New Musicology / New Music Theory – the Paradigm Shift from the Turn of the 21st Century in Reflection on music (and its Spatiality) – PART I

Agnieszka Draus

Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland


At the threshold of the 21st century (which, by the way, lasts to this day), autocritical publications in the field of art sciences (and not only in this discipline) began to sprout like mushrooms after a refreshing rain – books and articles dealing with the complicated issues of the essence of a particular field. It was no different in musicological epistemology. In the atmosphere of a sense of crisis and the end, typical for the times of consequences of every fin de siècle, on the wave of fashion for retro, for fear of the dangers arising from the digital revolution and from the longing for analogue times and the experience of life “live” (this triple tautology was used deliberately in an emphatic function) in order to ponder over music, an attempt was made to confront both the canonical texts of musicological authorities (such as Joseph Kerman) and to outline new possibilities, trends, or the activities of contemporary musicologists, as Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist, the editors of the volume entitled Rethinking Music (Oxford University Press 2001) wonderfully describe. Reading carefully this one of the more interesting publications summarising contemporary reflection on music, apart from many interesting topics (e.g. redefining the notion of musical analysis, reinterpreting the theories of Bachtin, Schenker, Adorn, Derrida, e.g. Robert Fink’s posthierarchical theory of surface and depth) – one can find a reference to space in almost every article – from the one understood most generally, clearly or traditionally, to the one focused on the technique of extracting and propagating single sounds. On the basis of such reconnaissance after the publication, it is possible to create a certain map of issues related to the space and spatiality of music, as one of the most resonant spheres in music and reflection on music of the 20th and 21st centuries. And this is probably due to five key changes (which the authors of an equally interesting publication entitled Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980 by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel write about): the emergence of new media, the growing awareness of diversity, globalisation, the influence of theory, interactions with everyday visual culture.

The background for such a map will be MUSICOLOGY / THEORY OF MUSIC as a research space, on the one hand, with the plurality of analytical methods often – following Mieczysław Tomaszewski’s lead – in a polyphonic weave; and, on the other hand, as a process of contemplation, (RE-)THINKING about music anew.

A sea of notions seems to be analytical attitudes opening the analytical space to study of space and spatiality of music, attitudes whose message – for the sake of good communication with the recipient – is often supplemented with notions (as a map with islands) from other fields (such as psychology, proxemics, acoustics, social sciences, architecture, etc.).

The proposed text will attempt to show, on the example of contemporary music, the multi-facetedness of thinking of its creators and researchers, in the context of the very concept of space and spatiality in music.

Keywords: Theory of music / Musicology, Space and spatiality in music



Agnieszka Draus, a music theorist, is an assistant professor and Dean of the Faculty of Composition, Interpretation and Musical Education of the Academy of Music in Kraków, a member of the Board of the Division of Musicologists of the Polish Composers’ Union as well as a teacher in the Żeleński State Secondary Music School in Kraków and the vice-president of Pro Musica Bona Foundation. In her research activities she has focused on the issues of musical theatre, especially in the works of Penderecki and Stockhausen, as well as on the works of such Polish composers as Lutosławski, Mykietyn, and Stachowski. She published three books and over 50 articles. She conducts classes with students and school youth in the field of music history, literature, musical analysis and methodology, as well as aural training, harmony and the methods of conducting general music classes. She is active in organising musical projects and events.