Oxford History of Western Music: 5-vol. set

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The universally acclaimed and award-winning Oxford History of Western Music by one of the most prominent and provocative musicologists of our time, Richard Taruskin. Now in paperback, the set has been reconstructed to be available for the first time as individual books, each one taking on a critical time period in the history of western music. All five books are also being offered in a shrink wrapped set for a discounted price. Each book in this magnificent set illuminates – through a representative sampling of masterworks – those themes, styles, and currents that give shape and direction to each musical age. The five titles cover Western music from its earliest days to the sixteenth century, the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, the early twentieth century, and the late twentieth century. Taking a critical perspective, Taruskin sets the details of music, the chronological sweep of figures, works, and musical ideas, within the larger context of world affairs and cultural history. He combines an emphasis on structure and form with a discussion of relevant theoretical concepts in each age, to illustrate how the music itself works, and how contemporaries heard and understood it. He also describes how the context of each stylistic period – key cultural, historical, social, economic, and scientific events – influenced and directed compositional choices. Moreover, the five books are filled with helpful illustrations that enhance the historical context of musical composition, as well as musical examples, black-and-white pictures throughout, suggestions for further reading, and indexes. Laced with brilliant observations, memorable musical analysis, and a panoramic sense of the interactions between history, culture, politics, art, literature, religion, and music, these books will be essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand this rich and diverse tradition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 240925 KB
  • Print Length: 3856 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 18, 2009)
  • Publication Date: July 18, 2009
  • Sold by:  Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004H0N71S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Customer Reviews

Let’s set the record straight, folks

161 people found this helpful.
 on January 19, 2005
By Ursus Major
“Anonymous IV” has a right, of course, to dislike Richard Taruskin’s magnificent Oxford History of Western Music, and to express that opinion – however unfathomable it may seem — on amazon.com.

illuminating analysis

25 people found this helpful.
 on April 12, 2010
By a malariologist
I have been enthralled with Taruskin’s work over the past four months. Anyone interested in the history of literate music in western culture will find the book fascinating, with a few conditions: you’ll need some experience listening to the music, you need to be able to read music, and you’ll need access to a keyboard to understand the author’s analysis of harmony (among other things, this work is a history of harmonic practice). Professional musicians and musicologists will understand more of the technical subleties than me–sometimes Taruskin asks us to follow his argument `score in hand’–which unfortunately, as some poet said, I have not got! I have nearly five decades of experience listening to music dating from around 1700 to the present, a limited ability to play the piano, and one course in harmony from 35 years ago. I’m probably at the bottom end of the range of the author’s target audience in terms of technical ability, but I still enjoyed the book.

Extraordinary work.

13 people found this helpful.
 on September 12, 2009
By Greg Vitercik
Music history with a distinctive point of view, as is true of everything Taruskin writes. It’s a work in the magisterial tradition, exhibiting a humanity and a command of material that goes far beyond anything I’ve ever encountered.

Taruskin *****, Oxford *

40 people found this helpful.
 on September 18, 2005
By Miriam K. Whaples
Oxford gets two very black eyes for this one. Here are five magnificent textbooks for graduate music-history classes. But they can’t be ordered separately: my class of 15 are sharing a single library copy of vol. 4 (and lapping it up).


5 people found this helpful.
 on November 10, 2009
By Herbert G. Roselle
Music is written in historical and social context, and that’s what the Taruskin does. Not only that, but the technical analysis is wonderful. I especially enjoyed volume 4, and the analysis of Tchaik, R Strauss, and Stravinsky. (check out the “omnibus progression” explanation). it’s all good though,. The quotes are pithy and to the points Taruskin makes.

Revisit your old music history curriculum…and actually enjoy it

2 people found this helpful.
 on May 10, 2016
By Michael Schell
Music history courses have been a standard part of college-level music instruction in the West for several generations. With good teachers it really is fascinating to learn how a great tradition of cultivated music emerged from Gregorian chant and evolved through “the classics” into the cauldron of the 20th century. Indeed many of my fondest memories from my own university days in the 1980s are of encountering various old and obscure musics for the first time. I have less fond memories, though, of the kind of music history textbooks we had back then. Dry in style, reticent in tone, filled with names and dates, they treated their subject matter in a kind of vacuum, focusing mainly on formal and stylistic details with little examination of how the prevailing social, political and ecological milieu of an era might have conditioned the type of music launched into it. And then there’s the question of scope: our textbooks fixated on what the mass media call “classical music”, with scant coverage of folk music, non-Western music and the commercial music which in our own day has become preponderate worldwide. Most of the interesting learning experiences came in the lecture rooms, listening labs and discussion groups. There was little reason to actually sit down and read a 

Brilliant work

52 people found this helpful.
 on December 15, 2004
By dr. lowbrow
Taruskin challenges many of the deep-seeded assumptions about music history. His work is compelling, smart, and deeply-layered. This five-volume set will prove to a be landmark in the study of western classical music, one which come to be valued as *the* reference.

Interested in ‘Classical Music’? A MUST READ!

11 people found this helpful.
 on September 21, 2006
By David Hicks
This 6-volume history is both entertaining and highly idiosyncratic. For a ‘survey’, that’s an unusual combination, but in this case the idiosyncracies are a great advantage. The reader is treated to a comprehensive tour of Western music, from a cultural perspective infused with brilliant social and political insights. For example, the extended discussion of ‘Romanticism’ and ‘The Folk’, with all the psycho-social baggage attendant to the latter is a stunning tour-de-force. You won’t agree with all of Taruskin’s observations: the charm he finds in Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ (with its high dose of ‘Das Volk’) falls flat with me. Mozart wrote several operas head and shoulders above that one, to my ears. But one need not agree with Taruskin to find the journey wondrously edifying.

Extraordinary work

3 people found this helpful.
 on June 18, 2012
By woodzyguy
Mr. Taruskin’s work in this book series is awesome. This series is one of the most ambitious musicological undertakings in recent memory. His insights are outstanding, and he has a flair for theoretical analysis that balances between historical context and theory near-seamlessly.

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