Interdisciplinarity in JIMS*
- JIMS regards interdisciplinarity as
synergetic generation of new knowledge - as opposed to
multidisciplinarity, the accumulation of knowledge from different
disciplines. Interdisciplinarity may be regarded as a temporary state,
since interdisciplinary research areas (such as for example music
analysis and computing, music analysis and cultural studies, or
musicology and psychology) tend to transform gradually into new
disciplines or paradigms (such as computing in musicology, semiotics, or
- Defining "humanities"
- JIMS promotes interdisciplinarity
between epistemologically distant disciplines - in particular, between
humanities and sciences. These two supradisciplines are considered to be
equally important, both in general and within music research. There is
no clear consensus about the definition and boundaries of humanities and
sciences, and JIMS is reluctant to offer a general definition, but
prefers to consider their relationship in individual submissions. The
following attempt at a definition may be useful as a basis for
- There appears to be stronger consensus
about the meaning of "humanities" than "sciences". Most agree that
humanities include arts, cultural studies, history, languages,
literature, philosophy and religion. JIMS uses "sciences" in the modern
English sense of natural and social sciences, and not in the original
Latin sense of any knowledge, skill or scholarship. Although the
original sense of scientia appears to have included humanities (or their
precursors), the scientia of philosophers such as Aristotle and Boethius
was (from a modern viewpoint) positivistic, emphasizing logic, first
principles and demonstration. The ambiguity of the word "science" is
less pronounced in other languages such as German, in which "humanities"
translates to Geisteswissenschaften and "sciences" (in the sense used
here) to Naturwissenschaften (or Natur- und Sozialwissenschaften).
- The following broad generalisations
distinguish humanities from sciences in current music research. Of
course there are plenty of exceptions to every rule.
- Music research in the humanities tends
in the following directions:
- • The object of research is individual
manifestations of music (performances, works, pieces, songs, styles,
genres, traditions, cultures).
- • Knowledge is acquired by personal
experience, intuition and introspection.
- • Research methods are qualitative
(based on text and language) and include analytic, critical, and
- • Different researchers are expected to
come to different conclusions.
- Music research in the sciences tends in
the following directions:
- • Questions are posed about music in
- • Knowledge is acquired by observation
and comparing hypotheses with evidence.
- • Research methods are quantitative
(based on measurement, data, computation, statistics) and empirical.
- • Different researchers are expected to
come to similar conclusions.
- In a broad definition, both humanities
and sciences may include applications of research in musical practice -
which in turn may be broadly defined to include not only performance,
composition and improvisation, but also education, therapy and medicine.
Thus, JIMS may classify humanities-oriented musical practice (e.g., the
history of performance practice, compositionally oriented music theory,
or the teaching of ethnomusicology) as "humanities" , and scientifically
oriented musical practice (e.g. the psychology of music performance,
music medicine, or musically relevant engineering applications) as
- Historical context
- The distinction between humanities and
sciences in music research is best understood in its historical context.
JIMS tentatively interprets that history as follows.
- Since the 19th Century, the study of
music has traditionally been situated in three main areas:
- • the humanities, which focus on
historical or critical methods;
- • the social sciences, whose methods
include ethnography and mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methods;
- • musical practice, such as composition,
performance, and education.
- But scientific research on music (as
defined above) has also flourished since the 19th Century in areas such
as acoustics, psychology and neuroscience, and much of the scholarship
that led to or began ethnomusicology was carried out by people grounded
in the natural sciences such as Ellis, Stumpf, Hornbostel and Abraham.
Moreover, scientific approaches to music can be traced back to ancient
philosophy and medieval music theory. Recent advances in production,
computer and measurement technologies, and corresponding developments in
areas such as cognition and neuropsychology, have expanded the range of
music research. At the same time, traditional musicology has grown and
- In recent decades, the research
literature in most disciplines has rapidly expanded and become more
specialised. Today, it takes many years of careful work to acquire
expertise at the highest international level in a given discipline. It
is no longer possible for individual researchers to attain international
recognition as experts in both humanities and sciences, and the unclear
boundary between humanities and sciences does not mean that expertise is
transferable from one side to the other. This is true both generally and
within music research.
- Implications for JIMS
- JIMS promotes all internationally
established, academically recognized approaches to music research. Given
that no individual researcher today is a recognized expert in both
humanities and sciences, JIMS promotes interdisciplinary collaboration
and teamwork, and regards it as a prerequisite for interdisciplinary
scholarship at the highest level. Assuming that humanities and sciences
are fundamentally equal in importance, JIMS encourages authors to aim
for a balance between humanities and sciences within individual
submissions, and to bridge the gap both epistemologically and
methodologically (e.g. by qualitative research methods). The journal
also aims for a balance among articles that primarily address specific
musical pieces, styles, traditions or cultures (which is typical of the
musical humanities), and articles that primarily address more general
musical questions about music (typical of the musical sciences).
- Acknowledgment. This text was
written by Richard Parncutt in collaboration with Ali Cenk Gedik. We
thank David Fallows, Susan McClary, Raymond MacDonald, Bruno Nettl and
Eleanor Selfridge-Field for their valuable comments and support and
welcome further suggestions.