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Creativity and Justification: The Epistemology and Methodology of Critical Interpretation in Musical Research

To critically interpret music is to assign a specific meaning to it. Professional musicologists are in the habit of producing critical interpretations. But how can such subjectively grounded meaning ascriptions be reconciled with the requirement that musicologists should produce if not objective knowledge, then at least a proper justification for their knowledge claims? This question has been at the centre of musicological discourse for at least three decades. A convincing answer has, however, not been forthcoming. As a consequence, a large part of musicological research proceeds without a proper disciplinary foundation.

The aim of the present study is to provide a theoretically informed and empirically grounded account of critical interpretation in music in order to justify it as a valid musicological practice, and further to explore its possibilities and limitations when practised within clearly defined disciplinary and scholarly borders. Through an analysis of a large amount of musicological interpretations, and through first-hand interpretations of different musical examples, this study shows that critical interpretations, while being inextricably bound up with the personal sensitivities and creative imagination of the interpreting subject, can nevertheless be epistemically justified. To support this undertaking, the study develops a theoretical model that purports to account for the nature and methodology of critical interpretation as it is practiced in different musicological contexts. It is argued that this model provides a more successful answer to the problem of critical interpretation in music than previous theoretical accounts by other scholars. The study will be published in the form of a book.

Project leader: Tobias Pontara
Project duration: 2015–18
Funding: The Faculty of Arts

Contact Information

Tobias Pontara

PO Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Visiting Address:
Vera Sandbergs Allé 8

Phone:
+46 31-786 4082

Page Manager: Felicia Bigot Klinteberg|Last update: 5/4/2016
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