Whoever pays the piper calls the tune: pressures on academic freedom and the discipline of music in the UK

Emily MacGregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


March 2011 saw the beginnings of a campaign against the inclusion of the politically loaded phrase ‘big society’ in the latest Arts and Humanities Research Council Delivery Plan. Unpicking the furore shows that these localised disputes about political intrusions into the university sphere mask several wider sites of tension for academic autonomy and for disciplinarity as a whole. Yet for musicology, a hybrid discipline, this latest pressure only compounds the state of ‘crisis’ that has already been hailed by several commentators, especially Kevin Korsyn and Philip V. Bohlman. It is perhaps surprising, then, that musicology seems to have been left undefended in public debates. Considering its supposed marginalisation within the academy and its apparently fractured interior, musicology's need to stand up for itself seems particularly urgent. In light of recent fundamental political challenges to the academy, the theme of legitimating academic autonomy in the arts and humanities is explored. It is shown to be to some extent hinged on issues arising from disciplinarity and disciplinary norms. Uncertainties in these areas translate forcefully into precise disciplinary concerns for musicology. This may in part explain the reticence of musicological voices in those public debates surrounding the AHRC/'big society’ controversy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-73
JournalCritical Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • disciplinarity
  • musicology
  • academic freedom

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