Dissenting Variations. The Rhetoric of New Musicology
In this article the paradigm shift which musicology underwent between the 1980s and ’90s in the United States – the so-called New Musicology – is described in terms of an expression of protest towards the conservative politics to which post-war American “old” musicology was said to be linked. In the first section the system of consent against which the new musicologists reacted is described. Subsequently some rhetorical strategies used in their critique of “old” musicology are highlighted. The essay deals with two authors, whose writings have been decisive for the general outcome of New Musicology: Joseph Kerman and Rose Rosengard Subotnik. In particular it aims to demonstrates how disciplinarity can be a battleground for opposing political views and how scientific dissent makes use of rhetorical strategies meant to undermine the institutionalized systems of scholarly consent. In the end, the article shows how the new musicologists’ criticism was not conceived as a radical protest. It was rather an expression of dissent in a truly democratic sense: in the interests of a mediation and negotiation between a range of values, assumptions and standpoints. As such, it was indeed more a “set of variations” elaborated on the fundamental categories of thought of traditional musicology than an uncompromising and radical negation.