Editorial: On Goals and Own Goals


Welcome to the new volume of British Postgraduate Musicology, the second edition of the journal to appear online, and the fifth in total to appear since 1997. BPM 5 brings together a typically diverse selection of papers by postgraduate music researchers (and, in one case, a composer), thereby continuing the journal's mission to provide a platform for publication run entirely by postgrads for the benefit of other postgraduates, and free from institutional ties.

So: is that it?

Perhaps the publication of the fifth volume of BPM warrants a little more pontificating on the part of the Editor, although this almost seems against the spirit of a journal where editorial policy owes much to what Kurt Vonnegut called 'the most sacred word' in the editor's vocabulary: stet. Indeed, gentle encouragement and occasional honing, as opposed to wholesale rebuttal or theoretical trouncing, have long been editorial watchwords at BPM, and in this respect I must thank my perspicaciously critical colleagues on the present Editorial Board – Sarah Smith, Andrew Timms and Paul Yates – for their patience and invaluable comments. And I should probably leave it there.

Given this particular volume's online publication in June 2002, however, at a time when much of the world's attention has been diverted by events in the World Cup soccer finals, I can't resist making an attempt to capture something of the journal's ethos with a short rhetorical dribble, even at the risk of scoring an embarrassing own goal.

After all, links between musicology and football are not entirely without precedent, Hans Keller being an obvious example. Moreover, the world's growing obsession with the sport in the last hundred years has been echoed by many of its leading composers and musicians, not least Shostakovich, whose passion for the game knew few bounds. (On a similar note, I was present at a London Sinfonietta rehearsal a few years ago when the start of one piece was delayed by the arrival of 'vital' news concerning an FA Cup Final. As the result was being reported to the players, a quiet voice was heard to enquire from the stalls: 'I don't suppose anybody knows the cricket score?' That was Sir Harrison Birtwistle. But I digress…)

British Postgraduate Musicology, it seems to me, is the musicological equivalent to an Under 21s (unisex!) soccer fixture. It brings together a few of the most promising talents, and provides a forum in which they can demonstrate their developing skills. Moreover, it enables those skills to be honed in conditions close to a 'full international appearance' – publication in a professional peer review journal.

The full glare of critical assessment, of course, will rarely be levelled at a BPM paper, just as members of the sporting press, generally speaking, refuse to savage a footballer's early international efforts. Impetuous errors of judgment will probably be forgiven, if not entirely forgotten, and chalked up to experience. Fewer people may be in attendance (although BPM's healthy hit count suggests otherwise), and most of those who do observe the proceedings will probably be peer group members checking out the opposition, plus a smattering of notable talent scouts.

Yet those who do take an interest, whatever their motivations, may yet be rewarded by the chance to glimpse young and emerging scholars in full intellectual flow, a spectacle which – rather like an individual 'moment of genius' in an Under 21s football match – never fails to stir the passions and move the mind. Such moments, just occasionally, may even equal the achievements of far more senior players.

Game on!

© Nicholas Reyland, 2002

BPM Volume 5 BPM Volume 5