Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

A History of Western Music

Availability: Ready to download

Maintaining the authority and breadth of coverage that have always defined this classic text, J. Peter Burkholder has meticulously revised and restructured the text to make it more accessible for today's students. This revision places a stronger emphasis on social and historical context and adds substantially expanded pedagogy and striking four-color design.


Compare
Ads Banner

Maintaining the authority and breadth of coverage that have always defined this classic text, J. Peter Burkholder has meticulously revised and restructured the text to make it more accessible for today's students. This revision places a stronger emphasis on social and historical context and adds substantially expanded pedagogy and striking four-color design.

30 review for A History of Western Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    [To listen as you read.] The audience for “serious” music—art music of a certain complexity that requires some effort to understand—has never been more than a small fraction of the population. What seems like a long time ago, I worked in a university music department as a professor’s office assistant. At the time, I was trying to improve my meager understanding of art history by reading E.H. Gombrich’s excellent Story of Art. Seeing art a/> [To listen as you read.] The audience for “serious” music—art music of a certain complexity that requires some effort to understand—has never been more than a small fraction of the population. What seems like a long time ago, I worked in a university music department as a professor’s office assistant. At the time, I was trying to improve my meager understanding of art history by reading E.H. Gombrich’s excellent Story of Art. Seeing art as an integral part of civilized society, in the context of historical change—rather than as decontextualized globs of color on canvass—really helped me to appreciate it in a way I could not before; and I wondered if the same might not be possible with music. One day I asked my boss if there was a book similar to Gombrich’s about music, and he responded with one word: “Grout.” Finally I’ve gotten around to following up his recommendation. A History of Western Music is the standard music history textbook in use on college campuses, at least in the United States. Its first edition was written by Donald Jay Grout; later editions were revised, first by Claude V. Palisca, and then by J. Peter Burkholder. I bought the fifth edition, mainly because it was cheap. Between the previous edition and this one, Palisca had entirely rewritten the book, removing the last remaining traces of Grout’s prose. So in this review I’ll being talking about Palisca. Any author of a general music history textbook deserves some sympathy. First, it is proverbially difficult to write about music. The poor writer is forced to choose between a vague string of adjectives, metaphors, and images, discussing the music’s subjective effects; or he can resort to the technical language of music analysis, which at least allows him to be precise and objective, but at the cost of being inaccessible to music newbies. Somewhere between these two extremes is the narrow path that Palisca tries to tread, sometimes precariously—veering too much in one direction, and then too much in the other—but for the most part ably. Even so, this middle path carries its own cost: dryness. Since Palisca can neither describe his own tastes and aesthetic responses, nor make any incisive analyses with music theory, he is forced to be an unexciting guide—the fate of most textbook writers. The other major challenge is compression. How do you fit 2,000 years of music history into 800 pages? How do you give a decent overview of medieval plainchant, Italian opera, German romanticism, and American minimalism, while also providing the names, biographies, and accomplishments of the major composers, as well as integrating the relevant cultural history—all in enough time to teach it in two semesters? The obvious answer is that you can’t, and Palisca doesn’t. There is simply too much material to do justice to it all. But he does succeed in giving his reader a generous spoonful of all the main dishes. If I measure this book by my own progress, I must deem it a success. Beforehand, I had only a scattered and incidental knowledge of the major composers. I could rattle off a few names, but I didn’t know who influenced whom, who lived when, who was part of what movement; and I could only name about two composers who lived before J.S. Bach. Now, not only do I feel much more knowledgeable, but the chronological framework will make it easier to learn more. One of my most pleasant discoveries was the wealth of wonderful music that was written before J.S. Bach even took his first breath, in 1685. There was Leonin and Perotín, Guillaume de Mauchaut, Guillaume Dufay, John Dunstable, Henry Purcell, Claudio Monteverdi, and Arcangelo Corelli, to name just a few of my favorites. Most surprising for me was how much I enjoy sacred music. Like the shadowy interior of a gothic cathedral, the music is tranquil, meditative, and otherwordly—pregnant with tragedy and hope. So this book does its job. What prevents it from being as great as, say, E.H. Gombrich’s history of art, Kenneth Clarke’s history of civilization, or Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy, is the lack of authorial personality. In all three of those works, the author is not afraid to opine and speculate. Palisca, by contrast, rarely offers his own judgment, and does not venture to make any theories. His writing is neutral and plain, simply serving up information. There is nothing wrong with this, of course; and many would think that it’s the correct approach. But I think that when you’re dealing with an art form, it is neither possible nor even desirable to be “objective.” Gombrich, Clarke, and Russell are experts, and thus have refined taste. Seeing how they think about their subject, and how they feel about it, is as much an education as the information they present. As I went through this book, I downloaded and listened to most of the representative pieces discussed in each chapter. I ended up with a long playlist (which you can see here), which I replayed over the course of few weeks before writing this review. I recommend that any curious listener do the same. Several historical trends seem apparent when you do this. First is the obvious rise of instrumental music, as music shifts from purely vocal, to vocal with instrumental accompaniment, to mainly instrumental. The second is the rise in the prestige associated with secular music, and the attendant fall in the importance of sacred music. The composer becomes increasingly important as time goes on, exerting ever more control over the performance, while the performer becomes merely an executor rather than a collaborator. With many notable exceptions, art music also seems to grow in harmonic and rhythmic complexity, at least in the time since Haydn and Mozart, until the traditional rules of harmony break down entirely. Something strange happens in the twentieth century, especially in the second half. Music—along with literature and art—seems to split into a dichotomy: erudite and inaccessible, and popular and oversimplified. The first camp, represented most perfectly, perhaps, by Milton Babbitt, write music that does not make sense to the untrained human ear, while popular songwriters make catchy tunes with little depth. This division seems to correspond to sources of income: the university patronizes experimental music; while popular music is obviously commercial. To me it seems that neither of these extremes is desirable, but I don’t know a way out of this dilemma. Now that I know more about European history than ever before, I can’t help drawing connections between composers' styles and their cultural moment. The impish, dancing, and perfectly balanced melodies of Mozart now remind me of Voltaire’s prose, suffused with Enlightenment ideals of harmony and wit. I also mentally associate the fall of religious vocal music, and the concomitant rise of secular instrumental music, with widespread changes in attitude towards nature: Nature went from being conceived as animated by intelligence and oriented around humankind, to an impartial force, indifferent to humanity, driven only by mechanical laws. I also wonder why so many first-rate composers—Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms, to name only some—are from German-speaking countries? (And I might also ask why relatively few first-rate painters have arisen from these same countries.) Is this something to do with language? With the Protestant Reformation? I’m sure there are a few monographs about this, somewhere. To bring this review back to its purported subject, I think that this book is a competent, well-researched, and intelligent overview of the history of western music. And with this rather bland statement, and this song, I will make my final bow.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Chuang

    This is simply a marvellous book. The book itself is beautifully printed and bound; on the cover is a gorgeous work by the impressionist painter Renoir, and on the inside awaits crisp, glossy pages lined in full-colour and laid out in a simple and classy theme, which is so often not the case with textbooks. (For comparison, the only textbooks I own which are comparable in their physical beauty are Kandel's Principles of Neural Science and Molecular Biology of the Cell, both also the standard wor This is simply a marvellous book. The book itself is beautifully printed and bound; on the cover is a gorgeous work by the impressionist painter Renoir, and on the inside awaits crisp, glossy pages lined in full-colour and laid out in a simple and classy theme, which is so often not the case with textbooks. (For comparison, the only textbooks I own which are comparable in their physical beauty are Kandel's Principles of Neural Science and Molecular Biology of the Cell, both also the standard works of general reference in their own fields). I love the attention to detail; asides taking the form of colour-coded boxes include 'source reading' as a recurrent feature, providing a taste of the criticism and praise of musical works in their own time; historical background an artworks appropriate to each musical period are given just the right treatment. I wonder how the authors were able to sustain the overall harmony of this massive effort... In short, this is truly the musical equivalent of a Taschen art title (I own their very beautiful collection of Leonardo da Vinci's works).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    i'm such a nerd. i've never read this cover to cover, but i've probably read every page at least once, and i'm getting ready to the whole cover to cover thing soon for a big exam. i <3 the grout, and each edition has been better than the previous. it even has a few chicks and black people in it now. no black chicks yet. are there any other grout nerds out there?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edi

    Marvelous introduction to Music History in Western Civilization. My copy was well-worn, and almost purloined by Igor Stravinsky, who misunderstood I wanted to autograph the page with a sketch of him by Picasso. Dr. Edgar Sholund of Chapman College

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Everybody else in my class hates this book, but I think it's wonderful. It does go into a lot of detail about the form and structure of specific pieces. But even that information can be useful and interesting. If you want a resource on music history, this is great. It provides great historical context for the development of musical eras and genres, and makes lots of parallels to literature and art too.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    Read for MUS 221 -Brief overviews of cultural movements -Summaries of musical eras -Short biographies of important composers -Analysis of select musical pieces

  7. 4 out of 5

    Keith Carpenter

    Read it as a review for my qualification exams in grad school. Not thrilling reading, but a good overview of the history of western classical music. I recommend it for any music grad student who needs to bone up on history for history or qual exams. Because it is by design an overview, it obviously can't go too deep into any one topic. For my purposes it was great because it went into just enough detail of medieval and renaissance music but didn't get lost in the weeds.

  8. 4 out of 5

    elstaffe

    A good introduction to the history of Western music, assuming that by "Western" they mean "mostly white men." Still, a good starting point from which to dive off into bits of musical history that were whitewashed or carefully curated over, not just in this book but in most histories of Western music. Took me five years but I conquered you, HoWM!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Yip.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Arya

    Pretty good book covering the whole history of western music! I wish I read it more when I was actually in my music history classes, but it explains things in a very clear and concise way!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey McKenna Brownfield

    One word. College.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Quotable: To the general public Handel is known almost exclusively as a composer of oratorios; nonetheless, for thirty-five years of his life his principal occupation was composing and conducting operas. That Messiah is known to everyone and Giulio Cesare only to a few may be explained by the fact that opera is one of the most ephemeral of all species of musical composition. Yet Handel’s operas contain as large a proportion of memorable music as his oratorios. He was no revolutionist, like Monteverdi or Quotable: To the general public Handel is known almost exclusively as a composer of oratorios; nonetheless, for thirty-five years of his life his principal occupation was composing and conducting operas. That Messiah is known to everyone and Giulio Cesare only to a few may be explained by the fact that opera is one of the most ephemeral of all species of musical composition. Yet Handel’s operas contain as large a proportion of memorable music as his oratorios. He was no revolutionist, like Monteverdi or Wagner; his merit was simply that in an age when opera was the main concern of ambitious musicians, Handel easily excelled all his contemporaries. (Handel’s arias) The pastoral scenes are especially noteworthy examples of eighteenth-century musical nature painting. Handel’s emphasis on melody and harmony, as compared to the more strictly contrapuntal style of Bach, links him with the progressive elements of his time. His deliberate appeal to a middle-class audience in the oratorios was one of the first manifestations of a social change which continued throughout the latter half of the century, and which had far-reaching effects on the evolution of music… The vast intellect of this lord of music seems to have embraced both the past and the future in one superb and comprehensive grasp. (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) His work is a synthesis of the ideas of the late eighteenth century, a magic mirror in which was reflected the music of the whole period, illuminated by his own transcendent genius. In this quality of universality Mozart surpasses Haydn, for unlike Haydn he is equally great in both instrumental and vocal composition. On the other hand Mozart’s universe is wholly one of art music; he cared nothing for natural scenery, and he had little sympathy for the music of the common folk. Nowhere in his works do we find either the musical landscapes or the robust, wholehearted acceptance of folklike tunes and rhythms that are present in Haydn. The principal influences on Mozart in this (the Vienna) period came from his continuing study of Haydn and his discovery of the music of J. S. Bach…. The influence of Bach was deep and lasting; it is manifested in the increasing use of contrapuntal texture throughout Mozart’s later works and in the profoundly serious moods of The Magic Flute and the Requiem. The word Romanticism should not be too narrowly confined to a literary manner. It defines an attitude, a manner of receiving experience. … That there is a false Romanticism I willingly concede. … But the false does not abolish the true or the value of the true, any more than the cheap use of the word Romantic spoils the intellectual honour which properly accompanies it. It is… especially important that accuracy should be maintained in all romantic matters. –Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice If remoteness and boundlessness are Romantic, then music is the most Romantic of the arts. Its material – ordered sound and rhythm – is almost completely detached from the concrete world of objects, and this very detachment makes music apt at suggesting the flood of impressions, thoughts, and feelings which is the proper domain of Romantic art. [T]he Romantic period more than any other that offers us the phenomenon of the unsociable artist, one who feels himself to be separate from his fellow-men and who is driven by isolation to seek inspiration within himself. These Romantic musicians did not compose, as did their eighteenth-century forebears, for a patron or for a particular function, but for infinity, for posterity, for some imaginable ideal audience which, they hoped, would some day understand and appreciate them; either that, or they wrote for a little circle of kindred spirits, confessing to them those inmost feelings considered too fragile and precious to be set before the crude public on the concert halls. [T]he populations of both London and Paris quadrupled between 1800 and 1880. Consequently, the majority of people, including the majority of musicians, no longer lived in a community, a court or town, where everybody knew everybody else and the open countryside was never far away; instead they were lost in the huge impersonal huddle of a modern city. The piano was the supreme Romantic instrument.

  13. 4 out of 5

    The Blue Crow

    The material covered is highly comprehensive ranging from Greek music to electronic music. I appreciate how the book consistently touches on the political, intellectual, and religious movements alongside with the development of music in a given era. The context helps keep everything grounded in the real world so it's easier to relate, understand, and memorize the plethora of musicians and the underlying meaning behind their works. Explanation of the material never gets too difficult to understan The material covered is highly comprehensive ranging from Greek music to electronic music. I appreciate how the book consistently touches on the political, intellectual, and religious movements alongside with the development of music in a given era. The context helps keep everything grounded in the real world so it's easier to relate, understand, and memorize the plethora of musicians and the underlying meaning behind their works. Explanation of the material never gets too difficult to understand. A first-year theory understanding of music should all be that is necessary to read the book. Some topics could have been delved more into, but understandably, it's a difficult balance between conciseness and content that these types of books can't help but sacrifice one or the other somewhere along the line. The material is mostly presented chronologically, but I found the few parts which aren't chronological to not be helpful in my mental organization despite how they're supposed to help as determined by the author. The listening CD's contain some truly beautiful works, and I consider it an invaluable resource to move beyond the text and to capture the different styles of music of a composer or genre. Disappointingly, the CD's are not included with the book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Chester

    I mean it was in college...but still counts right? Very straight forward and informative.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Josabry

    So, let me be honest. I read this book to pass the Praxis exam for music teachers. It took about four months to read, and I ended up buying four other books to use as references, most of them music theory books. I learned more about music from reading this book than I had in the twenty-nine years and eight months prior to picking it up. It was just amazing. His writing style is very dense - when I say four months, I mean four months, several hours a day of reading, note taking, cross So, let me be honest. I read this book to pass the Praxis exam for music teachers. It took about four months to read, and I ended up buying four other books to use as references, most of them music theory books. I learned more about music from reading this book than I had in the twenty-nine years and eight months prior to picking it up. It was just amazing. His writing style is very dense - when I say four months, I mean four months, several hours a day of reading, note taking, cross referencing and plunking on the piano to hear what he was talking about. But it was well worth the time invested. And not just because I passed the Praxis. :)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kartelias

    The sections on Greek and Rome music theory and philosophy was fascinating- as well as the troubadours during the middle ages, and the short bio's from some of the composers from the baroque, classical and romantic periods- but the music theory for most of this book was just long and drawn out. This is not a book to read if you just want an overview of composers and famous classical pieces. The information goes into a lot of depth. But, for those who are music majors, reading this book will be v The sections on Greek and Rome music theory and philosophy was fascinating- as well as the troubadours during the middle ages, and the short bio's from some of the composers from the baroque, classical and romantic periods- but the music theory for most of this book was just long and drawn out. This is not a book to read if you just want an overview of composers and famous classical pieces. The information goes into a lot of depth. But, for those who are music majors, reading this book will be very beneficial.

  17. 4 out of 5

    D

    As a resource, it's nice -- pretty comprehensive, gives just enough details to either pique your interest in a certain topic or give you the certainty that you don't really care, etc. Rather dense, but if you're very much into music history, it's great. Otherwise -- unless you're also looking for a sleep aid, a paperweight, or something very large and heavy to collect dust on your bookshelf -- stay far away. You have to really want the knowledge. Music students: Good luck.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Dale

    Well written documentary style of western history through the ages. I read selections relating to Baroque, Classical and musical Romantic periods for college paper. Despite not being familiar with most aspects of these time periods prior to writing my paper for college, was able to grasp most of the concepts from numerous genres of music (vocal, instrumental, theater, etc.) and write a decent paper earning full marks (equivalent to an A).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Just finished reading this book from cover to cover in preparation for graduate school entrance exams (granted, it was only the third edition, which is much shorter than the current version). Whew! It was difficult to get through, and I have a feeling the current edition has a better layout and is easier to follow. Still, it was a good review, but left much to be desired (you can only fit so much detail in a 750 page book on the entire history of Western music!).

  20. 4 out of 5

    AskHistorians

    This textbook is one of the standard texts that surveys Western music history from antiquity up to present times. It's used in many Western music history courses for undergraduates. Burkholder did well to revise the book to reflect recent historical research, and used his knowledge of twentieth and twenty-first century music to provide much more information for more recent trends in music.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pete Carney

    Comprehensive for college music majors only. Grout is comprehensive and difficult. It is a historic effort that challenges anyone with passion for music. This book made me want to write a different book. For a different approach to music appreciation check out www.interactivelistening.com all of the music and videos are built into the ebook.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    It has a great depth and breadth of information--if you can find it. The book is poorly organized and sections are ordered in a counter-intuitive way. Again, a good thorough survey text that deserves its place as the standard of Western music history. Pity you'll have trouble finding things in it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    I love history and context and I am a musician. Again a book I read while studying. I had to rate it higher than counterpoint and theory books simply based on my own preference of subject. Another book to be read by the music student or enthusiast.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A lot of material here. It's composers are presented roughly chronologically and it's not until 200 pages in that Monteverdi is covered and then another 100 until Bach. Would be nice to have a multimedia version of this book, so you could listen to the music described.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Corey B.

    Great book, learned a lot.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky Lu

    Since I'm also a pianist aka post music major, I had to study this text for all the knowledge of musical styles and their composers as well as the composers' famed works. Loving this text.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Much more concise and informative than my lecturer.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Ian Savage

    It is full of [essentialist] fallacies and is written in a simplistic, Philistinian manner.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Claire Clarke

    Got me through my degree!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    780.9 G882h 2014

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.