Music: Its Language, History, and Culture
Douglas Cohen, CUNY Brooklyn College
Copyright Year: 2015
Publisher: CUNY Academic Works
Conditions of Use
The overall text provides very basic, introductory context for an introduction to music. The goals are broad and comprehensive, but the actual breadth feels limited (and the text is quite short). Some of the sections are more comprehensive than... read more
The overall text provides very basic, introductory context for an introduction to music. The goals are broad and comprehensive, but the actual breadth feels limited (and the text is quite short). Some of the sections are more comprehensive than others, with a final chapter on "World Music" feeling tacked on.
The information contained within this text is generally accurate and error-free, though there is definitely a demonstrated Western bias.
The text has been updated (most recently in 2014), but discussions of popular music and more contemporary composers end in the 1990s.
The text is relatively clear and accessible overall.
The individual sections vary greatly in terms of consistency, with some chapters providing explicit explanations of terminology and musical examples, while others are lacking in details.
This text could be easily adapted and divided for a variety of purposes.
The organization is clear, though I wonder why the musician biographies at the end (roughly one third of the text) weren't integrated into the text itself.
The text is easy to navigate, as it is simply a PDF document. Images are clear, though they are unlabeled and need contextual clues.
No noted grammatical errors.
While the text embraces an introduction to music from a broad stance (and sections are devoted to American vernacular music, rock, rap, jazz, and world music), the approach gives rather surface-level information on music outside the Western cannon. It isn't culturally insensitive, but rather lacks depth.
Music: Its Language, History, and Culture provides a comprehensive review of the development of musical genres through the ages from early periods through the classical, baroque, romantic, folk, jazz and hip hop eras with historical references in... read more
Music: Its Language, History, and Culture provides a comprehensive review of the development of musical genres through the ages from early periods through the classical, baroque, romantic, folk, jazz and hip hop eras with historical references in each era to provide a better understanding of cultural timeframes.
This text is well research and accurate in it's description of musical styles, providing a basis in musical theory such as time signatures, diatonic scales, and thematic development without being too technical. It is readable for the novice delving into music appreciation for the first time, but dense enough to attract the accomplished musician. Chapters provide historical context without opinion as to validity of musical style or cultural acceptance.
Music: It's Language History and Culture separates musical genres by historical timelines up to the present day and can therefore be added to and updated without having to edit previous content.
Text content is well written and informative without being too technical, but the content and historic references would be more entertaining with the inclusion of more imagery. Each chapter opening provides only one visual image to set the tone of the genre-historic images of noted composers, musicians and cultural figures would provide more comparative context.
The book's format and presentation of matter is consistent throughout and can therefore be easily researched and referenced by the reader.
Each chapter is easily readable and follows on the style and presentation of previous chapters with good flow and narrative. The reader can pick and choose a genre or style to study without have read all previous sections for a complete understanding of a musical style or theoretical study, such as counterpoint, percussive effects, etc.
All topics covered are presented in a consistent fashion without deviance from presentation. Historical references are clear and the inclusion of brief composer's biographies and a glossary or musical terms provides benefit to the reader when completing research.
Each section is easy to navigate and research without the inclusion of the use of too much technical jargon or sub texts.
The text contains no grammatical errors and is well written with good punctuation.
Each musical genre studied is respectful of the cultural norms of the time without providing judgement as to tastes, ethnicities or geographical regions.
As stated previously, the graphic style of the book is a bit dry and would be greatly benefitted by the inclusion of more imagery to entertain the reader and keep him or her focused on the content. Other than that, it is very readable and I enjoyed it enormously.
It is difficult to assess the comprehensiveness of this text as a whole, because it seems to be four differently-functioning texts that were later compiled. The first three chapters are quite thorough, although one could quibble about categories... read more
It is difficult to assess the comprehensiveness of this text as a whole, because it seems to be four differently-functioning texts that were later compiled. The first three chapters are quite thorough, although one could quibble about categories (for example, “rhythm” and “meter” are discussed as separate characteristics, but “scale” is only considered under the heading of “pitch”) and definitions (for example, “chorus” is defined as “twenty or more singers grouped in soprano, alto, tenor, and bass sections,” which is very precise but inaccurate), and the bias is unmistakably Western European. Chapters 4 and 5 are a breakneck race through Western art music history, with summary prose sketches of each period followed by lists of historical events, figures, and genres. These seem to function as a study guide or a review for students with previous thorough knowledge of the material. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 are well-organized discussions of genres outside of the Western art music tradition, but they are quite brief (although longer than the earlier Western period sections), and sometimes don’t do what they say they will (for example, the introduction to Chapter 8 states that it will discuss music of “Africa, India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean,” and then proceeds to also address music from China, Argentina, and Eastern Europe). Finally, the appendices include a long list of musician biographies, only two of which might be considered non-Western, and the glossary. There is no index (not as much of a problem with a searchable PDF).
The information is generally accurate, but partial. There is a broad bias toward Western traditions, which is to be expected from a course like this, although the course objectives in the introduction do not make that explicit.
Very little after the 1990s is discussed, although the most recent publication date is 2014.
The prose is generally understandable, although there is often significant missing context. It would seem to be a difficult read for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the subject matter.
This book seems to be four differently-functioning texts that were later compiled. The first is a prose discussion of music “fundamentals” (Chapters 1-3). The second is a study guide for Western art music history (Chapters 4-5). The third is a prose discussion of several musics outside of the Western art tradition, variously divided by geography, chronology, or genre (Chapters 6-8). The fourth and final section is a long list of musician biographies and musical term definitions (Appendices 1 and 2).
This text could absolutely be divided without any trouble - that actually seems to be the original context, since different sections of the book function very differently from each other.
The topics proceed as one would expect in an introductory appreciation course like this one. The internal organization of each topic is less logical - sometimes genre based, sometimes chronologically based, and sometimes geographically based.
There are no technical display failures, but the visual layout consists solely of large blocks of text, with one photographic image per chapter. Not a varied or engaging interface.
There are no significant grammatical errors.
The inclusion of vernacular and international music discussion leads to more discussion of musicians from underrepresented groups, and there don’t seem to be any overtly offensive passages.
This text could function as a very effective review tool or study guide. It could also be excerpted as supplemental readings. I would have a hard time using it as the textbook in an introductory music appreciation course, which seems to be the intent.
The book is fairly comprehensive, but its length is relatively short. This keeps the text from diving too deep into any one topic well enough to be considered comprehensive. read more
The book is fairly comprehensive, but its length is relatively short. This keeps the text from diving too deep into any one topic well enough to be considered comprehensive.
I noticed no errors in accuracy.
There are large sections of music history that occurred in the last 20 years, in many genres, which are not covered at all. While earlier sections of music history are covered, as well as information from areas around the world, the currency of the information keeps a relevance score low.
This text isn't too dry, which can be an issue with some music history texts. Rather, it felt pretty reasonable, with information presented alongside terms in an easy-to-read, flowing style.
I saw no issues with consistency in this text.
I believe portions of this text can easily be divided into smaller sections. However, the beginning of the text throws so many terms at the reader all together that it would be difficult to go through those besides doing it all at once. Later sections resolve this issue.
I saw no issue with the organization of the text. All topics flow logically from one to another.
There were a few blank pages between a couple chapters. I would have thought the extra page separating chapters was intentional, but I don't believe it was uniform throughout the text.
I noticed no glaring grammatical errors.
The book does a good job at trying to present the information from as broad a perspective as possible. However, the book doesn't describe itself as a Western Music History text, but its inclusion of large sections such as the Renaissance, the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, and overall slant toward European music history can't quite keep it as broad as it seems to wish.
I think this text would be an excellent supplemental material text for a course. However, as a main text, I believe it falls short. I do not believe it contains enough information in great enough detail to warrant an entire semester's course.
The goals for the text, as stated in the introduction and implied by the table of contents, are comprehensive and ambitious for an appreciation-type text; however, at only 64 pages for the main body of the text, and with very few examples, the... read more
The goals for the text, as stated in the introduction and implied by the table of contents, are comprehensive and ambitious for an appreciation-type text; however, at only 64 pages for the main body of the text, and with very few examples, the ability to deliver much depth is limited. This lack of depth makes it feel like reading an outline or notes that someone has taken during lectures on the subjects presented. The broad strokes are there and it could be a great refresher or study guide for someone who already knows the material, but any examples and further context that might make it come alive for the reader new to the material have been stripped away. One would need to add many, many examples to reinforce the concepts and people introduced in the text. If you like the flexibility to add a lot of your own material in addition to the text, this might be useful. If you need things complete with a lot of built-in examples, this book wouldn’t be for you. It would be difficult for the text to stand on its own for the average college-level general education student. Perhaps in its original context at Brooklyn College, the text was used by several sections of the same course, with each teacher able to add examples and further discussion to the basic text. It contains a glossary of basic music terms and no index.
There are likely to be fine details where some would quibble, but all of the broader, basic information would fall within the spectrum of “correct.” Because of the summary nature of the writing with few or no examples, it sometimes isn’t that things are inaccurate, but rather that it seems like things are missing or simplified in order to keep things pared down. This can be okay if everyone knows what is going on and a little risky if they don’t. One glaring issue is the lack of documentation for any of the quotations in the biographical sketches. The rest of the book similarly lacks documentation or bibliography, but there we are at least dealing with stock information for the most part—it’s a textbook. But in this cut-and-paste age, I worry that students using the sketches would learn bad habits from what is modeled. (I had to lower my score from a four to a three because of this.)
The main text was written in 2006 with updates in 2007, 2008, and 2014, and there don’t appear to be any topics where the substantive discussions go past the mid 1990s. For example, the discussion of “rock-and-roll” stops in the 1960s with a trailing sentence letting us know that there were later developments. Similarly, the discussion of jazz stops in the 1980s, and the discussions of rap, R&B, and world music stop in the 1990s. This isn’t atypical for textbooks, which have a lag time in publication, but don’t expect discussions of the latest, greatest happenings within these areas. The text tends to focus on origins, and one would need to supplement a lot if recent trends were important. The chapters on musical elements and Western art music are a little more timeless.
Generally clear with some technical terms here and there that could be explained better by example or more in-depth writing than by having to look them up in the glossary.
There is a big difference between chapters in tone and substance. They are unbalanced. For example, we have the first three chapters (elements, instruments, performance traditions) that read like normal prose with complete, if basic, discussions of the topics at hand. We then move to “outline mode” when we hit European and American art music. We get relatively brief and broad introductory paragraphs of each time period (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc.) followed by shopping lists—no details or examples—of events, places, musical developments, and people. Then when we get to chapters on American vernacular music, jazz, and world music, things dramatically slow down again with more depth to the prose.
Although brief, the individual segments of the book can stand on their own without needing to refer to other sections of the book. The sections could be assigned as individual units. The individual chapters could also serve as supplemental, alternative, or study-guide material for an existing course instead of serving as core texts. (The latter is how I would likely use the material in the book.)
The presentation of topics follows a reasonable plan and anyone who is familiar with appreciation-type courses will be able to navigate what is a fairly traditional method of organization. The only oddity here is the appendix of musician biographies at the end of the book. At thirty pages, it is roughly a third(!) of the entire book. I really like that it mixes the people without regard to time periods or styles—one finds Mozart next to Presley—and I enjoyed the sketches, but I’m not sure what one does with it.
If one is looking for plain text without examples or interactive features, then this would rate a five (5), because that is all it is. It is a PDF with clean and readable text. If one is looking for lots of color images, examples, interactive links, and other similar features, then this would rate a one (1). Given those two extremes, I’ve averaged it out to a three (3).
The prose is fine in terms of grammar. It is readable.
On the plus side, by giving a large amount of space to rock, rap, jazz, and world music, it elevates discussions of vernacular music and world music, which tend to include more discussions about persons of color, to the same level as discussions of Western European derived art music, which do not. However, the text is so spare overall in this book that any substantive discussion of the various cultures presented isn’t possible. Everything is overview without many details. There isn’t a problem so much with a lack of cultural sensitivity as there is with a lack of cultural depth. As I’ve stated elsewhere, one could add many examples to give context and content to support the text, and maybe this is the intent.
My overall reaction to this book is that it comes down to what you need this textbook to do for you. If you need something very pared down to act as a scaffolding that you then add a lot of your own material to, it is short and flexible enough for you to do that. If you need something with everything wrapped up and complete that could stand on its own without much needed from you, then you won’t be happy with it.
Ideas of the subject are covered, albeit without enough on non-western cultures. The text may be useful for introduction to musical styles and ideas, but not for world music. read more
Ideas of the subject are covered, albeit without enough on non-western cultures. The text may be useful for introduction to musical styles and ideas, but not for world music.
Although the title of the text bespeaks of the general ideas about music, it privileged music of Western Europe and the United States. Information on other non-western music are scanty, and often did not add to knew knowledge about those other cultures.
The content is mostly direct, and simple. I would say accurate in regards to American and Western European traditions. However, the author relied on old information that are erroneous with regards to African music. E.g. "Western idea of sitting silently while a performance is taking place is an anathema to these traditions." This is a misleading sweeping statement about music in West Africa.
It serves well for a high school introduction to musical styles and ideas; I am not so sure it fits as a college textbook.
The text is clear enough and used simple language.
The text is easy to adapt.
They are logical enough and clear.
Images and diagrams are original and clear.
No grammatical errors noted.
The text is neutral at least overtly on cultural sensitivities, however, the use of sweeping and biased statements that are based on old ethnomusicolgical conjectures such as that Africans privilege rhythm over melody and harmony where the reverse is the case in the west shows lack of understanding on the history of racial ideology that informed that claim when Eric von Hornbostel first stated in early 20th century.
The text covers all areas of the subject, but not in as much detail as I would want in a primary course text. I do, however, think this text would provide enough material to be used as a secondary reference text. read more
The text covers all areas of the subject, but not in as much detail as I would want in a primary course text. I do, however, think this text would provide enough material to be used as a secondary reference text.
This text is accurate.
I believe this text can be easily updated. It tends toward many lists and biographies, to which material can easily be added.
The text is written with clearly accessible language. Chapters provide easily understandable composition, some almost to the point of seeming to be meant for a younger reader.
The text is not consistent in its framework. Some chapters are lengthy, yet meaningful. Other chapters afford only a brief overview, not allowing the reader more than a glimpse into the subject matter.
The text is easily divisible so as to be read in small sections.
For the most part, the text topics are presented in an organized fashion. I do not think the long lists that appear throughout the book are necessary. Some of the items in the lists do not even follow the topics.
The text is free of display issues and, as a result, is extremely easy to navigate.
I found no grammatical errors.
The text is inclusive and free of examples that would be insensitive or offensive to any race or ethnicity.
I would not use this text as the primary textbook for any of the courses I teach. I would, however, recommend it as a very good supplemental reading source.
With a title including the words "language, history, and culture," one might expect to have the text focus on those points. With this text, however, the authors fail to adequately address that content. For example, there are only two paragraphs on... read more
With a title including the words "language, history, and culture," one might expect to have the text focus on those points. With this text, however, the authors fail to adequately address that content. For example, there are only two paragraphs on the Romantic Era, and there is a much longer list of important (non-music) Romantic Era figures. Major components of content for a Music Appreciation course are glossed over.
I do not think the book is inaccurate. I do think it is missing some important details about significant musical figures and events.
The text could be updated, yes. Content is shallow, but up to date.
Different authors have different tone. While not cumbersome, I did not find the theory-related chapters to be as clear as I would desire in a text like this. There is too much given to the student in a distilled manner, with no chance to develop more than a cursory and temporary understanding.
For most of the chapters pertaining to musical eras, the framework is similar. The other chapters, however, have more substantial content. The chapters on American Vernacular Music, Jazz, and World Music have significantly more content and more detail. The subchapter on "Old School Rap," for instance, is longer than the section on the Romantic Era. While I have respect for those who teach vernacular music, one would think this text would be more equitable for all time periods, and it is not.
I do like this part of the text - I might use the "chapter" on Romantic Era as a pre-reader for more in-depth study. Also, the Jazz chapter is longer and more detailed than most Music Appreciation texts allow, and I would use this as a way to expand on another text. I like the possibilities this text has in pieces, just not as one single whole or solo text use.
The chronological order of time periods followed by other topics makes sense.
The text is easy to navigate and scroll through. I do not like the font, personally, but I had no issues navigating the document or finding my way through the text.
I did not find any errors.
I do appreciate that the text highlights music from different parts of the world and spends time describing and explaining those musics. It is not cursory and is respectful to those cultures.
Depending on what the focal point of a Music Appreciation course is, this book may cover information you would like to use. It seems to be quite limited in actual detail regarding the history of Western art music, but does cover the bases of multiple other musics.
The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject, but because of the enormity of the subject, each area is shortened. The entire book is only 110 pages of a survey of music, including classical, American vernacular, jazz and world music.There... read more
The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject, but because of the enormity of the subject, each area is shortened. The entire book is only 110 pages of a survey of music, including classical, American vernacular, jazz and world music.There are too many types of music spanning a large period of time to discuss much detail. The book does contain a comprehensive and helpful glossary featuring common musical terms.
I found the book to be very accurate in the content, error-free and unbiased. The author presented the facts in a easy to understand and readable format.
This text will not be obsolete because much of the information is historical. Of course, as time goes on and music continues to evolve, additional updates will be necessary to stay current. The text is arranged in such a way in chronological order that updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement. I believe continued updates to the book will help it remain relevant and usable for music survey type classes.
The book's clarity is good. The author explains musical terms in a clear and concise manner with examples that help understanding and makes the technical terminology easy to grasp. Adequate context is also given historically and the prose is lucid and interesting to read.
The book is consistent and every chapter is set-up in the same manner. After the genre of music is presented, historic context is presented which includes non-musical events from all over the world. This helps to put into perspective where the music fits into world history. After that, milestones in music are presented, which highlight the most important musical events or creations during the time. Musical genres are then featured. And finally, major figures in music and other historical figures are given. This consistent format helps to keep the information organized and to make the broader connections between music, history and culture all over the world.
The text is easily and readily divisible into small reading sections. Assignments, lectures and discussions could be easily created within the subheadings. A couple of the chapters could even be taught in a different order without disruption to the student.
The organization, structure and flow of the book are good. Music seems to lend itself to organization. Most music survey books start with fundamentals and then proceed in a chronological order. This makes sense because the music evolves and builds on the previous periods. I have two small suggestions in this area. First, the classical/art music from 1900 until the present is lumped into one chapter, which I have seen in many music survey books. Now that we have entered the 21st century, I believe a new chapter starting in 2000 would be better. There is too much music and too many changes for it all to be in one chapter. Second, the author places the Musician Biographies at the end of the book right before the Glossary. All musicians are lumped together here - Bach, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, etc. It's a bit weird. I believe it would be more helpful if a Musician Biographies section was added at the end of each chapter. This way the students can be familiar with them within their genre or time period.
The interface of the book is straightforward and accurate. The images are in the correct spots and add to the reading and understanding of the text. They are also clear of any distortion.
There were no grammatical errors that I saw. The text flowed in an understandable manner.
The cultural relevance of the book was not insensitive or offensive in any way. The author was respectful of the cultures,races and ethnicities that were referred to throughout the text. There are so many cultures covered in this text and they are discussed with dignity with respect to their musical contributions.
I believe this book would be an excellent resource for a general music survey class at the collegiate level.
This book aims to be quite comprehensive but is far too broad and general in its scope, with quite shallow chapters and arduous lists. While it was designed for a specific course, it would difficult to use this text in another setting as is and... read more
This book aims to be quite comprehensive but is far too broad and general in its scope, with quite shallow chapters and arduous lists. While it was designed for a specific course, it would difficult to use this text in another setting as is and would require significant supplemental material to be effective in any sort of basic survey course.
This text is accurate, yet brief, and seems to be error free.
The text is up-to-date with historical information, and given the way the material is divided would be very easy to update over time. Given the brief nature of the material, any expansion would be a welcomed addition.
This book is clear in its prose, but the formatting makes it difficult to read as each page is filled with nothing but text. Additional graphics would allow for better understanding of the material.
The book seems quite consistent in both format and material within chapters, however the material in the appendix would be better integrated into the chapters themselves.
Given the brief nature of the text, this would be very difficult to use modularly. The chapter on European and American Art Music since 1900, for example, is two pages of prose, followed by four pages of lists only. This would not suffice on its own at all.
The material is well organized, yet brief and very general. The formatting is not great and would be better with incorporated graphics or pictures to enhance the material.
There is no interface with this book. Given the short nature of the work, any links or pictures would definitely improve the quality of this work.
The prose is well written and grammatically accurate.
This book is inclusive of various kinds of music from around the world, but is far to short to be inclusive in any meaningful way. There is nothing offensive.
This book would be very difficult to use for any other class except the one for which it was created without significant additional material or revision.
Deciding what goes into a music history class or textbook is a great struggle. This book is a cursory approach to many topics and, at roughly 100 pages, could serve as a starting point for a music appreciation course. The chapters on musical... read more
Deciding what goes into a music history class or textbook is a great struggle. This book is a cursory approach to many topics and, at roughly 100 pages, could serve as a starting point for a music appreciation course. The chapters on musical elements at the outset may be sufficient to support a class lecture or series of activities, but on their own (without examples) they may remain abstract. The waveform images certainly aid in this, however. I would worry about using it for online courses (which do not appear to be the goal of this reader) because of the lack of engagement with terminology once it is introduced. The discussion of rhythm and meter, for example, could prove to be so brief as to cause more confusion than they alleviate without in-class examples or, at least, specific references to listening from a playlist. (The use of written poetry makes an effort here, but forces a student to imagine rhythm and meter in a purely linguistic sense, for example.) Within the historical chapters, brief outlines are followed by listings of important dates, both musical and otherwise. These do not always appear within the narrative, leaving the student or teacher to discern their relevance within the authors' described musical history. Genre listings and major historical figures appear within this listing as well, though they are formatted and read much like a glossary. Contemporary alternative textbooks focus on these narratives, wrapping the arts and history of a period into the musical innovations of the time while this reader appears to act as a reference point for students, though without the types of references that could prove more useful. In this sense, the text operates more as a study guide. The move to non-classical genres appears to lean more readily on the authors' interests, or perhaps the course content. A chapter on "American vernacular music" covers "folk music," ballads, African American sacred forms, the blues, rock and roll, and rap. These sections are roughly one page each, though the rap section is split into two halves (old and new school). Here the timeline and figure listings are gone, though I imagine that students would benefit from placing American musical history within a social, economic, and political context. A chapter on world music is similarly brief, with single pages addressing full regions and continents. Not unlike working through centuries within paragraphs, these have a tendency to overview (and flatten) deep individual styles under strident generalizations. The authors note this, mentioning the "vast range of musical practices found throughout" Africa, for example. Again, this may serve a live course well but would not effectively stand on its own as a comprehensive textbook. Each world region is covered in three to six paragraphs, though a segment on carnival in Brooklyn leaves the reader interested in how a book like this (an open textbook) could effectively localize a music appreciation class for a specific course in a specific place. The narrative history concludes after 64 of the book's 100 pages. The remaining section is a listing of musical biographies. These range in length and depth but focus on major historical computers (Bach, Beethoven, etc.) and jazz performers (Coltrane, Armstrong, Ellington). There are occasional popular and world musicians mixed in as well (Shankar, Dylan). These appear to work in conjunction with the chapters as a reference for students to flip back and forth between. The final pages include a glossary.
The book is largely accurate, though general. There are few (if any) citations to further reading for students or lecturers who are interested in stepping beyond the page-length discussions of musical eras or genres.
The book is relevant and clear with sections on issues like music technology and globalization. Expansion would be a welcome addition that would help improve the relevance outside of its role as a reader for a specific class and allow it to stand on its own as a textbook.
The brief overviews that comprise most of this text make for quick, clear reading. The lack of detail, however, can make certain leaps or generalizations more opaque.
The text is largely consistent within chapters, though the treatment of western classical eras and more contemporary genres are quite different. It feels like two different twenty page introductory papers.
The brevity really prevents any significant modularity. With European history covered in twenty pages, reading for an individual period (on the Middle Ages, for instance) would only take a student a few minutes.
The organizational logic is clear, just brief. Musician biographies might better serve the book within the chapters and narratives instead of (or in addition to) timelines would help to tell the history.
There is little "interface" other than the text, lists, and a photo at the opening of individual chapters. The study guide-like formatting of the classical music chapters could help or hinder readers, depending on how they are used in conjunction with the lectures.
The material is well written.
The authors work to incorporate world music into a general music history text. The chapter on instruments, for example, includes examples from outside of the Western classical or American popular music traditions. The chapter on world music, however, is quite superficial.
Covering music history requires a subjective selection of artifacts that represent the time period, genres, cultural context and significant composers and performers. This collection of essays is not comprehensive but does touch upon the stated... read more
Covering music history requires a subjective selection of artifacts that represent the time period, genres, cultural context and significant composers and performers. This collection of essays is not comprehensive but does touch upon the stated objectives of the work. A glossary is included.
I agree with another reviewer, Lew Jones: “The book is general enough that it is hard to find large-scale errors, but there are many small errors and potentially confusing moments. To give just a few examples: * The first phrase of “Jingle Bells” does not end with a half cadence (though the second one does), and a contratenor (not contra tenor) is not the same as a countertenor (not counter tenor). * It is fair to say that the fact that the modern flute is made of metal but classified as a woodwind instrument, but it’s confusing to leave that statement without explaining that there are in fact historical reasons for that classification—without that, the reader is left wondering why such a classification error exists.” The appendix includes several biographies that should have sources documented
The text is segmented so would be easy to update. The historical aspect would not need to be updated while more contemporary information may need to be enhanced or modified to represent changing times.
This text requires that the reader have basic understanding of music and history in order to comfortably read through the information. Due to this, readers may not consistently have adequate context for the information.
The collection is consistent with use of terminology. Music terms are in bold and preceded or followed by a brief explanation.
The topics are treated separately so could be used in sections to enrich another course in music appreciation. However, some topics may need additional text to provide complete treatment of the topic.
The organization does not flow or seem logical. Chapter Four has a short paragraph related for each historical period; then contains 5 lists: Historic Context, Milestones in Music, Musical Genres, Major Figures in Music, and Other Historic Figures. The Historic Context sections have a plethora of listed items, some of which have little relevance to music. Examples: “Pineapples imported into Europe, 1514.” “Coffee introduced to Europe 1517.” “Tobacco planted in Virginia, 1812.” The Other Historic Figures section also has an extensive list for each time period, many of them listed would not be relevant to music.
The navigation layout is confusing. Example: Handel’s biography does not mention The Messiah but the work is mentioned in other sections of the text. For example: A performance of The Messiah is listed in the “Milestones in Music” in the Baroque and Classical time periods.
I found no grammatical errors
I would say that, in general, cultural relevance was met. One omission was Hildegard van Bingen as a female composer in the Renaissance. I consider her a significant early female composers and leader in the Catholic Church. The text does address the cultural reasons for a lack of women as composers in Clara Schumann’s biography.
This collection of essays was clearly designed for a specific course and would not serve as a textbook for my classes. Parts of it could be used to supplement or enhance information.
This book is a timeline of terminology, historical facts, and music genres. It reads like several books albeit four authors. By the time the glossary shows up the reader has traveled through different periods such as The Renaissance, The Baroque... read more
This book is a timeline of terminology, historical facts, and music genres. It reads like several books albeit four authors. By the time the glossary shows up the reader has traveled through different periods such as The Renaissance, The Baroque or Romantic period and modern music with a nod to Bartok and others in the Classical movement. Initially the book talks about audiology, linguistic phonics and electronic sound.. It 's comprehensiveness is in its peripheral narrative and its bibliographies after chapters end. You can buy a dictionary type glossary at book stores better than at the end of this book however. The composers of high merit mentioned seems to be historically bias. The Beatles are never mentioned , jazz great Chet Baker or Bill Evans, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors etc As a beginner's book Music:Its Language, History and Culture works.One of the best chapters is on the American Vernacular A strange line from the book however is: "The sentimental and tragic themes of Anglo American ballads, along with the high-pitched, "whiney" vocal style, have survived and flourished in 20th century popular country music." Religion and its roots in Blues , Classical and Jazz is delved into but Jazz gets most of the ink. The idiosyncratic nature of composers like Duke Ellington and Beethoven are nice novelties to explore. I found the book a little fragmented and seemed to rely on here say as much as historical truth.
The accuracy about language, audiology and historical influence is accurate. The need to express music and how it was invented to fit each period was well researched. The footnotes are accurate. It leans towards certain players as vanguards of a certain sound but really misses people like Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins to name a few. For a freshman who is curious about music there is an accuracy to details regards ensembles, instrument choice and World Music which pentatonic scales versus diatonic. Knowing this and information on syncopation and how modern music came to be is an accurate description of the human timeline regarding sounds and how form came to be. I thought doing a biopic of Handel and never mentioning his most famous religious piece "The Messiah" was a red flag regarding accuracy.
The fact that this is a historical narrative keeps it open to addition or a second improved pressing. THe second book could address many musicians not mentioned and could talk about the business side of music and the bands who maintained quality despite being commercialized. The freezing of time can be a problem for the book's relevance because Jazz has moved far away from the icons they gush over. The generalization of music as genre, nativity and intentional posturing is out of step with Rapp, Punk, Electronica. The book is a bit old timey in its clarion call to the arts.
The explanations of sound waves and pitch was easy to understand. The stories about the composers was good human history and its clarity to the common vernacular. It explained how many of the greats improvisers and not magicians. A young reader interested in the arts should find this book inspirational by merit of its organized trajectory. Using bold print before explaining terms like Wave Form makes it clear rather than obscure.
The first half of the book was very consistent while the World Music and Appendix/ Biography sections could have been more concise. To never mention Reggae after going on about Calypso was not consistent with the terminology and framework is one example.
The use of four writers make for groups of four in a classroom to explore the ideas. Math people will like the chapters on sound, while humanities people should enjoy the stories of the composers and their artistic drive that echoes on the timeline that leads up to their moment of fame and epiphany. World Music should create inclusion for those who are not in the western lexicon and its sounds and life expressions.
In regards to organization the book basically looks like four manuscripts glued together to make a book. The topic is very dense and if it was a graduate class would need a book just for annotation. Luckily for the writers this is appropriate for early college students.
The historical context lists really should be in the back rather than after the chapters due to their very long lists. Its good to let chapters flow easily for comprehension.
I saw no grammatical erors.
The World Music chapter and the discussion of primordial sounds gave this book a cultural relevance. The PC correct need to patronize or exoticize other cultures actually was a little odd. Music is a very opinionated forum if you start declaring who the real genius's were etc. The idea that John Cage was so profound and never mention Derrida, James Joyce or DuChamp made the book seem a little naive at times.
The book is excellent for history buffs and curious beginners.
The title and table of contents of this book appear to be comprehensive, but much of the contents are far too abbreviated to fulfill that goal. It might well be able to write a book of this type in just over 100 pages (really only 64 if the... read more
The title and table of contents of this book appear to be comprehensive, but much of the contents are far too abbreviated to fulfill that goal. It might well be able to write a book of this type in just over 100 pages (really only 64 if the appendices are pushed aside), but this to my mind is not that book. The historical chapters consist of only a few paragraphs for each style period (which makes it hard to get beyond sweeping generalizations), followed by long lists of people and events (mostly outside of music—for the ninteenth-century section, nineteen “major figures in music” are listed, and over sixty “other historic figures”). Not a single piece of music is discussed, or even named. A separate chapter is given for western art music since 1900, where two pieces of music are mentioned (one a nineteenth-century symphony), but even here a page-long list of “major figures in music” (which is balanced mostly toward jazz, blues, folk, and rock musicians) is dwarfed by longer lists of “historic context” and “other historic figures.” The chapters on “American vernacular music” and jazz are more substantial, but if they are the true focus of the book, then arguably too much space is given to the opening chapters. Why bother with a cursory discussion of the history of western art music, or its instruments and ensembles, if that is the case? The world music chapter returns to the cursory discussions of the western art music chapters. Nearly two pages are given to Africa, with a list of generally shared elements (such as the importance of music and dance), but no actual examples. Similarly brief discussions are given to the music of northern and southern India, Indonesia, and China. The Caribbean receives more attention, with some discussion of specific genres of music from Puerto Rico and Trinidad (including Trinidadian music in Brooklyn). The chapter ends with a brief discussion of music in South America, a separate section on the Argentinian tango, and Klezmer music. A large appendix (over 30 pages, so over 25% of the entire book) gives musician biographies, and a short glossary defines terms, but neither is connected to the text. I don’t understand why terms like “ritornello” or “tutti” need to be defined in a text that gives no examples of baroque music. I don’t see a good audience for this book; certainly it is not a book I could use even as a skeletal foundation for any class I teach, either for majors or non-majors. The level of information it would take to make this book make sense for someone who didn’t already know the material would be equal to that required without it, so the book is of no help whatsoever.
The book is general enough that it is hard to find large-scale errors, but there are many small errors and potentially confusing moments. To give just a few examples: * The first phrase of “Jingle Bells” does not end with a half cadence (though the second one does), and a contratenor (not contra tenor) is not the same as a countertenor (not counter tenor). * It is fair to say that the fact that the modern flute is made of metal but classified as a woodwind instrument, but it’s confusing to leave that statement without explaining that there are in fact historical reasons for that classification—without that, the reader is left wondering why such a classification error exists. * The so-called “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a letter Beethoven wrote to his brothers in 1802 when he realized his growing deafness would not get better, was not a will. I am also troubled by the fact that the biographies in the appendix include substantial quotations for which no source is given. This encourages students not to cite sources in their own work.
The excessively cursory nature of much of this book makes it difficult to use. If the focus is on “American vernacular” music and jazz, then much of the rest is not relevant, while even those sections are too telegraphic to be useful. As I've said elsewhere, I don't see how I could use this text in any class I teach. The amount of work it would take to make the book make sense to a reader who did not already know the subject would be the same as that required without the book--which means it effectively serves no purpose. It's not so much that what is here is truly bad, as that it is not helpful.
What prose there is is not bad on the whole, but it’s too sketchy to be clear to a reader who doesn’t already know the topic. The lists of dates in the historical chapters are not always in chronological order, and there are catch-all categories with wide date spans (such as the “establishment of major European cities” in the medieval section, which goes from c. 450 to c. 1250), which makes them very difficult to use.
Much of the opening chapters are entirely focused on western music (such as the introduction of the elements of music, save only a mention of the pentatonic scale), including a section on “western categories of instruments” with no mention of other instruments, which makes it seem out of place when, for instance, the gamelan is brought in as an example of an ensemble. This is followed by the historical chapters, again focused on western art music but so cursory as to make them appear insignificant. It becomes clear that “American vernacular music” and jazz are the real interest, but that makes the opening sections make less sense—and the final chapter on world music again doesn’t seem to fit the true focus.
The book is suitably modular, but the modules are often too cursory to be helpful.
The basic organization is typical (elements, western art music, jazz and popular music, world music), but they are not well balanced. It would be more effective if it were better focused on the apparent true interest, which is jazz and popular music, preceded with a chapter (or set of chapters) on the elements of music that is better focused toward the true goal. Opening with physics rather than music I expect is offputting to many students; the material is adequate, but I think it would work better to draw in the reader with music, then provide the physical explanations. I also find that opening chapter out of balance: half a page on rhythm (treating rhythm and meter as different elements, not meter as one aspect of rhythm), followed by slightly more on pitch (which seems to include harmony, though the term appears as part of texture), melody, and texture. That means the entire discussion of the elements of music gets about 3-1/2 pages, which I think even music majors would find too telegraphic, unless they already knew the material (and therefore did not need the book at all).
The potential problems created by pictures and links in an electronic text are not an excuse not to have them. This book has no links, and no pictures beyond those opening chapters—even when specific instruments are introduced. After the opening section on physics, there are no diagrams or figures, only plain text. That would be difficult to justify for a print book on music; for one that lives on the internet, it is unacceptable.
The writing is generally decent.
The book does not include any examples of cultural insensitivity. By trying to do too much in too little space, however, it does not give sufficient value to any culture.
I think this book is simply trying to do too much in too little space. A book on US vernacular musics, with an appropriately pitched elements section, would have room to discuss specific styles and examples, and it appears this author would be able to do such a thing. In this form, however, I don’t think it works—certainly it could not work for any class I teach.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Elements of Sound and Music
- Chapter 2: Musical Instruments and Ensembles
- Chapter 3: Composer, Performer, Audience
- Chapter 4: European Art Music: Middle Ages through Romantic
- Chapter 5: European and American Art Music since 1900
- Chapter 6: American Vernacular Music
- Chapter 7: Jazz
- Chapter 8: World Music
- Appendix 1: Musician Biographies
- Appendix 2: Glossary
About the Book
Welcome to Music 1300, Music: Its Language History, and Culture. The course has a numberof interrelated objectives:
1. To introduce you to works representative of a variety of music traditions.These include the repertoires of Western Europe from the Middle Agesthrough the present; of the United States, including art music, jazz, folk, rock, musical theater; and from at least two non-Western world areas (Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent).
2. To enable you to speak and write about the features of the music you study,employing vocabulary and concepts of melody, rhythm, harmony, texture, timbre,and form used by musicians.
3. To explore with you the historic, social, and cultural contexts and the role of class, ethnicity, and gender in the creation and performance of music,including practices of improvisation and the implications of oral andnotated transmission.
4. To acquaint you with the sources of musical sounds—instruments and voices fromdifferent cultures, found sounds, electronically generated sounds; basic principlesthat determine pitch and timbre.
5. To examine the influence of technology, mass media, globalization, and transnationalcurrents on the music of today.
The chapters in this reader contain definitions and explanations of musical terms and concepts,short essays on subjects related to music as a creative performing art, biographical sketchesof major figures in music, and historical and cultural background information on music fromdifferent periods and places.
About the Contributors
Douglas Cohen is an intermedia composer and often collaborator with film, performance and folk artists. He was an early advocate for digital media on the Internet. He organized the NewMusNet Conference of Arts Wire with Pauline Oliveros and later was arts wire systems coordinator.
Cohen is a specialist in American experimental music and pays particular attention to the work of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Pauline Oliveros. He co-created and produced the evening=length intermedia work imusicircus at Experimental Intermedia in New York and LACE Gallery in Los Angeles (later with the California EAR Unit at the L.A. County Museum of Art) as City Circus events for the John Cage exhibition Rolywholyover a Circus.
He received a bachelor of fine arts and a master of fine arts from the California Institute of the Arts, and a doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo.