Music Theory

Historical Music Theory

Sound Studies

Music theory is a main research area at the Institut für Musikforschung. It was established through the project »Geschichte der Musiktheorie« (History of Music Theory), which found its home at the SIM after thorough planning and intense debates among leading German musicologists. The endeavour goes back to an idea of Carl Dahlhaus. Recently, it is supplemented by the series »Studien zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie« (Studies to the History of Music Theory), which presents research results that came up during the work for the main project. A new, specific focus at the SIM is the study of the various connections between historical music theory and performance practice by analysing sounds.

Geschichte der Musiktheorie (History of Music Theory)

The »Geschichte der Musiktheorie« is compiled at the history department and is published on behalf of the institute. The large-scale project with its planned fifteen volumes is a historical account of music theoretical thinking from the ancient world to the present; more than 50 internationally acknowledged scholars contribute to it. The presentation of all research results is committed to the principle of documenting historiography. With this project the institute contributes to the elucidation of a remarkable and unique path of European intellectual history. Each volume contains carefully coordinated contributions of declared specialists whereas the editors strive to keep the articles understandable not only for highly specialized scholars but also for the interested layman. The »Geschichte der Musiktheorie« is published at »Verlag der Wissenschaftlichen Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt«. Since 1984 ten volumes and one partial volume have been published, with 37 contributions from 26 authors in total. With volume four, dedicated to medieval monophony, the largest volume of the series up to now could be published in 2000. Only recently, volume 8/I has been published, which is dedicated to German music theory from the 15th to the 17th century. In 2006 a comprehensive volume dedicated to music theory in the ancient world was published.


Music Theory in the 20th Century

In 2011, the department "Theory and History of Music" of the National Institute for Music Research (SIM) starts the project "Music theory in the 20th Century". The aim of the project is a presentation of the music theory of the past century primarily related to Western Art Music. The development of music theory shall not only be analysed in terms of narrow subject-specific aspects, but also with regard to the respective concepts of music, concepts of theory, and concepts of science; music theory will therefore be placed in a broader context. Principle investigators of the project under the responsibility of the National Research Institute are Felix Wörner (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Simone Hohmaier (Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung); they will supervise the multi-volume publication as editors-in-chief. The research collaboration of numerous national and international specialists as part of the project will contribute to a significant international scientific exchange within the discipline.

Studien zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie (Studies to the History of Music Theory)

The new musicological publication series »Studien zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie« reflects current research results in the field of historically oriented music theory. The starting point is the the project »Geschichte der Musiktheorie,« published by the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung. Therefore, upcoming works emerging from that endeavour are published in the new series. However, the series is also open for external contributions, as long as they are directly related to the work of the institute. Just recently a number of studies were published within the field of music theory which indicate that further discoveries and reevaluations can be expected. The series publishes theoretically and historically oriented monographs along with editions of hitherto unconsidered or scarcely noticed sources—always with an extensive introduction, detailed annotations, and with German translations where necessary. One thematic focus is on early German music theory. The »Studien zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie« are published by    Olms-Verlag, Hildesheim.


Klang und Begriff (Sound and Concept. Music Theory and Performance Practice)

With this specific focus, the research activities at the SIM are linked to those of the museum in order to reflect upon the relation of music theory and performance practice.

The research area of performance practice as studied at the SIM connects music theoretical and music historical knowledge with the tangible research opportunities offered by a large collection of historical instruments. The results of that cooperation are presented in two ways: On the one hand, with events addressing a broad audience (in addition to the concert series   Alte Musik live and on the other hand with publications which enhance the scholarly debate and verify the cursory auditory impression of the concert with added CDs or CD-ROMs.

Thus, the object of research is not the absolute score but the audible reality of its realisation; the project strives to analyse the audible reality of music, whereas this analysis is informed by a historical-theoretical dimension. In this context, the category »instrument« is of special importance: Our scholars always study a »historical« combination of composition, instrument and performance which is to be defined by analysing the real sound. The series »Klang und Begriff. Perspektiven musikalischer Theorie und Praxis« is published by    Schott Music, Mainz.