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MF Bukofzer on methodology in music history (1950)

February 29, 2008

Manfred Bukofzer discusses methodology in music history in this extract from the Preface his Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music (1950).

My comments are in square brackets.

These studies [Bukofzer discusses seven main topics in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music] are intended not only as contributions to the ever-growing research material of musicology, but also as object lessons of a point of method, namely that specialized topics can be fruitfully discussed only against a background of a broad perspective. In spite of the vast difference in subject matter between my previous book [Music in the Baroque Era] and the present one, my approach has not changed, for it is only a question of procedure, but not of principle, whether the larger aspects of a stylistic period are shown through and in the particular ones or vice versa, so long as their basic interrelation is not lost sight of. Likewise unchanged is the stylistic orientation, that is to say the concentration on the music itself. However broad or narrow the point of attack may be, and however far specialized research may penetrate into fields that lie at the periphery of the musical orbit, or even completely outside of it, if related to the music itself they enrich it with all the powerful associations and contribute to a more profound understanding. This is true especially of the liturgical aspects of music to which I have paid special attention. They have been sadly neglected in past musicological writings, with the result that even essential musical points have remained obscure. By innumerable ties musicology is interrelated with such fields as the history of liturgy, art, and literature.

Bukofzer, Manfred F., Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1951, pp. 9-10 (Preface)

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