Guest Project:Creating an Academic Discipline: Eduard Hanslick, Guido Adler, and the Establishment of Musicological Methodology in 19th-Century Vienna

The current project explores the synchronous establishing of musicology and art history as academic disciplines at the University of Vienna as part of an education reform conducted by Leopold, Count von Thun und Hohenstein (1811–1888).
This education reform, following the 1848/1849 revolution which had shaken the foundation of numerous European governments, led to the diversification of theoretical philosophical aesthetics into more specific academic disciplines. As a result, Rudolf von Eitelberger (1817–1885) was awarded an extraordinary professorship for art history in 1852, followed by Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904), who only four years later received the first post for musicology in German-language academia as lecturer for the “History and Aesthetics of Musical Art.”

Both disciplines therefore emerged from a setting shaped deeply by political and cultural concerns. While in light of the changing political situation Thun was tasked with systematically modernizing Habsburg education, he moreover intended to suppress liberal forces considered responsible for the revolution. Furthermore, he had to address language conflicts and increasing nationalist tensions between Austria’s ethnic groups, which had fueled the uprising. Because they treated non-verbal arts, musicology and art history took center stage in fostering the “culture neutral” method of positivism, an objectivist scientific approach seen as free from cultural and political partiality. Both academic disciplines were thus created at the border of science and politics, allowing for a rare window into the complex relations between these factors.

Beyond studying the network between politics, culture, and science, the project will also analyze the development of musicological methodology and examine the exchange of concepts between early exponents of musicology and art history. Here, it will primarily consider the works of Guido Adler (1855–1941), pupil of Hanslick and founder of the department of musicology at the University of Vienna, whose central notion of “style” was profoundly influenced by art-historical precepts such as Alois Riegl’s (1858–1905) “Kunstwollen.” Adler also founded the “Monuments of Musical Art in Austria,” an ongoing music edition project dedicated to preserving and presenting “masterworks” of Austrian origin in a broad sense. This endeavor, ripe with covert identity politics, was established in engagement with art-historical monuments preservation movements. The current project will thus show how methods employed by both disciplines were not the result of “purely scientific discourse” but rather address concrete political agendas.

(Schrödinger Fellowship, J4529)

back