SPEC Kit 347: Community-based Collections · 139
American Musicological Society records
American Musicological Society records, 1934-1992
http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/ead/ead.html?q=american%20musicological%20society&id=EAD_upenn_rbml_MsColl221&%23ref8[6/23/15, 2:33:45 PM]
Musicology was a young and relatively unacknowledged field of scholarship in the
United States in the 1920s and early 30s, on the eve of the founding of the
American Musicological Society. Though music was highly valued in this country as
both high culture and popular entertainment, the systematic study of music was
only beginning to gain recognition as a serious scholarly pursuit. Music programs in
American universities offered primarily vocational training for such careers as
performer and music instructor. It was not until 1930, with the appointment of Otto
Kinkeldey at Cornell, that an American university offered a faculty position for
musicology. Cornell also awarded the first American doctoral degree in Musicology in
1932 to J. Murray Barbour, later a President of the AMS. Over the next sixty years
the field of musicological research burgeoned in American University programs, as
music scholars gained influence and professional stature. A small group of American
musicologists, passionate about their own research and devoted to the expansion of
the field, formed the nexus of the movement which would transform the role of
music study in American higher education for later generations of scholars. Among
these ground breaking scholars were the founders of the American Musicological
Society: Helen Roberts, George S. Dickinson, Carl Engel, Joseph Schillinger, Charles
Seeger, Harold Spivacke, Oliver Strunk, Joseph Yasser, and Gustave Reese.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, American musicologists depended on
European resources, both financial and institutional, for the support of their
scholarship. The Internationale Musik-Gesellschaft served as the international
society of the field and produced its primary scholarly journals. The U.S. branch of
the IMG functioned as the center for American scholarly debate on music between
1907 and 1914. When World War One brought the dissolution of the European IMG,
however, its American offspring could not survive independently, and all formal
organization of musicologists temporarily died out. The International Musicological
Society, founded in Basel in 1927, filled the gap left by the IMG in Europe, but an
attempt to establish an American branch of the IMS in 1928 was largely
unsuccessful. Though the Music Teachers’ International Association, founded in 1876,
served as a forum for the exchange of debate on music, the MTNA increasingly
attracted those interested in practical musical instruction. The music community felt
a growing need for an organization devoted specifically to musicalogical research.
New York Musicological Society, 1930-1934
By the early 1930s musicology had gained a place in American academics
universities began to offer faculty positions in musicology and to institute programs
of musicological training for their students. The scholarly world was ready for the
revival of an American society of musicologists. “[I]n New York City, a small group of
men interested in the rapprochement of science and music met on the evening of
January 20, 1930 with the purpose of organizing a purely local society.”[1] This
group of men and women, calling themselves the “New York Musicological Society”
envisioned a select membership of active scholars, meeting once or twice a month
to read papers and engaging in organized debate on scholarly topics. “The interest of
the group is, it is true, avowedly systematic rather than historical, stressing
speculative and experimental methods in close liaison with the vanguard of the
liaison with the vanguard of the living art of music.”[2] Over the course of its brief
existence the NYMS held thirty-five meetings and had published three volumes of its
Even at the time of their founding the New York Musicological Society foresaw the
dissolution of their local group when the interest and resources were found to
organize a society of broader scope: “It is hoped that this will form the nucleus for a
National Society.”[3] On June 3, 1934, a handful of members of the New York
Musicological Society met to discuss the organization of such a society, dedicated to
advancing “research in the various fields of music as a branch of learning.” They
passed the following resolution:
The New York Musicological Society has flourished during the past five
years as a small group interested chiefly in the systematic approach to
Musicology. At a meeting of the executive committee it was
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