While strictly speaking in the field of ethnomusicology, The Cultural Study of Music contains insights on music’s relation to society that are applicable to every situation. Of particular worth is Philip Bohlman’s chapter on moments of ‘music-historical disjuncture’, which explores how colonialism and nationalism have shaped music history, and Trevor Herbert’s, on the place of the ‘social’ in music’s historiography, largely dominated by the study of canonical works.
Branching out from the question of why some music is seen to have ‘race’ while other musics transcend this category, Radano explores discourse surrounding ‘Black’ music, arguing that its history is much less monolithic and segregated than received wisdom would suggest. A vital read for anyone learning about music in America, and music and race/ism.
Paula Higgins, ‘The Apotheosis of Josquin Des Prez and Other Mythologies of Musical Genius,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society 57 (2004), 443-510.
In this controversial article, Higgins calls into question the reification (or, deification) of Josquin des Prez brought about in the Early Music movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The case of Josquin is then used as a starting-off point from which to consider concepts of ‘genius’ and canonisation more generally, arguing that ‘the idolatry of genius is rarely naive and always politically suspect’ (492). Important for any topics on early polyphony & the Italian Renaissance, and on wider issues of authorship and canonicity.
Available online: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1525/jams.2004.57.3.443?uid=3739584&uid=2474612343&uid=2&uid=3&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=21104745343633
Susanne G. Cusick, ‘Musicology, Torture, Repair’, Radical Musicology, 3 (2008).
Music’s use as a weapon of war has been largely absent from musicological discussion. Cusick presents a short but powerful statement on how academics might speak up on this issue, discussing how these acts of violence force a reconstitution of existing ways of thinking about music, and what academia can do to heal the very physical wounds of musical warfare. In hindsight, the failure of the Obama administration to meaningfully tackle the issue of torture makes the article (penned on his inauguration) seem in places naive, but if anything, proves that this issue is still in need of thorough discussion. A model of politically conscious musicology.
Available online: http://www.radical-musicology.org.uk/2008/Cusick.htm
Susan McClary, ‘The World According to Taruskin’, Music and Letters, 87 (2006), 408-15.
Richard Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music is not, as its author would have us believe, the grand narrative of Western music history. Before delving the depths of Prof T’s behemoth, read Susan McClary’s (much more concise) review, in which she catalogues the OHWM’s many dismissals and erasures of repertoires, figures, and scholarly movements that have hugely impacted the course of music history. Taruskin is, above all else, a great polemicist, and his history, at once US-centric to the point of xenophobia yet ignorant of the contributions of African-Americans, should be read critically, with this in mind.
Available online: http://ml.oxfordjournals.org/content/87/3/408.extract
For more on Taruskin’s xenophobia, see Part 1, ‘A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing’ in J. P. E. Harper-Scott, The Quilting Points of Musical Modernism: Revolution, Reaction, and William Walton (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).