Oxford History of Western Music: (5 Vol set) Paperback – 27 Aug 2009
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This monumental, nearly 4,000-page history from one of today's outstanding musicologists deserves a place on everybody's shelf. (Philip Borg-Wheeler, Classical Music)
The discounted price represents extraordinarily good value for what I would happily recommend as book of the decade. (Philip Borg-Wheeler, Classical Music)
Book of the decade. (Philip Borg-Wheeler, Classical Music.)
This monumental 4,000 page history from one of today's outstanding musicologists deserves a place on everybody's shelf. (Philip Borg-Wheeler, Classical Music)
Marvellously awash with judicious reflection on the latest scholarship...a compelling easy-to-read narrative. (The Economist)
About the Author
Richard Taruskin is professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to this work, Taruskin is also the author of such books as Music in the Western World: A History in Documents (1985), Text & Act (OUP, 1995), and Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (1996). He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, New Republic, and many other scholarly journals.
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I hadn't expected this History to be such a darned good read: I started with the 19th century because that's where my specialization takes me, and I was hooked from the first page, to the extent that I now have to ration myself. He writes so clearly and so engagingly, that it's more like reading a thriller than a history book. It's a wonderfully well-balanced book: his style is friendly, explanatory, humorous. But if you want it, there's deep musical analysis with examples. It's like Alex Ross's 'The Rest of Noise' but for a mixed audience of scholars, music lovers, children, whoever - it works on several levels at once, and you can choose (as I sometimes do) to leave out the more analytical/theoretical stuff and just enjoy the story.
As a ballet specialist myself, I am grateful to Taruskin for writing one of the only mainstream chapters on ballet music in the early 20th century volume. I happened to see that chapter browsing in a bookshop and instantly bought the book. At £45 for the whole set, this has to be one of the best bargains in the world of books, so I just went to Amazon and bought the rest. Now I've got the other volumes, I can't put them down.
A warning, however, if you, unlike me--a trained musician (PhD)--are not interested in very in-depth theoritcal analyses of this or that chosen example, you can, as I did, skim those analyses and focus on the importance of this or that innovation, development, etc. The volumes are filled with page after page of scores. I fear that to follow them devotedly will take as long as it took to write this tome. And to no profit, since the analyses are, as usual, subject to different readings. But the "time out" segments are especially valuable in the intellectual history of music.
I'd recommend reading the entire series. But the most value is the volume on 19th century music. This volume especially demonstrates the social aspects of music that are all but ignored in the rest of the literature and that gives pause to acceptance of neo-Kantian "aesthetics" and "absolute music." a nice balance between listening history and positivist musicology. Highly recommended. I'd give 5 stars if your''re willing to skim the detailed--very detailed--analyses of examples of each composer taken as exemplary. ..A version of this study that eliminates the theoretical "proofs" would be a major advance in musicology. Most could read the intellectual and historical "time out" segments of philosophy of music segments, and refer as needed to the full text for confirmation, or otherwise in argument.
I would have missed out on a lot of social history of music had I not read this series! Not interest in a social history of music and listening history?, Don't follow, but you'll be missing out on what is excluded in music history survey phonographs.
My ny only complaints is to the many pages of analysis, scores amply included, that offer inclusive analyses of passages selected as examples. Very dense, but easily skimmed for conclusions and ideas. This is NOT a history of music, but a history of ideas, exemplified in music. You'll learn about world history and its relationship to music by delving into this deep analysis of music and society.
This is the ONLY study I know of that balances musicology with social theory A major contribution,since the latter is totally ignored by positivist musicology. It is an entertainment of ideas, many of which are interestingly contrary to musicianist history and theoretical studies.
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One amazing work of Taruskin! No words to describe!
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