interdisciplinary is the future

I was thrilled to hear the new President of the University of Connecticut, Susan Herbst, on WNPR’s “Where We Live,” say very early in her interview, “interdisciplinary is the future.”


I hope the music department hears you!  I hope it becomes the pervasive attitude that we can’t do what we do by simply focusing on what has been done before.  Rather, we need to build on what has been done before, and reach further, pull from a broader spectrum of resources to go deeper into our specialty.

It almost seems ironic.  It definitely seems more difficult.  But it’s the future!

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2 Responses to interdisciplinary is the future

  1. wahoofive says:

    I don’t get what you’re saying. Interdisciplinary would mean connecting music study with art, drama, history, science, politics, etc. No one thinks universities should “focus on what has been done before”; the whole publish-or-perish premise is that universities exist in part to extend knowledge. One way to do this is through interdisplinary studies; but it’s not the only way. If you think your department has stagnated, that’s a problem that needs addressing, but focusing on “interdisciplinary” studies doesn’t address that directly; it just puts a priority on a particular subset of scholarship.

    Prez Herbst’s point seemed to be that interdisciplinary studies were the way in which scholarship can best provide solutions to social problems, which is fine (especially in the sciences), but that’s not the only function of a university, and certainly not a music department. We can have a positive influence on society through composing, performing, understanding — and these are things we can effect with or without interdisciplinary work.

    I’m eager to hear more of your thoughts on this matter.

    • amelianp says:

      For my “Thoughtful Gestures” article, I got help from Ross Buck in the communications department and was guided by some of his grad students so that I could write an article about conducting as empathic communication. It wasn’t strictly a musical topic, but it is every bit a conducting topic. And now the University of Washington School of Music is doing research into mirror neurons in ensemble singers.

      Music professors at UConn had no interest, wishing me all the best, but dismissing it because I wasn’t writing about music. But knowing what I do now about the theories of empathic communication has improved my conducting, which results in better performances.

      Of course, someone needs to compose and do analysis and historical research and perform, but what’s coming next is embracing the fact that music isn’t only interesting for its own sake. Highly trained musicians are going to be very helpful in doing research that scientists of all sorts may be interested in but don’t know enough about music to do without us.

      Studying music is good, but it isn’t the end.

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