Musicologists study the history, cultural contexts, and interpretation of music. While the discipline has tended, historically, to focus largely on European art-music repertories, in recent decades it has expanded to include many other traditions as well as other regions. The Department of Musicology at UCLA now leads the field nationally and internationally in offering advanced training within this broader vision of the discipline.
UCLA has a long and illustrious history of transformative musical scholarship going back to the decades after the establishment of the Westwood campus in the 1930s. The building in which Musicology is housed takes its name from an early professor of music, the composer Arnold Schoenberg, who taught at UCLA from 1936 until his retirement in 1944. The study of music at UCLA also bears the mark of pioneering ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger, who taught at UCLA from 1957 to 1971.
The UCLA Department of Musicology was formed in the 1980s as a freestanding program within the UCLA Division of Humanities. The Department has a long-standing tradition of specialists in early repertories, including Emeriti Professors Marie Louise Göllner and Frank D'Accone, specialists in Medieval and Renaissance musics. Robert Stevenson (Emeritus) maintains his status as perhaps the leading authority on Spanish and Latin American musics; his pioneering archival and institutional work has laid the foundation for study of Iberian-American music around the globe. Beginning in the 1960s, the department acquired a number of scholars of seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century music, including Murray Bradshaw (Emeritus), Malcolm Cole (Emeritus), and Richard Hudson (Emeritus).
MacArthur Fellow Susan McClary came to UCLA at the beginning of the 1990s, inaugurating a strong growth period for the department. Under her leadership, and that of the next chair, Robert Walser, the department hired a number of new faculty and developed its current strengths in contemporary music and culture, popular music studies, hermeneutics and interpretation of music, performance studies, gender and sexuality, and post-colonial studies. Recent years have brought new connections with the Departments of Music and Ethnomusicology, now aligned with Musicology within the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music .
Current Faculty and Research Areas
The UCLA Department of Musicology is distinguished by profound diversity of research areas, methodologies, and ideological approaches.
Among our current faculty working primarily on earlier repertories, medievalist Elizabeth Upton has challenged traditional understandings regarding the formes fixeschansons of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and has recently won acclaim for her book on Music and Performance in the Later Middle Ages, and is currently working on a book on Early Music revivals in the UK and the US. Olivia Bloechl, a specialist in ancien regime French culture, has broadly reconceptualized early modern European and colonial Atlantic music history, bringing perspectives from postcolonial studies, continental theory and philosophy, and ethics of history; she recently co-edited Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship, and her current work brings post-colonial perspectives to the operas of Lully and Rameau. Elisabeth Le Guin has brought her experience as a world-class baroque cellist to bear on issues of performance and aesthetics, particularly music as an embodied practice, whether that music be Boccherini cello sonatas, Debussy chansons, or sixteenth-century theatrical recuperations of oral traditions. As a scholar of Hispanic musics during the colonial period, she publishes actively in both Spanish and North American journals.
Those in the department working primarily on later repertories have a similar diversity of interests and approaches. In addition to his work on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instrumental music, Raymond Knapp has written an award-winning two-volume work on the American Musical. Mitchell Morris's seminal work on turn-of-the century transcendentalism and queer musicology has been supplemented by an acclaimed book on the 1970s in popular music; most recently, he has turned to writing opera libretti on historical topics, including The Dove and the Nightingale, recently premiered in Mazatlán. Tamara Levitz, a scholar of transnational modernism in France, Germany, and the colonial world, engages a wide range of issues in her work, most recently a book on Stravinsky's Persephone, which won the prestigious Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society: compositional practice, performance (including dance), visual representation, recording technology, postcolonial theory, and aesthetics.
UCLA possesses a unique roster of musicologists who focus primarily on contemporary issues. Robert Fink works at the intersection of musicology, music theory, and cultural studies, applying his insights to contemporary music from experimental minimalism to rave culture to "post-classical" music. He has also published on African-American popular music and analysis, and is a founder of the MiLA Project, an interdisciplinary scholarly project on music in the city of Los Angeles. Jessica Schwartz specializes punk, and in the musical legacy of the atomic bomb tests in the United States and the Marshall Islands, work that combines musicology with ethnographic work. Timothy Taylor, who has a shared appointment in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, theorizes musical commodification in contemporary global perspective. In addition to her work on stage, composer-performer-musicologist Nina Eidsheim investigates socially and culturally framed perceptions of vocal timbre and, by extension, of vocality and corporeality in opera, popular music, and the world of music technology.