Music in the Late Twentieth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music

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The universally acclaimed and award-winning Oxford History of Western Music is the eminent musicologist Richard Taruskin's provocative, erudite telling of the story of Western music from its earliest days to the present. Each book in this superlative five-volume set illuminates-through a representative sampling of masterworks-the themes, styles, and currents that give shape and direction to a significant period in the history of Western music.

Music in the Late Twentieth Century is the final installment of the set, covering the years from the end of World War II to the present. In these pages, Taruskin illuminates the great compositions of recent times, offering insightful analyses of works by Aaron Copland, John Cage, Milton Babbitt, Benjamin Britten, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass, among many others. He also looks at the impact of electronic music and computers, the rise of pop music and rock 'n' roll, the advent of postmodernism, and the contemporary music of Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, and John Adams. Laced with brilliant observations, memorable musical analysis, and a panoramic sense of the interactions between history, culture, politics, art, literature, religion, and music, this book will be essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand this rich and diverse period.

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of Western Music
  • Paperback: 610 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (July 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195384857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195384857
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 1.4 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds

Customer Reviews

or enjoy modern orchestral music

 on October 20, 2017
By Joshua C.
I wish I had known about this book earlier… If you are looking for more than Jazz or Rock & Roll History in Modern Times, this is the book!!! If you are a composition student, or enjoy modern orchestral music, you NEED this book! This created a serious line of departure for me… It gives you way more than just surface information about some serious composers, but will leave you wanting a little bit more… In a good way! I found myself looking for more in depth books on specific composers… Listening to recordings that I would have never sought out… This book started me on a journey into a world that I would have never thought I’d enjoy…

Brilliant, extensive, essential.

15 people found this helpful.
 on July 15, 2009
By Jon Appleton
Taruskin continues to display his comprehensive and astounding knowledge of art music, this time focusing on the late 20th century. Whereas Alex Ross’ recent “The Rest is Noise” deals mostly with biographical detritus and speculation, Taruskin interweaves cultural history with a close examination of the music itself. This is a serious book in which Taruskin’s well-known prejudices are explained. I imagine this is the difference between a brilliant musicologist and a trendy critic. The sweep and depth of Taruskin’s knowledge of music is overwhelming. Damn him for keeping me up two nights in a row and which made me keep thinking even after I had turned of the light.

Good at this Price Range

3 people found this helpful.
 on January 7, 2015
By Bartolo
My sole objections to this politically oriented history might have been averted with a different title: “Richard Taruskin’s Perspective on Music in the Late Twentieth Century,” perhaps. As it is, I was perplexed that there was not one mention of Witold Lutoslawski, for example, nor more than a listing of Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Torke, and Ellen Taafe Zwilich, among others, collectively, as “neotonalists,” in one sentence. Granted there was a lot to compress into 528 pages of text, but the author allowed himself space to flesh out Steve Reich’s and Phil Glass’s early lives, for example, and composers fleeing repression or persecution from an Eastern bloc country had a much better chance of being discussed than those with quieter political lives.

Exploring the Aura of an Era

One person found this helpful.
 on January 13, 2017
By David Eaton
I’ve read quite a bit Of Richard Taruskin over the years and though I don’t always agree with his commentaries, he remains perhaps the most insightful of contemporary music historians.

Some weaknesses but still the best

One person found this helpful.
 on May 20, 2016
By theater pro
Richard Taruskin has personal opinions. So does everyone. He states up front that he has done his best to keep them from overwhelming the task at hand, and with a few exceptions, he has done so. The major exception is that, although he is clearly averse to the dominant paradigm of 20th-century music history — the progressivist, “historicist” view in which music must continue to “progress” as though it were scientific knowledge, so that anyone who writes tonally-centric music is not worth consideration — he has allowed his history to be influenced by it despite himself. With the major exceptions of Copland and Britten, he has almost completely ignored the many composers who continued to write tonally centric, Romantic music after World War II: Barber, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Bax, Moeran, Hanson, to mention just a few of the most prominent examples. A second exception is, while his sweep remains magnificently wide, his insights remain (mostly) profound, and his writing style witty and incisive, this volume shows many traces of careless or hasty editing; there are quite a few maladroit phrases (many with redundant language), and quite a few typos. Nevertheless, this series remains, without question, the best book of music history ever published in the English language.

Provoking and Insightful

16 people found this helpful.
 on November 4, 2010
By Juan-Pablo Caceres
This is the last (fifth) volume of Taruskin’s Music History, and the first one I read. I started by the last volume for two reasons. First, it’s a close look at the postwar music up to the present. Most 20th century music books cover the whole century up the the 1990′, and are as a consequence far less detailed in the postwar years. Second, I wanted to see to how the author’s thesis applied exactly to our present time. To summarize his thesis; the literate tradition in music started approximately a thousand years ago, and Taruskin tell its history in this impressive 5 volume Oxford History. His claim is that this tradition is approaching to an end, i.e., we’ll reach a “post-literate” era in music composition and making.

Late 20th century music

One person found this helpful.
 on May 3, 2015
By Robert E. Dedmon
Good reference text, clearly written.

Very good!!! No musical examples but thorough work

3 people found this helpful.
 on December 13, 2012
I liked the easy but academic reading and the focus in the second half of the 20th century. It begins with Darmstadt after the II War and in ten chapters reaches the end of the millennium. It continues the History of Western Music (Burkholder, Grout, Palisca) that I appreciate very much.

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