Star Date: 1991

Readability: Easy with some specialization (Grout or Stolba Lite)

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This is a great book for speedily traveling through the history of Western music.  However, although this is an "outline," if you knew everything in this book, you'd know more than the average recipient of a bachelor's degree in music about music history.  If your concentration was music history, maybe not.  But, maybe.

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Of particular use are the timeline charts at the beginning of each part.  The parts are:

Part I        Antiquity
Part II        The Middle Ages (800-1400)
Part III        The Renaissance (1400-1600)
Part IV        The Baroque (1400-1600)
Part V        The Classical Period (1750-1820)
Part VI        The Romantic Period (1820-1900)
Part VII        The Twentieth Century
Part VIII        Popular Music, Jazz, and Rock

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Sample of time chart from book

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The composer listings throughout the book are great to have, also.  In addition, I suggest getting K. Marie Stolba's two volume anthology set and the accompanying CDs for each volume.  Ya gotta hear the music, otherwise it's just "pigs in space" factoids.  I've always believed that music history courses should be 30% factoids, and 70% literature/sound recognition--with a definitive listening list.  No guessing the era crap at first in the initial classes of music history.  (That means all undergraduate levels.)  I've even taken graduate courses in music literature, and they've always provided exactly what to listen to.  Believe me, that can be difficult enough.  Playing "drop-the-needle" in Mahler's 5th symphony can be bitch.

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What fascinated me most was Part VIII.  I never knew how popular music developed.  Out of wanting to reach wider audiences, sheet music became less virtuosic so that it could be sold for performance in family living rooms; mostly easy vocal with piano accompaniment.  I found out that I know very little about this era, Tin Pan Alley, and so on.  Needless to say, recordings acutely reduced the market for sheet music.  Frankly, I'm amazed they still sell sheet music for popular music nowadays.

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Since this book was released around 1991, it only goes up to around 1982 and the beginnings of MTV.  But it has solid, must-know listings of all the major humanoids involved with the development of western music.  I loved it.

The book itself is cheaply made for reasons I'm not aware of.  The copy I bought was released in 1991 and is 24 years old.  It's a cheaply made large paperback, so the pages are quite yellowed.  I just removed the pages I wanted to keep and scanned them for future reference.  The good news is that you can buy a nice used copy for pennies.  And it's not the type of book I would keep anyway.

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