Why the Q?

Musicology for All …Changing How People Understand History and Culture Through Music

The mission of Dr. Guy’s MusiQology is to make musicology accessible to the greater public through combining performance, composition, writings and collaborative projects with the teaching of American musical history and culture of the past and present day. ~Dr. Guthrie Ramsey

“Why are these people listening to this music in this place at this time?”

This quote, from music scholar Christopher Small, sums up my approach to my research, teaching, and other activities.  It provides me with a framework for understanding the important cultural work that music does in societies at different historical moments and locations.  As a musician, I’ve long been aware that certain styles and gestures speak to people profoundly.  I see a big part of my work as trying to understand how music achieves this powerful affect and sharing what I’ve learned with others, both inside and outside of the academy.  Audiences decide what music means, and I enjoy teaching and writing about this process as well as participating as a performer.


Mission Statement

Dr. Guthrie Ramsey is changing the way people view musicology–traditionally known as the scholarly study of music–by showcasing the subject as live, vibrant, and ever-changing through music itself and with projects that focus on the far-reaching impact of music on history and people’s everyday lives.

Through the courses he teaches in American popular music, jazz, and African American music at the University of Pennsylvania and in lectures at universities and conferences around the world, Dr. Ramsey utilizes his own brand of “MusiQology” to demonstrate how the study of music and music history is relevant to what is happening in the world today.  From Count Basie to Kanye West, it’s all fair game to Dr. Ramsey as he weaves these diverse musical traditions and styles into the complex history of American popular music.

Dr. Ramsey reaches beyond the lecture hall and into the public with performances of his contemporary jazz ensemble, Dr. Guy’s MusiQology. From museum exhibitions he curates, to his collaboration with legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis on “A Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem” for the 2009 Ravinia Festival, to the premiere of his own musical commission “Someone is Listening,” set to the words of the inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander at the NAACP Centennial Convention, Dr. Ramsey infuses musical works with his rich knowledge of music history in a manner that all people can understand and enjoy.

With the launch of Dr. Guy’s MusiQology Blog, Dr. Ramsey continues to find new, innovative and creative ways to connect with the public by bringing together diverse perspectives on current issues regarding music and the music industry and its roots in musical history and culture.  By bringing musicology to the people in an engaging and approachable way, Dr. Ramsey hopes to change the way people think about, embrace and appreciate music’s power one entry at a time.





1 thought on “Why the Q?”

  1. Darius Witherspoon said:

    I hope, through this, to become better educated about the different genres of music, more than just face value. Music is an expression from the depths of the soul, delivering messages in a subtle fashion, the dynamics, the mood created by the melody and lyrics, the use of various instruments to paint the picture, and other musical elements. I am a church musician, with gospel being my primary playing style, but, in recent years, I began to appreciate other genres, collect their music, and incorporate them in my repertoire. We hear a lot of popular music in the commercial setting – in the grocery stores, in restaurants, in elevators, and most of all, on television and radio. I find it fascinating to dig a little deeper and understand the artists, their influences, and what makes them “tick.” Artists like Steely Dan have a distinct flavor, with “jazz” and “funk” in their music, although they are considered a rock band. I don’t know if “abstract” is the perfect description of their music, but the lyrics leave much to the imagination. I find it interesting that cultural influences have an impact on people of different ethnic backgrounds. There are “White” musicians heavily influenced by “Black” music, as shown in their songs like Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown,” Michael McDonald “Motown” albums, or Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love,” and many more. Such music is often tagged as “blue-eyed soul.” Likewise, George Duke’s appreciation for Brazilian music in a lot of his vintage work, like “Diamonds” from his 1977 album, “Reach For It,” and “Brazilian Love Affair,” his 1979 album, most of which, except for the title track (ironically), he recorded down in Brazil. Even in Christian Contemporary Music, Russ Taff’s Pentecostal upbringing influenced the more soulful flavor he brought to the Imperials during the 1977-1981 era, a renowned Southern Gospel group. Back to the main subject, I developed an appetite for “good” music, regardless of the genre. As a musician, I connect with a lot of R & B music through catchy progressions, chords, bass lines, and beats. They open my horizons to explore the “goodies” in keys most gospel musicians frown upon. R Kelly’s “Honey Love” and “Seems Like You’re Ready,” as well as SWV’s “You’re Always on My Mind” strengthened my chordal abilities in the key of “E” (“relative” C sharp minor). Other genres of music don’t distract my focus, they just broaden my abilities and my ear. Some music is just plain “fun” to listen to, because it challenges the ear. Check out Roy Ayers’ “No Stranger to Love/Want You” (1979) – Ear candy from start to finish!!! I have yet to grasp the intro, and especially the ending, although much of the music is based on the E flat scale. God blessed so many artists and musicians with wonderful gifts and talents, allowing them to create music beyond human imagination. To not appreciate “other” music is missing out on a whole lot of good stuff! My oldest son is learning the keyboard, watching the tutorials on YouTube. I celebrate his enthusiasm for music, and I encourage him to push forward, even if Linkin Park and other rock music are his favorites. I try not to get in his way, allowing him to develop his own flavor, hoping that he would grow and establish a career of some sort in music. I’m seeking to enroll him in a music school, where he can learn the fundamentals, while he is in his prime, just as excited to play. I wish I grasped the fundamentals, being able to read music and “understand” the chords and progressions I play, to the point I can actually distinguish the flat thirteenths and the flat sevenths “on sight!” I also hope to view what I always viewed as “boring” music, like Classical and Opera, in a different light, appreciating their styles as well. Most of all, I hope to look beyond rap and the new hip-hop stuff as “offensive” and “cheesy,” and begin to understand the messages conveyed through the music. To totally dislike a genre of music is from a lack of education and simply prejudice, in a sense. I’m looking forward to become more educated and informed of the trends of music. Although I love old-school, for the most part, I must adapt to change, not forgetting the past, embracing old and new. I highly recommend the book, “Race Music” by Guthrie P. Ramsey-2003, because it opened my eyes up to different forms of musical expression in our culture in an in-depth approach. Music is a vital part of our culture. It is our “language!!!”

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