This in response to Phil’s Blog Fail. I really ought to take more time with this, but I leave tomorrow for California for a few days, and wanted to respond. I understand—deeply—end-of-the-semester fatigue, the suspicion that one’s blogs haven’t measured up, haven’t hit their mark, and haven’t produced the kind of intellectual reaction desired, and so on. Sure; who doesn’t think this?
However, some shots were taken at our discipline, and I’m fine with that as long as they’re fair, and don’t think they were. The number of blogs in—ah—Latin and whatever are all very nice, but unless you’ve read them and they have more to offer than other academic blogs—Dial M, say—don’t give ‘em a thought. How many blogs are more blogger insecurity than anything else? Are all those Latin blogs really intellectually thriving, or are they a bunch of Latin geeks talking to each other? Unless you have their usage stats, there’s no evaluation to be made of the extent to which they thrive—and, basically, the list of wikis means not more than a list of listservs. So what, in other words? Unless one has gone through all the blogs to ascertain quality, frequency of postings, and readership…
And as far as those vaunted “other disciplines,” which I’ve been hearing about since grad school: we should not be looking over our shoulder at them, no matter how the insecure among us think we should. They should be learning from us, because we are a polyglot discipline facing problems shared by philology, linguistics, history, symbolic languages, music theory, morphology, art history, literature, God knows what—not to mention the linguistic competences that are expected. Oral musical traditions, written musical traditions (difference between them), traditional historiographic issues, all jumble and combine in a way that make musicology perhaps the most complex arts discipline there is. Which other disciplines have this many methodologies and strains of thought in which they have to function? It’s true that we see a lot of lame musicology, but much of that happens when we stick too closely to one particular methodology or philosophical orientation: Cultural Criticism or (as you say) Philately or a very narrow kind of analysis or whatever.
Summary: it is when we try to fit the models of other disiplines, “breaking down barriers” and trying to fit in and pass and all that, that we become less than what we should be. Let the other disciplines come sit at our feet—the dullest musicologist has to master three languages: mother-tongue, oral music, written music. Other European etc. languages etc. are on top of that.
Prescription for each of us: food and drink, home and hearth. There are many reasons why we’re not a really populous discipline, logistical and otherwise, but I see no reason to say the discipline has failed in any way. We’re slugging it out, still; yeah. As I say, though, tell me what the other disciplines are bringing to the table that even begins to compare.
Sorry to overstep the 24-hour rule, but I’m out the door early in the morning. Cheers, everyone.