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Open Access Musicology

A growing chasm has emerged between music-history curricula and musicological scholarship. As a matter of economy, a majority of pedagogical texts are designed to satisfy curricular needs at large schools of music. These texts do not account for and too often actively resist changing intellectual and pedagogical trends.

In particular, they limit flexibility and fail to promote critical thinking, open up interdisciplinary considerations, or engage in the ideological tensions and historiographic/methodological issues central to a liberal arts education. Inversely, musicological scholarship actively embraces new critical inquiry, but all too often is written at a level inaccessible to undergraduates.

Note: Content adapted from original project proposal

We are creating a peer-reviewed, open-source, online, modular music “textbook”, Open Access Musicology (OAM), that better serves the needs of musicologists at liberal arts colleges–an environment where critical engagement with musical subjects as well as our critical consideration of them is imperatively important.

No such text exists in the field of musicology. Upon the successful achievement of its goals, OAM will contribute powerfully to reforming music history pedagogy across the country while also potentially changing conversations within the fields of musicology and ethnomusicology.


Project Goals

The purposes of this project are to:

  1. Create a collection of essays that are freely available to all faculty and students at liberal arts colleges and that are written specifically for undergraduates, thus marrying pedagogical needs with up-to-date scholarship.
  2. Provide faculty and students with alternatives to more conservative, limited, fixed, and expensive textbooks.
  3. Offer a forum for faculty whose work addresses recent trends in the field to present their work to students and instructors.

Campus Goals

OAM serves student learning by supporting instructors, the human resources, most directly connected to the success of a given class. Participation in this project presents musicologists (ethnomusicologists in particular) with the opportunity to open up conversations with like-minded colleagues on different campuses about curricula and pedagogies but also to consider the broader relevance and impact of our scholarly work. The continued involvement with this project should serve to fertilize, improve, and synthesize both our teaching and professional development.

Additionally, music history textbooks are expensive and slow to respond to changing scholarly trends, even as new editions come out every three to four years, making it difficult for students to take advantage of used books. Students whose instructors use our new resource need only access to the internet. The materials will be available free of charge. The burden of high textbook costs will be removed from the student, making a course in music history more attractive and accessible.

OAM thus permits instructors to tailor music history courses to suit their individual needs and those of the students, and to serve the distinct missions of their departments and colleges.


With the flexibility of an online format made up of modular essays written by multiple authors specifically invested in liberal arts education, we are better able to respond to recent scholarship quickly, to change or edit existing texts, and to make adjustments based on feedback from teachers and students. Every essay that is published will require regular conversations within the editorial board (made up of music faculty) about what gaps need filling, what new directions to follow, and how our underlying pedagogical philosophy can respond and improve.

Because instructors will be able to compile their own collection of essays that best serve their curricular purposes, it becomes easier for them to try out new ideas (by adding or substituting an essay on a less familiar topic) without having to change textbooks or throw out existing syllabi. Unusually, this model encourages pedagogical exploration, not only with respect to content and methods, but with respective to collaboration and regular feedback among a community of scholars.


We have drafted editorial processes and guidelines and are in final negotiations with Leverpress.org to host the project. We have solicited ten essays to come in over the next year (so far) and will put forth a call for proposals once our website goes live. Daniel Barolsky has been elected the Editor of OAM and will be spending next year designing the website (in collaboration with our publisher), finalizing editorial practices, and organizing the release of our first collection of essays.

As this project is a continuation of the project for which we received money from a FaCE grant, there will be some overlapping of activities:

June 8-10, 2017: Teach Music History Conference, Boston. Presentation on OAM by Daniel Barolsky, Sarah Day-O’Connell, Louis Epstein, and Sara Haefeli.

August 31, 2017: Complete negotiations with Lever Press and sign official contract

November, 2017: Information session/business meet at the American Musicological Society national conference

December 2017 (If not sooner): “Soft” launch of online website (with three or four test chapters)

January 2018: Call for Submissions

August 2018: Public launch of website

August 2018: Blog post on American Musicological Society’s website Musicology Now

October 2018: Presentation on website at the College Music Society national conference

November 2018: Presentation on website at the American Musicological Society national conference

There is no end date as we intend to grow this collection of chapters over time.

Resources & Materials

Editorial Board

Ryan Banagale, Colorado College Louis Epstein, St. Olaf College
Daniel Barolsky, Beloit College Sara Haefeli, Ithaca College
Sara Ceballos, Lawrence University Anna Schultz, Stanford University
Sarah Day-O’Connell, Skidmore College Tes Slominski, Beloit College

Advisory Board

Jonathan Bellman, University of Colorado James Parakilas, Bates College
Mark Burford, Reed College Alex Rehding, Harvard University
Suzanne Cusick, NYU Gabriel Solis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Bonnie Gordon, University of Virgina Jonathan Sterne, McGill University
Elisabeth LeGuin, University of California, Los Angles Donna Zuckerberg, Eidolon
Ralph Locke, Eastman School of Music  

Outcomes and Significance

OAM plans to edit and publish the first essays by December 2017. Following this soft release, we will put forth a call-for-proposals which will result, eventually, in the publication of a second round of essays in the fall of 2018. Between the call-for-proposal and the existence of actual essays on a website that people can see and use, we expect the number of submissions to increase, thus giving us more choices with which to work and the ability to shape the direction of our scholarship. Indeed, as OAM expands, so too will its audience, making OAM a place to publish for scholars wishing their research to have a greater impact.

By the end of this academic year we expect to have an active website that we, the members of the group, would use in our own classes and that other faculty in the ACM and around the country could use as well. We will have a process set in place to continue to expand the website (through the addition of essays or through collaboration with a press) and improve our editorial process. Our initial goal is to offer two or three historiographic or theoretical essays that introduce students to the kinds of big and critical questions, tensions, and polemics they will (and should) encounter within the discipline. We plan to offer around fifteen other essays that encompass a range of topics, musicians, communities, musical genres, styles, geographic regions, historical moments, interdisciplinary approaches, and so forth.

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