A History of Music in Western Culture

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A book that will enable the reader to have a greater understanding of music's role in our lives, this is a comprehensive study of the history of music from antiquity to the modern era. This book makes its subject matter lively and engaging by including loads of information in a way that the reader can easily grasp with its clearly-written narrative, use of illustrations, information boxes, composer profiles, and generous quantities of interesting material, such as composers' letters and critic's reviews of music throughout the ages. This book maintains the traditional divisions of music history: Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century, all connected by themes such as texture, melody, harmony, rhythm, and composers, which allow the reader to compare and contrast the different elements of musical style throughout the ages. For musicians, music journalists, or any persons in the field of music that need to gain information about music in a historical perspective.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130143204
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 2/6/2003
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 645
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents


Music in the Biblical World. Ancient Greece. Music in the Roman Empire. The Musical Legacies of Antiquity.


1. Plainchant and Secular Monophony.
The Emergence of Plainchant. The Elements of Plainchant. The Expansion of Plainchant. Secular Monophony.

2. Polyphony to 1300.
Organum. Clausula. Motet. Conductus. Mensural Notation.

3. Music in the 14th Century.
France: The Ars Nova. Italy: The Trecento. England. Instrumental Music.


Renaissance Humanism. The Protestant Reformation. Renaissance Painting and Sculpture. Music in Renaissance Society.
4. The Emergence of Renaissance Style.
Consonance and Dissonance: Trusting the Ear. Sonority: The Contenance Angloise. Texture: Pervading Imitation. Josquin's Ave Maria...virgo serena and the Style of the Renaissance.
5. The Genres of Renaissance Music, 1420-1520.
Sacred Vocal Music. Secular Vocal Music. Instrumental Music.
6. Music in the 16th Century.
Secular Vocal Music. Sacred Vocal Music. Instrumental Music in the 16th Century. Mannerism.


War, Revolution, and Colonial Expansion. The Scientific Revolution. The Musical Baroque.

7. The New Practice.
Searching for the Secrets of Ancient Greek Music. The Florentine Camerata. The Seconda Prattica. Music in the Baroque Era: A Stylistic Overview.

8. Vocal Music, 1600-1650.
Secular Song. Opera. Sacred Music.

9. Vocal Music, 1650-1750.
Opera. Sacred Music. Conceptions of the Compositional Process.

10. Instrumental Music, 1600-1750.
Instruments of the Baroque Era. Instrumental Genres of the Baroque Era.


The Age of Enlightenment. War and Revolution. The Industrial Revolution. Music in Enlightenment Society.

11. The Art of the Natural.
Music and the Idea of Nature. Music in the Classical Era: A Stylistic Overview. Style and Form in the Mid-18th Century.

12. Instrumental Music in the Classical Era.
The Language of Instrumental Music. Sonata. String Quartet. Cyclical Coherence. The Symphony. Concerto.

13. Vocal Music in the Classical Era.
Opera Wars. Gluck and the Reform of Opera. Mozart and the Synthesis of Operatic Styles. Sacred Music.


Revolution and Reaction. Nationalism. Science and Technology. The Musical World of the 19th Century.

14. The Age of the Tone-Poet.
Romanticism and the New Prestige of Instrumental Music. The Composer as High Priest. Originality and Historical Self-Consciousness. The New Dichotomy of Absolute and Program Music. Nationalism and Music. The Growing Division Between “Serious” and “Popular” Music. Music in the 19th Century: A Stylistic Overview.

15. Orchestral Music, 1800-1850.
The Symphony. The Concert Overture. The Concerto.

16. Piano Music, Chamber Music, Song.
Beethoven's Piano Sonatas and String Quartets. Song. The Character Piece.

17. Dramatic and Sacred Music.
Opera. Operetta. Sacred Music.

18. Orchestral Music, 1850-1900.
Music for Dancing and Marching. Ballet. The Symphonic Poem. The Symphony.


The Impact of Recorded Sound. Modernism.

19. The Growth of Pluralism.
Fragmentation versus Diversity. Past versus Present. Recorded versus Live Music. Authenticity versus Sponteneity. The Uses of Music in the 20th Century. Music in the 20th Century: A Stylistic Overview.

20. The Search for New Sounds: 1890-1940.
Impressionism. Challenges to Tonality. Primitivism. Ragtime and Jazz. Nationalism. New Timbres.

21. Beyond Tonality.
Atonality. Serial Composition.

22. The Tonal Tradition.
Neo-Classicism and The New Objectivity. Orchestral Music. Film Music. Ballet. Chamber Music. Song. Musical Theater.

23. New Currents after 1940.
Rhythmic Organization. Microtonal Composition. Combinatoriality. Integral Serialism. Aleatory Music. Electronic Music. The Electronic Manipulation of Live Music. Rock, Folk Jazz. Minimalism. Postmodernism.

Epilogue: Music at the Beginning of the 21st Century.
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This book rests on the premise that the best way to convey the history of Western music is to focus squarely on the music—integrating the requisite names, dates, and concepts into the study of a carefully selected repertory of works. Once familiar with a representative body of music, students can better grasp the evolution of musical style and music's changing uses within the Western tradition. Even more importantly, they will have a sound basis from which to explore other musical works and repertories.

A History of Music in Western Culture builds its narrative around the core repertory represented in the accompanying Anthology of Scores and corresponding set of compact disks. The text is not an encyclopedia. My goal, rather, has been to help students gain a broad understanding of the nature of music, its role in society, and the ways in which these have changed over time.

Finally, A History of Music in Western Culture seeks to challenge students to think critically about its subject. The history of music is too often presented (and learned) as one long series of indisputable facts. I have tried to integrate into this text enough documents—primary sources—to demonstrate that the raw materials of history are often open to conflicting interpretations. Indeed, the most interesting historical issues tend to be precisely those about which experts disagree.


The narrative of A History of Music in Western Culture is closely integrated with the accompanying Anthology of Scores. Every work in the anthology gets a discussion in the text, called out with a note in the margin, and the anthologyis ordered to follow the sequence in which those discussions occur within the text. In addition, whenever a work in the anthology is mentioned in any other context, it is identified as such parenthetically.

Following a Prologue on the music of classical Antiquity, the text is divided into six parts, each corresponding to a major era in music history: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, 19th century, and 20th century. The text concludes with a brief Epilogue on music today.

Each part begins with a prelude—with one or more maps—that summarizes the historical and social background of each era. The first chapter in each part provides an overview of the major stylistic characteristics and theoretical concerns of the music of the era. Parts 4 (Classical period), 5 (19th century), and 6 (20th century) conclude with a brief survey of all the major composers of their respective eras.

The text also offers a variety of features and pedagogical tools:

  • The opening pages of each prelude include a comparative timeline that lists major musical events side by side with other significant historical events.
  • An outline at the beginning of each chapter gives students an overview of the content of the chapter.
  • Key terms are highlighted in each chapter and defined in a glossary at the end of the book.
  • Significant composers are featured in extended composer profiles that include key biographical information and a survey of principal works.
  • Primary evidence boxes contain excerpts from relevant contemporary documents, exposing students to some of the raw materials of music history.
  • Focus boxes highlight important information that expands on aspects of the core narrative.
  • Numerous examples, tables, and diagrams help students grasp key points and visualize musical structures.
  • The last chapter in each part concludes with a set of discussion questions designed to stimulate reflection on broad issues in music history.

Finally, A History of Music in Western Culture is richly illustrated with carefully chosen images drawn from the period under discussion. Detailed captions reveal the wealth of information—about music, composers, and their role in society—embedded in these artworks. Four inserts with more than 20 color illustrations are distributed throughout the book.


A History of Music in Western Culture comes with a variety of supplementary print and multimedia materials for both instructors and students.

Anthology of Scores in Two Volumes

The more than 250 works in the Anthology of Scores to A History of Music in Western Culture have been carefully selected to represent the developments in music history elucidated in the text. Every work in the Anthology of Scores is discussed in the text. Volume I covers Antiquity through the Baroque Era; Volume II covers music of the Classical Era through the 20th Century.


Two sets of six compact disks complement the text and Anthology of Scores. Produced by Naxos of America in close coordination with Prentice Hall, the two compilations are arranged chronologically and mirror the content of the Anthology.

Instructor's Resource Manual

The Instructor's Resource Manual with Tests provides a summary, bibliography, a bank of test questions, and suggested discussion topics and activities for each chapter of the text. These are carefully organized to ease class preparation, instruction, and testing.

Companion Website

The Companion Website for A History of Music in Western Culture provides students an opportunity to delve more deeply into the ideas and personalities discussed in the text. Students can evaluate their progress with study and essay questions and report the results to the instructor. The site also includes an array of historical documents to complement those in the text. Many of the documents that appear in abbreviated form in the text appear complete on the site. Essay questions accompany each of these documents.

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