9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


On Musicological Method--A Response to Peter Downey

Jeffrey Kurtzman

In 1995, Peter Downey read a paper at the Maynooth International Musicological Conference, subsequently published in Irish Musical Studies, Vol. 4, 1996, pp. 152-186, which vehemently attacked, including personal invective, an article of mine published in Early Music, February 1994, 63-83, entitled "Monteverdi's 'Mass of Thanksgiving' Revisted."

The thrust of Downey's long article is an attempt to refute my conclusions regarding the identification and possible use in Monteverdi's so-called "Mass of Thanksgiving" of instruments referred to by contemporary chroniclers as trombe squarciate. Downey concludes that trombe squarciate are nothing more than trombones and that my own arguments and conclusions are "pointless speculation."

My objective in the present paper is not merely to refute Downey's arguments, but to demonstrate the fallacious musicological method at the root of Downey's article and some of his other publications. This method confuses deductive and inductive logic, misunderstands the principles and uses of inductive logic, misuses original source materials and leads to "definitive" conclusions that cannot withstand critical scrutiny.

This paper will take Downey's article as the point of departure for a discussion of appropriate musicological methodology, founded on awareness of the nature of original source materials, especially those subject to multiple interpretations, and the application of deductive and inductive logic to the drawing of conclusions. Nelson Goodman's classic text on inductive logic will serve as the reference point of my discussion, which will also include comments on the appropriate role of speculation in historical research and writing.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita