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Tim Rutherford-Johnson

In the previous issue of British Postgraduate Musicology, Nicholas Reyland asked a number of leading musicologists to contribute a six-word piece of advice for students at the start of their careers. I have a couple of these posted above my desk as I write now, but one I thought particularly resonant: Rose Rosengard Subotnik's "Don't continue unless you'd die otherwise". Something common to all the best and most enjoyable musicology I have ever read is the palpable pleasure in having discovered something new, and the desire to share it with the world. For all the sociological theory that we might wish to apply to it (of which I am as guilty as anyone!), music's most important function remains the pleasure that it gives people; and one of its unique strengths is its shareability. Unlike novels, most musical works can be received in their entirety in a short space of time, and since recording – and more recently digital technology – made music a completely portable art form (unlike paintings or architecture), the exhortation "listen to this, I think you'll like it" has become fundamental in human relationships.

Musicology is, at heart, an extension of this fact. A vast, all-inclusive extension that grew into an academic discipline all of its own, but an extension of that basic enthusiasm for musical discovery nevertheless. Most of us do continue to do it because we'd die otherwise. We can't help ourselves.

It is at this point that BPM, I believe, proves its worth. For most of us, doctoral research is an enormous, exhausting, often lonely undertaking. What frequently sustains us through this endurance test is a fundamental love for the music we are researching, and the wish to, at some stage, share that love with like-minded people through the presentation of our research discoveries. And while there are many fora open to British postgraduate students for the oral presentation of papers – including the excellent annual RMA Research Students conference, at which several of this issue's papers were first heard – BPM is a rare opportunity for postgraduates to publish their work in a journal reviewed by their postgraduate peers. As ever, this issue's authors demonstrate a wide variety of musical research enthusiasms: the challenge of reconstructing the performance practices of a little-known repertory of 16th-century song; the written-in physicality of Stravinsky's piano music; the suggested eroticism of Scriabin's; and the paradoxical experience of listening to Berg with tonal ears. I would urge other postgraduates to consider following their example in committing to paper the fruits of their own enthusiams and sharing them with the wider musicological community. Isn't it why we're in this business after all?

© Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2005

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