A musicologist is someone who studies music. There are a number of branches of musicology, ranging from music theory to comparative musicology, in which the musicologist looks at music from other cultures. Many colleges offer some form of a musicology degree, and some musicologists are also accomplished musicians with a deep understanding of their art. If you are interested in musicology as an academic discipline, it has a lot to offer and you may find a niche of it that you really enjoy.
The history of musicology really began in the 1800s, when several people published studies about music. Previously, music publications focused on duplicating scores and tunes for people to play. These studies began to examine the history of music, looking at its cultural context and impact on society. In addition, early musicologists began to explore music theory, looking at the roles of philosophy, science, the arts, sociology, psychology, and math in musical expression.
Music criticism often relies heavily on musicology, as a critic with an extensive knowledge of the genre he or she is working with can offer more informed and useful critiques. Some anthropologists and archaeologists also study musicology, so that they can apply their knowledge to the cultures that they study. A historical musicologist may look at how different forms of music arose, when new instruments entered common usage, and how music has influenced cultures throughout history.
A modern musicologist may integrate a range of disciplines from queer theory to sociological research. Research on modern music can reveal interesting details about subcultures such as the protest community or rave culture. These musicologists look at music within a cultural framework to learn more about it.
A musicologist may also focus on technical theory, looking at the patterns and math in music. Technical theory can get quite complex, especially when a musicologist starts comparing music from different cultures or time periods. Mathematical analysis of music is actually quite interesting, as math is the building block for music; the principles of math dictate which sounds are pleasing to the ear, and how they can best be arranged. Scientists may also be interested in music, in the form of acoustics, communication methods between animals, and music cognition.
People who focus on music from other cultures are often known as ethnomusicologists. Ethnomusicology is a growing field of study because many people are extremely interested in cultures other than their own, along with their myths, folktales, and belief systems. It can also reveal information about when colonial influences began to penetrate music, and how native populations dealt with people from other cultures. This type of musicologist works in the field, documenting such music along with folktales and information about musical instruments.