The SysMus conference series (“International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology”) was co-founded by Manuela Marin and Richard Parncutt in 2008. SysMus08 took place in Graz, Austria, having received abstract submission on a wide variety of topics from 14 countries. This success has led to further SysMus conferences, designed and organized by students for students under the supervision of experienced researchers in the field.

The concept of systematic musicology was introduced in an oft-cited paper by the Austrian musicologist Guido Adler in 1885. Musicology has changed enormously since then, but the basic idea of systematic musicology has not: whereas music historians (and, meanwhile, ethnomusicologists) tend to focus on specific manifestations of music (performances, styles, genres, works, performers, composers, traditions), systematic musicologists tend to ask more general questions about music, such as what distinguishes music from sound, how instruments work, what motivates people to make music, what roles music plays in society and culture, what information is communicated by music, and so on.  The advantage of the concept of systematic musicology is that it situates many diverse areas of music research within musicology, so that all musicologists can benefit from them and interdisciplinary interactions can flourish (Parncutt, 2008: 9).

Systematic musicology involves diverse epistemologies and methodologies from the sciences and the humanities. The scientific side is primarily empirical and data-oriented; it comprises empirical psychology and sociology, acoustics, physiology, neurosciences, cognitive sciences, and computing and technology. The humanities side of systematic musicology involves disciplines and paradigms such as philosophical aesthetics, theoretical sociology, semiotics, hermeneutics, music criticism, and cultural and gender studies.

SysMus promotes…

  • systematic musicology as an interdisciplinary research field
  • high academic standards
  • the dialogue between different generations of researchers
  • transparency, fairness and tolerance
  • gender equality in academia

…and achieves this by

  • exposing students to a wide range of subfields of systematic musicology
  • helping to create a research identity which goes beyond highly specialized field
  • selecting institutions with an internationally recognized profile in systematic musicology for SysMus venues
  • improving the SysMus conference concept by evaluations and discussions in the SysMus Council
  • applying a double-blind peer-review procedure to all submissions
  • recruiting an international review committee consisting of PhD-students and Post-Docs recommended by leading professors in the field
  • aiming for a long-term balance in the number of male and female keynotes and committee members
  • encouraging the discussion between different generations of researchers in a relaxed atmosphere
  • keeping the maximum number of SysMus participants at around 50 per conference in order to enable effective communication and networking


SysMus offers…

  • practice giving conference presentations (talks and posters)
  • the publication of conference proceedings
  • internationally renowned keynote speakers
  • feedback from people with different research backgrounds
  • the possibility of establishing an international network
  • workshops on a variety of career-related topics
  • experience in conference organization skills

…and makes this possible by

  • modelling SysMus conferences on internationally established conference concepts
  • advertising SysMus worldwide, especially in countries in which systematic musicology is less known
  • promoting a warm and productive atmosphere in which students can gain experience in conference presentation and get friendly, helpful, expert feedback
  • offering an attractive social program
  • enabling PhD students to acquire skills in conference organization in collaboration with more experienced researchers