripe!