The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles: How Music Has Shaped Civilization

Overview

A dynamic and expansive tour through 40,000 years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop songs.

Music is an intrinsic part of everyday life, and yet the history of its development from single notes to multi-layered orchestration can seem bewilderingly complex.

In his dynamic tour through 40,000 years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop, Howard Goodall leads us through the...

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The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles: How Music Has Shaped Civilization

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Overview

A dynamic and expansive tour through 40,000 years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop songs.

Music is an intrinsic part of everyday life, and yet the history of its development from single notes to multi-layered orchestration can seem bewilderingly complex.

In his dynamic tour through 40,000 years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop, Howard Goodall leads us through the story of music as it happened, idea by idea, so that each musical innovation—harmony, notation, sung theatre, the orchestra, dance music,
recording—strikes us with its original force. Along the way, he also gives refreshingly clear descriptions of what music is and how it works:
what scales are all about, why some chords sound discordant, and what all post-war pop songs have in common.

The story of music is the story of our urge to invent, connect, rebel—and entertain. Howard Goodall's beautifully clear and compelling account is both a hymn to human endeavor and a groundbreaking map of our musical journey.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
In this pedantic survey, composer Goodall ploddingly chronicles the innovations and inventions that have shaped the development of music (though classical music is the main focus). He presents some interesting facts—for example, the oldest list of musical instruments dates from 2600 BCE and a Mesopotamian clay tablet that lists various instruments, including the lyre, and provides instruction on playing a lute. In the Middle Ages, Guido of Arezzo came up with a method of notation to aid his choristers in singing songs, and Hildegard of Bingen “added ornamentation and melodic detail outside of the strict confines of standard method” as she composed her own chant tunes. He points out that by 1500 all the main families of musical instruments existed, and he traces briefly the ways that Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Wagner, Schoenberg, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, among others, influenced the development of music. (Jan.)
The Daily Telegraph
“Now comes Howard Goodall and everyone's prayers are answered. He starts right at the beginning, with 25,000-year-old bone flutes. A racily written, learned, and often shrewdly insightful book.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“A lively zip through some forty-five millennia, jumping back and forth between classical, folk, and pop.”
The Sunday TImes (London)
“A lively zip through some forty-five millennia, jumping back and forth between classical, folk, and pop.”
The Sunday Times - London
“A lively zip through some forty-five millennia, jumping back and forth between classical, folk, and pop.”
Library Journal
01/01/2014
British composer Goodall (composer in residence, Classic FM, UK; Every Purpose Under the Heaven oratorio) tries his hand at popular music history with this volume. His focus on the Western classical tradition and popular music is understandable given his evident desire for brevity, but his rationale is curious and unsupported by his text. For instance, he frequently compares Western innovations to those of India and China while insisting that these innovations are unique. Goodall's musical knowledge is much in evidence and to be expected, given his substantial composing career; however, his historical notes (such as referring to the people of the Renaissance as "cruel, barbaric monsters" whose sole redeeming characteristic was their artistic endeavors) are frequently baffling. This reviewer found the musical analysis, while well informed, difficult to follow, and this with the aid of a degree in music. It is hard to see how the lay reader for whom this book is clearly intended would fare with the same content. For a thoughtful, close study of the interaction of music, human creativity, and civilization, David Byrne's How Music Works would be a better choice. VERDICT An interesting endeavor that falls short. For music listeners interested in Western classical and popular music.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma, WA
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-10
A celebrated British composer and broadcaster surveys the evolution and cultural significance of music, from prehistoric caves to Coldplay. There's been nothing too new under the sun about the fundamentals of music since about 1450, begins Goodall (Big Bangs: The Story of Five Discoveries That Changed Musical History, 2001). Then he whisks us back to caves and prehistoric instruments (flutes, whistles) and begins his swift journey through the centuries. He recognizes that the subject requires much inference until the ages of notation, print and recording, but he plunges bravely into the lake of darkness and manages some illumination. We pause to look at "the magic of musical pitch," the concepts of octaves and harmony, the invention of the musical staff (A.D. 1000), and the evolution of rhythm, chords, chord progressions, musical keys and tempo. Goodall also explores the invention and modification of significant instruments--the violin, organ, piano--and the creation of various musical forms--songs, operas, oratorios, sonatas (a subject that bores him, he writes). The big names retain their size in his account. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and myriads of others will surprise none by their presence and prominence. The author is also alert to the significance of popular music and has some passages about Broadway and the movies, blues, rock 'n' roll (whose origin he traces to Benny Goodman!), jazz and hip-hop. Goodall also discusses the effects of political systems on music and musicians--from pre-revolutionary France to Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union and others. The author continually reminds us of technological advances--print, recordings, radio, films--that enabled music to spread as never before. He does not like conventional terms for musical periods (e.g., Classical, Neo-Classical) but finds himself forced to use them occasionally. Cultural history with some attitude and considerable rhythm and melody.
STARRED REVIEW Booklist
“With playlists for each chapter, this is a masterful and illuminating whirlwind tour through thousands of years of musical history.”
The Boston Globe
“Goodall's critical assessments are acute, balanced, and, as you might gather, sometimes provocative...His grasp of music's place in popular culture is astute. And his belief in the current 'convergence' of international pop, folk, and classical music is admirable.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605985381
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 342,775
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Goodall is an EMMY, BRIT and BAFTA award-winning composer of choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores, and a distinguished broadcaster. In recent years he has been England’s first ever National Ambassador for Singing, the Classical Brit Composer of the Year and Classic FM’s Composer-in-Residence. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to music education.
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