Judging from its modest placard in Bannister Hall, you may never guess that the American Musicological Society's (AMS) headquarters is located there.

The AMS, according to Executive Director Robert Judd, "is a membership organization for people who teach music history, music appreciation, or other disciplines related to music like that in humanistic discussion.

The society's offices have been located in a small space in Bannister Hall in the chapel since the headquarters moved to Bowdoin in July 2006, the same month Judd's wife Cristle Collins Judd started working as Dean of Academic Affairs and as a professor in the Music department.

Judd, who has been the Executive Director of the AMS since 1996 and holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Oxford, explained the general idea of the discipline.

"Musicology is the study of music as a humanist discipline, so it looks at music in its historical, social, or sociological perspective. It's a kind of umbrella term and so a lot of sub-disciplines can actually fall into musicology," he said, noting that music theory is one such sub-discipline. "Musicology is basically the study of music."

"I've taught in musicology departments here and there," said Judd, whose own musicology background is in 16th and 17th century keyboard music from Italy and Spain. While he said he spent the longest time teaching musicology and music theory at California State University Fresno, Judd also taught at the headquarters' previous location at the University of Pennsylvania.

Every year, the AMS holds a meeting for members in various cities around the country and publishes three issues of its "Journal of the American Musicological Society."

According to Judd, "almost every college and university subscribes to the journal," which "tends to focus on western music tradition" and has been around for 50 years.

The publication highlights writing on topics that range "from medieval European music to 21st-century global music," Judd said, "But the core of musicology would be those famous classics, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart."

While the offices at Bowdoin do not oversee the production of the journal, the three people who work there daily, including Judd, are very involved in the planning of the annual meetings.

"A big part of what this office does is run the annual meeting of the society in the fall, " said Judd.

According to Judd, every year about 1,500 members meet in different places throughout the country. "It's a gathering of these people who just get together for three or four days and talk about the music that interests them, discussing topics that range from rap to ancient Greek music, really," he said.

At last year's meeting, held on November 6-9 in Nashville, Tenn., academics in the musicological discipline from across the country presented on a wide variety of topics. "Funk Drumming, Pulse Neutrality, and the 'Rhythm of the One,'" "Crystallography and the Structure of Z-Related Chords," and "Sounding the Virile Female: 'Redneck Woman' and the Gendered Politics of Class Rebellion," were among the titles of talks given last fall.

"You get the idea of the breadth of the kind of scholarship we try to encourage," Judd said.

"It is a highly sought-after thing, so people want to present their research papers at the meeting. There [are] more people than there is space, so they fight for it, and we have a committee that evaluates proposals," Judd explained.

The annual members meeting and the publication of the journal are the "two main things" the AMS does, Judd said, but the AMS leads many other initiatives.

"We have travel grants that have to be administered, fellowships for graduate study, and prizes and awards," he said. "We also have to consider what is the best musicology book this year—that kind of stuff. The journal does review music books. We publish lists of new music books and stuff like that."

Judd characterized the AMS's relationship with the College as "a loose affiliation."

"The College supports us by granting us the facility, which is valuable of course," Judd said, "and the infrastructure, electronic access, phones, stuff like that."

Additionally, the College underwrites the employment of the society's secretary, and two students work at the office doing Web site maintenance as a part of work-study.

Beyond Associate Professor of Music Jim McCalla and Professor of Music Mary Hunter who both publish in the journal, the AMS does not hold any official academic ties to the College.

Nevertheless, Judd said that the College's willingness to provide the AMS with a space on campus is indicative of its commitment to the arts.

"[The College does] certainly have a strong commitment to the arts and humanities [with] developing the museum recently, the new concert hall, [and] upgrades at the theater departments," Judd said. "All kinds of stuff is going on here at Bowdoin to support arts and humanities and this, you could say, is one element of that. So it's a sign of a strong commitment to the liberal arts project, and that's valuable."

Judd said that besides the occasional curious e-mail about the society and infrequent queries from high school students looking to see if they "have any information about Mozart," the College and the public do not generally pay the society much notice.

"We do have an awful lot of information about American music and music history in general," Judd said, "I'm always happy to talk with people, so certainly want to encourage anybody who's walking by to stop in and say hi."