At the most basic level, musicology involves the academic and scientific study of music. In addition to investigating various forms of music and the evolution of music notation throughout time, musicologists often focus their studies on specific musical instruments, music theory, and the lives of composers and musicians. Musicology can also involve the study of how people perceive music, as well as its impact on the listener.
In the late 1950s, a field known as ethnomusicology began to splinter off from musicology. While musicology deals primarily with the development of music over time, ethnomusicology focuses more on music within a specific culture. For example, musicologists may look closely at a musical artifact, while ethnomusicologists may attempt to understand the cultural influences that created the artifact in the first place.