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Twentieth-century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America (Norton Introduction to Music History) Hardcover – 5 Jun 1991


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (5 Jun 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039395272X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393952728
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 688,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Well, I bought this as part of the recommended reading list for my first year at university, and although it is not one of my favourite areas of study, I will confess to having gone back to it again and again.

It is fairly compulsory to have the accompanying anthology (as with any book from the Norton series), which sets out the music as best it can, wish is very successful, given the sometimes strange writings of modern classical music.

Much to be recommended to those ranging from just an interest in the music, to serious students.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mo on 21 Feb 2009
Format: Hardcover
Arrived in perfect condition within the estimated time. Ecxellent overview of twentieth century music, indispensible to any music student or general enthusiast interested in this period.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
The best overview of the century 12 May 2001
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Morgan's book is the best that I have found for an overview of the entire 20th century in "classical" music. He divides his analysis into 3 logical sections:

Part 1. Beyond Tonality: From 1900 to World War I

Part 2. Reconstruction and New Systems: Between the Wars

Part 3. Innovation and Fragmentation: From WWII to the Present

This allows for some nuance that a simple list of composers often misses. For instance, Schoenberg's "atonal revolution" is covered in Part 1, along with the "new tonalities" of Stravinsky and Bartok. Part 2 covers the origin of the "twelve-tone system," but makes clear that it did not become influential until years later with the "serial revolution" in France, led by Messiaen and Boulez, in Part 3.

As others have noted, Morgan is not as strong on the more recent period, partly because the book was published in 1991 and thus misses such phenomena as Schnittke's surge of popularity, especially in Russia and Europe, after the collapse of the Soviet regime.

I recommend two other books along with Morgan: 1) Gann's American Music in the Twentieth Century, which covers developments in the U.S. in greater detail, thus including for instance one of my favorites, Roger Reynolds, and 2) Griffiths' masterful Modern Music and After, which begins after the Second World War.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The History of Modern Music for The Layman 15 Mar 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As we end the 20th century, we may not realize that 20th
century music covers the same time span as the 19th
century Romantic music period. Have we grasped the meaning
of modern music. To do this one needs to understand the
history as well as the dynamics of 20th century music.

Here is a book that fills the bill. Not only does Mr. Morgan
discuss the growth and change in 20th century music but he
does it in it's historical context of our maturing as a
world. For many the atonality of 20th century music is hard
to grasp, especially when concert artists and orchestras
continue to emphasize in their repatoire 19th century music. But as the world changes so will music. A book to awaken your interest in 20th century music and the composers who were the leaders of this period.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excelent book 5 Jun 2013
By Carlos Rojas Arancibia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
if you want to get into the XX century music, this is for you. all the information is very well organized, the quality of the book is amazing, the paper very white and great printing process.
I got this book just in time. 1 Mar 2014
By Rodrigo Cortes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this book not too long ago but it was in great condition and I am glad that I got it in such a good deal
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
One of the Best of Several 20th Century Music Books 18 Jan 2014
By DaveHwriter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being a huge fan of TV's intellectual-crime-mix show WHITE COLLAR, I wanted an art form I could deeply study and enjoy at the same time. I knew that would be something western music. I have loved my deep dive into 20th century western compositional music, now about a year in. Like learning to golf from the greens back, my affair with western composition music has been a reverse exploration of history.

Here is the boring story. Before this, I was already a Mozart fan, respected the rest, and actually knew a little about Stravinsky's major works. I tried studying the content chronologically, with two text books and some anthology CD sets. I might have quit at the chants, could have split at Baroque, but got saved by Mozart (again). In the meantime, I was falling under the spell of the other books, especially Alex Ross's THE REST IS NOISE. His narrative mix of light history, cultural context, and well placed snippets of humor and interesting quotes made me realize that the eclectic and fast shifting 20th century would hold my interests like no other single era. So I made a point of buying literally every book in the used market (always hardcover; wanted a nice library). Wow, that is a LOT of books! Fortunately most of them are inexpensive on the after market, only a handful of them are keeps, and all of them have been good trade bait at the local book store -- or worthy donations to the city's library Friends program.

Brings us to this book. This is one of the about eight, out of as many as 10 books, that I consider keepers in the shelf on my personal library dedicated to 20th century music. Yes, there are really that many general-subject books (I don't care for artist or composer bios; I have lead a more interesting life) that are worthy of reading because each one brings a unique mix of focus (period, nationality, person, style, level of context versus musicology, etc.). An that many keepers to the point where I have paid again for the same editions to get out of ex-library copies, highlighted copies, and the like. Again, this is a fun hobby that is pretty darn cheap to pursue; Thanks God for the Marketplace and a bevy of hungry book dealers (shame on us if the book dies).

To this book, which won its place among those top eight about this subject. No book is perfect. The comments that "Morgan is not as strong on the more recent period, partly because the book was published in 1991 and thus misses such phenomena as Schnittke's surge of popularity, especially in Russia and Europe, after the collapse of the Soviet regime..." and "Well written for what it is, but does it make sense to spend so little time on the last 55 years of the century? If anything, there should be more space as we get closer to the present, as there is more music being composed now than at any time in history..." are completely valid. So take this book as strongest right up to the period we might think of as Contemporary Western Music. I grant that fact and hence the Four Star setting above.

Seeing the book as a treatment of 20th Century, with emphasis on WWII and backwards, this is an excellent piece of work. I like to cluster and generalize things in my mind. I appreciate that he organized the study into:

Part 1. Beyond Tonality: From 1900 to World War I

Part 2. Reconstruction and New Systems: Between the Wars

Part 3. Innovation and Fragmentation: From WWII to the Present

He captures the historical context of each period with a leading chapter. Very nice summary overviews without the thickness that some of Ross's work gets into. He makes good arguments for the similarities within these time frames. This is a much better approach to me than the Decade-By-Decade style of some works or the Composer-By-Composer style of others. If you like a particular style, you are more likely to find kindred spirits and depth by exploring all of the wonderful works in the period you enjoy.

I highly recommend this book as an introduction to this period. If you want more on the French Impressionist folks, the best work is Hansen's AN INTRODUCTION TO TWENTIETH CENTURY MUSIC (either 2e or 3e are fine); he is the only writer that really got into this stretch. For more contemporary, start with the aforementioned Ross book. If the latest music turns you on, get the Griffith's MODERN MUSIC AND AFTER (was not one of my favorites, but I respect its place and quality).
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