My current research can be grouped under five main headings:
My scholarly work throughout my career up to now has been motivated by a deep interest in the epistemology of the past.
I am currently working out the consequences of an epistemology that takes the passage of time as fundamental (something that previous theories of epistemology have failed to do). Since I would claim that all knowledge is knowledge about the past, and that the present does not (and cannot in principle) exist as an object of knowledge, the consequences are potentially far-reaching.
I am particularly interested in the question of evidence—broadly construed to include artifacts, texts, testimony, anecdotes, and memory—and the contexts in which evidence is read and understood. I am also interested in the question of how knowledge of the past is propagated across time, and how knowledge of the past can disappear (cease to be propagated or cease to be understood).
In addition to my theoretical work in epistemology, I am currently engaged in research on particular topics that illuminate these theoretical concerns. As of this writing, the most prominent of these is an investigation of the genesis and early history of Franz Schubert’s Symphony in B minor, the “Unfinished,” D 759, and the primary evidence that bears on that history.
I believe that the methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of the world are, at a fundamental level, the same across all disciplines and modes of life. Science, from this point of view, is not a particular set of subject matters, but rather a process of obtaining knowledge about the world. Science is a process of critical thinking, based on evidence (evidence that is continually vetted), carried out by a group. That the process is inherently social is crucial: for it is the group that corrects for the biases, inaccuracies, and oversights of individuals.
This process is the most efficient and effective ever devised for the discovery of reliable knowledge about the world, and it may be the most efficient and effective that humans can devise in principle.
If that is the case, then there is no fundamental methodological distinction among the disciplines at the deepest epistemological level.
The implications of this insight are profound. I hope to write about them, but will need support or an institutional base in order to do so effectively.
The State of Academia and the Humanities
My personal experience in academia has made me only too acutely aware of the deep problems and unsustainable trends in modern academia, both in the United States and elsewhere. I have written and will continue to write on these issues on my blog, and I am in the process of reading many recent books on the current state of academia (I would like to review these).
The current state of the humanities is particularly dire and I also have much to say about this.
Part of my work in these areas entails documenting my own experiences across 25 years trying to make a career in musicology. At present, this documentation is appearing as an ongoing series of posts on this blog under the general title Confessions of a Recovering Musicologist.
I continue to pursue a long-standing interest in musical biography and the sociology of biography, particular in regard to those figures in music who develop quasi-mythological status. In addition to my long-term engagement with this aspect of Mozart’s life and reception, I am currently working especially on Franz Schubert, Thelonious Monk, and Robert Johnson. I hope soon to write a review of Robin D. G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, although it would be very helpful if I owned a copy of the book (which I currently cannot afford).
The Evolution of Music
Over the past three years I have read widely (with an attempt at comprehensiveness) on the evolution of music as a human capacity, on music perception and cognition, and on the evolution of the elements of those capacities as found in other animals.
I would like to write a comprehensive review article on the evolution of music, but this project would require support (including access to a research library). I believe that because of my unusually wide background in music, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, linguistics, and statistics, combined with my deep interest in epistemological issues, I am very well (perhaps even uniquely) qualified to write such a review, and that I have new insights to offer.
Reflections on Life with BDD
Another series on this blog comprises a memoir-in-progress about my life with Body Dysmorphic Disorder
I hope eventually to make this series of posts the groundwork for a book.
I envision my book on BDD not as a memoir, per se, but rather as a comprehensive overview of the biological, cognitive, evolutionary, psychological, medical, and cultural aspects of the disorder (including its history as a disorder), informed by my own experience as someone who has suffered from it for most of my life. In this regard, the book would resemble Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon. Again (and of course) I need to have money to live and the resources to pursue this topic if it is to happen.
I am also interested in pursuing the implications of my experience with BDD in regard to the epistemological questions that I have outlined above. BDD systematically distorts one’s perception of one’s body, but there is an internal incongruity in which one simultaneously “knows,” on the one hand, that these distorted perceptions are true (that they are “justified true belief), while on the other also having a rational sense that they are not.
In this connection, I’m also investigating the general topic of memoir and memoir writing, and would like to review Ben Yagoda’s Memoir: A History (another book that I wish I could afford to buy).
Other Projects in Musicology
For a more comprehensive view of my research in musicology, with links to many of my published writings and a list of my “magnificent torsos” in the field (projects which exists in substantially complete or advanced form that has not been published for one reason or another, most often because of impossible working conditions, or lack of financial and practical support), see the “Writings” page.
See also my academic CV and list of Publications and Papers.