This essay attributes the rise of inclusive values in recent musicological work to multicultural and neoliberal reforms in American universities. Musicological inclusivity is characterized through omnivore theory, a sociological theory of taste correlating educational attainment with a disposition for multicultural appreciation and a rejection of highbrow modes of exclusion. Analyzing discursive values using a corpus of 120 books published between 2010 and 2013, this essay elucidates three foundational values to musicology’s inclusiveness: an interest in studying diverse music; a predilection for inter- or transdisciplinary methodologies; and the rejection of musicology itself as outdated and hegemonic. The first two of these, derived from the multicultural turn in the humanities, offer fruitful ways for musicologists to interact with the diverse cultural and technological environs of contemporary academia. The third, however, reaffirms the neoliberal devaluation of organizations and specializations, casting musicology as a straw man that bears scant resemblance to the intellectual work currently undertaken within the discipline. In order to contest the neoliberal values that threaten the discipline’s institutional foundations, this essay contends that scholars should reframe musicology as an inclusive, democratic, and specialized intellectual community, a characterization that reflects recent scholarship more accurately than highbrow stereotypes.
Musicological Omnivory in the Neoliberal University
David Blake teaches music history at the Crane School of Music at SUNY-Potsdam. He is writing a monograph on popular music making at college campuses from the 1850s to the 2010s, a project for which he has received research grants from the American Antiquarian Society, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives, and the University of Colorado American Music Center. His articles have appeared in Music Theory Online, Journal of Music History Pedagogy, and the Winter 2016 issue of this Journal.
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David Blake; Musicological Omnivory in the Neoliberal University. Journal of Musicology 1 July 2017; 34 (3): 319–353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2017.34.3.319
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