Varieties of Musicological Empiricism

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Empirical Musicology Review

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Empiricism should not be seen to provide an overarching criterion of meaningfulness for musicological concepts nor a single comprehensive methodology for music research. Understood as methodological concern with observation (perception, experience, etc.), it is rather a possible orientation that may receive various degrees of emphasis. Empiricism is not opposed to theoretical systematization, but it can rather be seen as an inclination towards theories which are capable of empirical adequacy. The empirical, or observational component of research may nevertheless be understood in slightly different ways, depending on whether there is only one observer (or many), and depending on whether the observations are treated as falling within a single category (or not). It is argued that either the observer or the observational category has to be assumed constant in order that the research may be called truly empirical. It is also argued that such decisions concerning empirical methodology naturally correspond to distinctions between subdisciplines of empirical musicology, each of them associated with different research interests. Three such orientations are discussed: historico-analytical empiricism, psychological empiricism, and systematic empiricism.



musicology, empiricism, methodology, philosophy of science, observation, perception


Empirical Musicology Review, v1 n1 (January 2006), 12-27