Experimental Research in Music by Clifford K. Madsen and Charles H. Madsen Jr

Prentice Hall


This is one of a series of short textbooks on Contemporary Perspectives in Music. It argues, persuasively enough, that music studies could and should be quantified, whether by means of methodology, statistics, experiment or equipment. It outlines research methods, and sets out the physical, perceptual, psychological and pedagogical bases for music experimentation. In short, il advocates the scientific approach to art. But its notions sometimes sound less like science than science fiction, e.g. the “misguided thought processes that incapacitate and cause premature death”, whatever they may be. And the book finally strands on the language barrier between us and America. Thus where we would say (if anything) “science is factual”, they say “all aspects ofscientific endeavor demand a paramount necessity for objectification. The scientist's mode ofenquiry is based upon structure and rigorous empirical investigation” and so on. Again, the text seems to its editor “witty”, and to its authors “concise”. Admittedly some or its ideas seem quite bright when glimpsed through the fog or verbiage; and it is certainly adroit at packing a lot of repetition into a brief space. Indeed, reading it is rather like taking a short course in tautology. In one variety, part of each sentence is repeated in the next, step by slow laborious step; this term, we really are going to understand it. I italicize to show the method­ - “During World War II a discipline arose that has gained progressive scientific respectability. As the discipline evolved, the National Association for Music Therapy was founded (1950). The NAMT proposes to provide increasing application [sic] and research concerning music in therapy. Many mental hospitals presently employ music therapists…”, etc, etc. This device gives the impression of oral teaching material with built-in time for the less bright students lo write it down in their notebooks. That should drive the lesson home, especially for those who need to be told that “verbalisation is oftwo kinds, oral and written. Oral aspects of music have to do with talking about music… “ But even when they had mastered these and other equally valuable precepts, e.g. that “Thoughtful speculation should always precede important decisions”, they would still presumably react with ox-like stupefaction, rather than ribald hilarity to such questions as “Can psycho-motor skills be increased by extrinsic physiological manipulation before physical patterns are established?”. And how could they conceivably be expected to master advanced statistics, operate complex electronic equipment, and read technical periodicals in several languages?

     Such extremes of IQ range are apparently found at “advanced undergraduate or graduate” level in the States. But our terms and classes are surely very different. Our problem is to, imagine who these people are and what they are supposed lo be doing. There they stand, with a catalogue of such items as Cathode-Ray Oscilloscopes; quite possibly with - I assure you - a soldering gun (medium duty) at the ready, with no notion of what to aim at. Onward, neo-Christian solderers, marching as to “the pursuit of aesthetic experiences”; for this “would appear to be not only the first but also the highest endeavor of which man is capable”.

     Perhaps there are, now living quietly somewhere in the world, people who can say Amen to that. Perhaps there are musical questions to which 150 way-out journals, from Acta Psychologia to Zeitschrift für Psychotherapie and Medizinische Psychologie, are more relevant than (say)The Musical Times. Perhaps there are would-be musical researchers who prefer endless means to meaningful ends. If so, here is the very book for them. For others, it may well have the overall look of advanced technology for retarded technologists; longwindedness in short pants.


The Musical Times, May 1971 (pp. 447-448) © the estate of eric sams