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Current issue of Acta Musicologica

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ACTAvism: Acta Musicologica and Doing What We Believe

As the co-editors of Acta Musicologica we receive inquiries about the range and contents of potential contributions to the IMS journal on an almost daily basis. Which disciplines and fields constitute the musicology Acta’s pages normally contain? Where do the historical and cultural borders fall? Which languages are possible? Which theories? Which scientific methods? Is there some topic to avoid? Is there an approach that might be inappropriate?

The reasons such inquiries precede submission range from the individual and practical to the collective and discursive. What the inquiries have in common, nonetheless, is an awareness of the diversity of the IMS and the capacious approach of musicology that Acta embraces as it responds to the challenges of knowing, understanding, and engaging with music and musical practice. With such challenges in mind, we respond to these inquiries in the first instance by asking potential contributors to “look at the journal itself.” Explore its pages, discover its debates and discussions, reflect on the ways it represents the past, present, and future of the IMS.

In other words, we increasingly ask authors to turn to the journal itself as one of the primary bodies of evidence for the growth and expansion of musicology and of the IMS in the twenty-first century. We believe that a journal can—and really must—play a critical role in the expansion of a field, and any assessment of the accomplishments of Acta in recent years surely bears witness to what is in many ways a sense of mission we share with the IMS. A journey through the pages of Acta in recent years passes through articles from across East Asia—China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan. Further passages take us through the Middle East and to South Africa, and then across the Atlantic to North, South, and Central America. Europe remains present, but its historical practices spread from canons in the center to all the compass directions of the continent. Transnational flows and global exchange connect twenty-first-century Indians to the past, exemplifying the ways in which contemporary debates about the Ancient and Modern are both local and global.

Some readers might think our dedication to retain Acta’s linguistic distinctiveness fails to keep pace with the journals in many fields that have succumbed to the use of a single language, usually English. Acta continues to publish articles in five languages and to do so officially. Many readers will notice, too, that a sixth language, Portuguese, now makes an occasional appearance. When an unofficial language enters into the pages of the journal, it is always for substantive reasons, and the article itself receives the same editorial rigor as those in the official languages, thereby underscoring the international character of a journal and signaling its capacity to reflect a world of expanding ideas.

The disciplinary diversity of articles in Acta is no less expansive than its geographic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Again, even a quick glance across the contents reveals quite dazzling disciplinary dimensions: historical musicology and ethnomusicology; music theory and music analysis; systematic, empirical, and computational musicology; studies of aesthetics and acoustics; iconography and performance practice. Sibling disciplines—philosophy and anthropology—comfortably share space and enter into dialogue with music scholarship. As in the past, there remains plenty of room for manuscript studies, composer studies, and opera studies, even as these move between and along traditional and innovative paths.

If, in 2017, it is still not quite possible to say that Acta has the capacity to open its pages to a musicology unencumbered by disciplinary borders, we’re still willing to suggest that such claims might not be an exaggeration in the near future. We’re on our way, and it is with this in mind that we offer the present newsletter column as a challenge to the IMS membership to make Acta their own. Our goal here, therefore, is not simply to forestall the inquiries that opened the column with a mission statement or call-for-papers. Instead, it is our goal to urge the IMS membership to become actively involved in a transformation of the journal that parallels and enriches the transformation of the IMS itself.

That active involvement could not be more important to the critical role of Acta in the IMS than it is at the present time. With the next issue the journal will launch a process to become open-access. As such, Acta, always the flagship journal for the IMS, sets sail as the journal that will represent musicology for new territories, occupied by new readers. Our fundamental and longstanding diversity will become even greater. New connections and conversations will take place, with Acta securing a position of mediation. We are particularly keen that the IMS membership should actively join in such mediation. Members will do so, of course, by reading the journal, but also directing others, in music scholarship and in other fields, to its pages, be they in printed form or disseminated in cyber format. The transformation of Acta comes at a very critical moment, when the need for the diversity in our global music scholarship is greater than ever.

As Acta increasingly occupies a central position, responding to the challenges of this moment, we hope that it can also give voice to you, the members of the IMS, who have the power to make the journal your own.

—Philip V. Bohlman and Federico Celestini