Looking back, looking ahead: The state of our discipline

The most pressing questions facing music research in the 'new' South Africa - its health, and the roles it might play in the creation of a post-racial democracy - were the focus of a lively panel at a recent SASRIM conference. The arguments traversed a wide range, and included the following 'headline' issues: because musicological discourse of a progressive, socio-political kind has ironically tended to minimise music's place within the cultural public sphere, we now need urgently to develop a proper understanding of the cultural role of the musical arts in South Africa; since the historical 'chasms' presumed to underpin social and musical identities are really ideological, musicology must pay closer attention to the relationships that exist between and within diverse South African musical idioms, so as to uncover their hidden meanings; we need to transcend our institutionalised positions and embrace new challenges such as music in a multicultural society and the implications of a democratic musical culture; rather than allowing ourselves, as a community of scholars, to be coerced towards any musical and political monoculture, we should deepen our appreciation of the country's rich and diverse musical heritage and thus further the cause of intercultural understanding; instead of endorsing the historically-rooted personal or political chasms often nurtured in our academies, we should develop responses to contemporary South Africa that are socially responsible, both aesthetically and intellectually; and, more pragmatically, we need to foster quantitative and interdisciplinary research methods so as to develop, for the first time, baseline data on musicians, music teachers, students and consumers of music in contemporary South Africa.

Journal South African Music Studies
Year 2012
Volume 32
Pages 135-140

Ballantine, Christopher (2012) Report: Looking back, looking ahead: The state of our discipline. In: South African Music Studies, Vol. 32, pp. 135-140. Available at


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