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New Sound - International Magazine for Music
2012, iss. 39-1, pp. 30-48
article language: English
document type: Paper

On comparative research in musicology: Peripheral vs. Central European musical culture and the musicological comparative approach in the 20th century
Academy of Arts, Department of Music, Section for Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Novi Sad


The paper considers some of the key issues referring to the comparative research in musicology. Contrary to the science of literature, in which comparative studies have been autonomous for a long time, such is not the case in musicology. So far, musicological comparative research has not established itself as a field with distinctly defined aims, roads and development methods, nor has it been provided with adequate terminology. It may be claimed that comparative studies have been omitted from musicological research because of an idea prevailing in the second half of the 19th century and later on, during the first half of the 20th century, based on the fact that musical art itself was specific - special in comparison with other arts and autonomous from an extra-artistic context. This is why the comparative approach in musical art may have often been understood as a comparison of exclusive - to say it in Hanslick's words - tonally moving forms (or the art of tones) which does not and should not have any other purpose except the comparison of one tonally moving form with another one. In contrast to such a conception, this paper considers the role of political-ideological incentives to the emergence and development of comparative research. It includes the reference points of a comparative musicological narrative, namely those types of musicological comparisons analyzing the works of composers belonging to differently located European musical cultures - peripheral and central ones. In view of the fact that in the 20th century such comparisons were mostly performed through a stylistic analysis (perceived as a formal analysis) of works of art, special attention has been devoted to the political-ideological instrumentalization of such analysis. The paper also puts forward the most important questions to which musicological comparative science should provide clear answers in the 21st century.


central musical cultures; formal analysis; modernization; musicological comparative approach; peripheral European musical cultures; stylistic analysis