What is Musicology and and History of Art and Architecture?#


John Bergsagel, Rudolf Flotzinger, Christoph Wagner

Section A.5 brings together experts in two disciplines which are often regarded as sisters under the umbrella of the "fine arts". Both disciplines are concerned with understanding artistic creations - musical compositions on the one hand, works of art and architecture on the other - why, how, and under what circumstances they were made, and their significance in the life of men and women both throughout history and today.

Musicology is the heir in the modern scientific world to music as part of the medieval quadrivium, having been readmitted under that name to the philosophical faculties of European universities in the late 19th century. Embracing such diverse fields as music theory, acoustics, musical lexicography, historiography, aesthetics, the production of editions, sociography, ethnography and biography, musicology is simply defined as a discipline that is concerned with the scientific study of the phenomenon of music in all its aspects. Most present-day definitions refer in one way or another to the two-fold classification into historical and systematic musicology, proposed as early as 1885 by Guido Adler (Vienna) (with the assistance of the philosopher Alexius von Meinong (Graz)). It is the province of musicology as an academic discipline to attempt to understand, explain, interpret, or otherwise deal with an immense variety of musical experience at different times and in different places, regions and traditions. The proper duty of the musicologist is to provide the most competent representations of music in scientific discourse, from which result interconnections with other disciplines, such as history – including history of art, architecture or theatre – and from history via ethnology, psychology, etc. even to cognition and brain sciences (since music is the cognate of language). Our group attempts to include representatives of as many different musicological specialties as possible.

The study of art history also ranges very widely, from ancient cave paintings to new media installations. It opens a world of art and architecture which demands intense observation of works of art, the reading of texts contemporary with the art's production, as well as the latest in scholarly interpretation, in order to understand the unique practices and materials that underpin any human creation, as well as to explore the significance of art for the cultures that make it. To this end, scholars find themselves immersed in questions of politics, social institutions, religion, technology, and material culture.

Art history began in the 18th century but has precedents dating back to the ancient world. The intellectual discipline benefits from the clarity and portability of the written word, but art historians also rely on formal analysis, iconography and semiotics. It involves understanding not only form and context but also deep issues of social and political significance. The area of art history is traditionally divided into specializations or concentrations based on eras and regions, with further sub-divisions based on media. Non-western art is a relative newcomer to the art historical canon. Recent revisions of the semantic division between art and artifact have recast objects created in non-western cultures in more aesthetic terms.

Art history requires one to study and describe what can be seen in terms of the design elements of line, shape, color, value, and texture. Combining exposure to art history with the desire to foster art appreciation in others represents a happy mean. As the art historian Ernst Gombrich observed, "the field of art history [is] much like Caesar’s Gaul, divided in three parts inhabited by three different, though not necessarily hostile tribes: the connoisseurs, the critics and the academic art historians".

June 2012
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