Musikvidenskabeligt Institut, Københavns Universitet

Dansk udgave   |   Department of Musicology

PhD Course in Musicology at Department of Musicology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, May 8-12, 2000

Description and Interpretation

The purpose of the course is to highlight and discuss various approaches to the problems of describing and interpreting music and to ask what kinds of 'knowledges' result from different approaches.

At one end of the range of possible approaches one might find those that seek to account for the specificity of a piece of music in a general musical-technical language. And at one end inside this approach we may find those who seek only to speak of certainties, i.e. who do not try to fill out the 'gaps' in the musical text, but perhaps - willingly or unwillingly - help us point out such gaps. While obviously striving for objectivity, such approaches might also reveal to us the limits of what can be established as certainties. Other limitations of these approaches are made clear when we ask what kinds of knowledge can result from them - and what they cannot account for, their blind spots.

At the other extreme, one may find interpretive methods that are mostly concerned with filling out the gaps. For instance by claiming that the music in question is the result of an intention or a certain kind of (musical or extra-musical) logic, which it is then the interpreter's task to reconstruct. Such approaches could be motivated by, e.g., sociological, historical, psychological, gender related (and/or...) concerns. What are the limits of what can be established through these various strategies: how do they relate to the musical text, the empirical basis of their study, what are the implications of the terminology they use, what kinds of knowledge do they produce - and what criteria can we use in distinguishing between interpretation and overinterpretation here?

Quite closely related to these problems, which appertain directly to musicologists and others who write and read about music, are problems of performance: What kinds of 'logic' are read into music through performance, in transcriptions etc? How can we reflect on interpretation in this sense?

We thus invite speakers to reflect on problems of interpretation and the limits of interpretation - particularly with a view to the relation between what we have called descriptive and interpretative strategies (although we realise that the two extremes form part of a continuum and may not be so easily held apart). At the same time, lectures and presentations in which these critical reflections are unfolded in connection with actual interpretive acts - analyses or interpretations - would be more than welcome.

The course is chaired by: Associate Professor Søren Møller Sørensen


       Jens Hesselager
       Musikvidenskabeligt Institut, Københavns Universitet
       Klerkegade 2
       DK-1308 København K
       Telefon: +45 3532 3789
       Fax: +45 3532 3738