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"History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books (Read 7586 times)

Offline evitaevita

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What's your opinion about Christopher's Headington book "History of Western Music"?
Which books about history of music would you recommend me? (Why?)
Thank you in advance,
Evitaevita
"I'm a free person; I feel terribly free. They could put me in chains and I still would be free because my thoughts would be mine - and that's all I want to have."
Arthur Rubinstein

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 11:32:20 PM »
Is that a textbook?  If so, I'm afraid I'd dismiss it based on the poor writing that it probably contains, based on all the other history books that contain poor writing.

Instead, I'd read selected biographies about composers since it will describe the world in which the composer lived as he lived it, as opposed to a description to how it appeared.

Walker: Franz Liszt, is a really good biography.  It comes in three volumes but the writing is very compelling.

Gaines: Evening at the Palace of Reason, about J.S. Bach's meeting with Frederick the Great.  (BTW, I've never read a textbook that explains why he was so great, nor of why Catherine was so Great."

These are just some examples.

Offline keypeg

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #2 on: October 26, 2012, 01:21:33 AM »
I'm not familiar with Headington's book.  I started with Music in the Western World - A History in Documents (P. Weiss, R. Taruskin).  It was meant as a companion book to a music history course and was passed on to me.  It covers the usual Ancient Greece to contemporary music.  What makes it unique is that most of it is quotes from contemporaries of each age.  It shows us that at any time, any change or innovation was controversial and engendered heated discussion or frantic letter writing.  It made the periods remarkably alive, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I then got A History of Western Music (Burkholder, Grout, Palisca) on the recommendation of someone in the forums.  Apparently it's often referred to as "the Grout book".  It is very thorough and in depth.  I haven't gotten past Ars Nova and the 14th century even before the Renaissance.  The publisher provides a companion site with examples for the hearing, and also quizzes and such for those who have a penchant for them.  I find that in North America we don't get a lot of history other than the perpetual "discovery of America" and Henry's wives.  So I studied history along with it, using the Web.

I like the idea of studying composers, but find that history also gives a context to those composers.  Or is it the other way around?  ;D

Offline evitaevita

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #3 on: October 26, 2012, 01:04:00 PM »
Is that a textbook?  If so, I'm afraid I'd dismiss it based on the poor writing that it probably contains, based on all the other history books that contain poor writing.

Yes, it is. The reality is that such books often omit to mention very important information as authors try to include only the most necessairy elements of history. Sometimes they may fail to give important information. Personally, I've never been satisfied from such books, because they raise a lot of questions about composers, works, etc.

Instead, I'd read selected biographies about composers since it will describe the world in which the composer lived as he lived it, as opposed to a description to how it appeared.

I totally agree! And the books you mentioned seem to be really interesting and I seriously consider buying them.
I just want to find a good synoptical book which can give me a general idea of the evolution of music and the history context.

I'm not familiar with Headington's book.  I started with Music in the Western World - A History in Documents (P. Weiss, R. Taruskin).  It was meant as a companion book to a music history course and was passed on to me.  It covers the usual Ancient Greece to contemporary music.  What makes it unique is that most of it is quotes from contemporaries of each age.  It shows us that at any time, any change or innovation was controversial and engendered heated discussion or frantic letter writing.  It made the periods remarkably alive, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I then got A History of Western Music (Burkholder, Grout, Palisca) on the recommendation of someone in the forums.  Apparently it's often referred to as "the Grout book".  It is very thorough and in depth.  I haven't gotten past Ars Nova and the 14th century even before the Renaissance.  The publisher provides a companion site with examples for the hearing, and also quizzes and such for those who have a penchant for them.  I find that in North America we don't get a lot of history other than the perpetual "discovery of America" and Henry's wives.  So I studied history along with it, using the Web.

I like the idea of studying composers, but find that history also gives a context to those composers.  Or is it the other way around?  ;D

Thank you for your recommendations. I appreciate that you write about your experience.
Really interesting the fact that the first book contains quotes from contemporaries!
"I'm a free person; I feel terribly free. They could put me in chains and I still would be free because my thoughts would be mine - and that's all I want to have."
Arthur Rubinstein

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 10:46:19 PM »
Grout was a required text during my undergrad as well.  I didn't like it.  It reads like a survey of Western music with numerous examples of scores (but no CD is included; that's available for purchase separately) and discussions of the music.  It's not at all bad, but it really requires having the recordings and listening alongside it to understand.  This is especially true if you don't listen to motets or other church mode music, or music from the other periods.

I will say that even though these periods of music sound different, with enough exposure to them, suddenly, they become quite beautiful.  I didn't understand this music before and found it simplistically annoying.  But after listening to them a lot (for the listening tests) I started to hear the subtleties and began to understand what was going on.  In fact, just writing about this now compels me to listen to it.  I'm going to YouTube.

Offline schartmanovich

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #5 on: November 03, 2012, 03:04:51 AM »
The Oxford history of Western Music by Richard Taruskin is by far the best music history text on the market. He describes historical events with remarkable lucidity; he does not fall victim to the notion that history unfolds over some meta-narrative; and he gives lots of attention to repertoires not covered by many other texts (e.g., 19th-century Russian repertoire).

If you're looking for a run-of-the-mill piece of regurgitated, -la-Mark-Evan-Bonds piece of garbage, this is not for you. If you want a well thought out, interesting and novel take on the history of Western music, this is your book.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: "History of Western Music" by Christopher Headington and other books
«Reply #6 on: November 13, 2012, 02:35:05 PM »
Grout is what we used in college--Grout is what I recomment  ;D Spent four semesters with it... :P