Music, at its core, is discursive practice. Shamelessly Foucauldian, one notes that discursive practices need not exist without systematic discourses to unify its (sometimes disparate and dislocated) elements. Take the formation of royal Gamelan institutions in the early 20th century. The disputed centralization of these bodies served more than to 'unify' or 'standardize' the body of musicological knowledge associated with Gamelan, neither was it an enriched attempt to musemify a historical tradition. The institutionalization indicated a further disability beyond what was readily understood at the time - that of a unified epistemological universe whose cosmology was all things Gamelan. Instead, what theorists and performers alike discovered was that their horses had run loose from under the reins. "Gamelan", it seemed, was no longer unified (or never had been); Marc Perlman's heavily influential study on the confoundedness of theorists both "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" to the system seems to confirm the problems associated with accumulating a body of knowledge about any system.
In the past 20 years or so, musicologists have been blinded by the rapid eruption of so-called "New" musicology, riding the wave of cultural, linguistic and sociological theory that arose mainly in the 1970s. Armed with the word of Joseph Kerman, new "centers" were proposed beyond the mundane "theory" and "history" inquiry that seemed to plague (as well as satisfy) the profession of musicology. Partially influenced by the exciting breakthroughs of anthropology, Ethnomusicology broke through the surface, although quickly supplicated by other lenses such as feminism and queer theory. It wouldn't be stretching the limits of logic to liken contemporary musicology as both excavation and interpretation, telling old fables while rapidly assimilating the latest version of "otherness" discovered to be neglected. One ideology after another paradigm were pushed over, signaling writers and theorists to the cruel dangers of relativism, itself provoking an intense reinquiry of historiography with respect to musicology, with most theorists agreeing that despite the flaws in this myth-machine, academics were better of pretending they didn't exist, or swallowing the bitter pill and getting on with it.
In The Puppet and the Dwarf, acerbic cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek poses the curious enigma concerning the Creation tale. If the tree of knowledge were all that forbidden, why did god place it there in the first place? In fact, assuming the basic premise of creationism and an implicit idea of 'perfect design', why was the tree of knowledge of "good and evil" created by god himself? Does this indicate that the foundations of evil are not entailed in some hypothetical binary between god's angelic nemisis, but spawned of the creator himself? This "perverse core" of Christian ideology, as Zizek would have it, was an injunction for Adam and Eve to disobey - to cast themselves away from god so as to allow god to truly become God as a mode of ontology. This curious fable lends itself to much speculation, especially regarding the condition of epistemology. If Zizek is right, the pursuit of knowledge does not fill an initial "void" of know-less-ness that is as such, but, instead, scoops out a hole in itself, creates its own blind spots and drives the notion of a 'primordial lack'. What do we know of a 'loss' of a thing without once having the 'thing' itself once?
Could it be that the failure of the musicological episteme is the result of it's epistemological agenda in the first place?