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Early Music: A Very Short Introduction

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From Gregorian chant to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two cent From Gregorian chant to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two centuries to revive it. Kelly shows that the early-music revival has long been grounded in the idea of spontaneity, of excitement, and of recapturing experiences otherwise lost to us--either the rediscovery of little-known repertories or the recovery of lost performing styles, with the conviction that, with the right performance, the music will come to life anew. Blending musical and social history, he shows how the Early Music movement in the 1960s took on political overtones, fueled by a rebellion against received wisdom and enforced conformity. Kelly also discusses ongoing debates about authenticity, the desirability of period instruments, and the relationship of mainstream opera companies and symphony orchestras to music that they often ignore, or play in modern fashion.


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From Gregorian chant to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two cent From Gregorian chant to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two centuries to revive it. Kelly shows that the early-music revival has long been grounded in the idea of spontaneity, of excitement, and of recapturing experiences otherwise lost to us--either the rediscovery of little-known repertories or the recovery of lost performing styles, with the conviction that, with the right performance, the music will come to life anew. Blending musical and social history, he shows how the Early Music movement in the 1960s took on political overtones, fueled by a rebellion against received wisdom and enforced conformity. Kelly also discusses ongoing debates about authenticity, the desirability of period instruments, and the relationship of mainstream opera companies and symphony orchestras to music that they often ignore, or play in modern fashion.

30 review for Early Music: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    The book is a nice introduction on the musical development from the music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. It explains well the innovations during this period. It also sets out the problems of reconstructing the early music, the instruments, their sounds, and the problems in interpreting the scores. Research in this area is very important to get a better understanding. I share the conclusion that it is an illusion to reconstruct the music as it sounded in the 15-17 centuries. Even if it were The book is a nice introduction on the musical development from the music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. It explains well the innovations during this period. It also sets out the problems of reconstructing the early music, the instruments, their sounds, and the problems in interpreting the scores. Research in this area is very important to get a better understanding. I share the conclusion that it is an illusion to reconstruct the music as it sounded in the 15-17 centuries. Even if it were perfectly done, modern audiences would react in a different way than an audience during that period. If we want to be faithful to the original composers, we should, with the help of research, try to bring good music that is appreciated by 21st century listeners. The last chapter on the early music revival is inevitably too much a long list of names. A notable omission is Jordi Savall. He is only once mentioned as professor of viola da gamba at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. His later founding of Hespèrion XX, Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and the Concert of Nations. I strongly recommend reading this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    The content is interesting, but the book really needed an editor (or a better editor). It often assumes of the reader too much knowledge of musical history or theory, and it is frustratingly repetitive and unfocused in parts. Though there are some recommendations scattered throughout the text, one also wishes for a short discography of recommended recordings or at least a list of key works. The book achieved its aim as I do feel I have a bit more knowledge and historical context of early music, y The content is interesting, but the book really needed an editor (or a better editor). It often assumes of the reader too much knowledge of musical history or theory, and it is frustratingly repetitive and unfocused in parts. Though there are some recommendations scattered throughout the text, one also wishes for a short discography of recommended recordings or at least a list of key works. The book achieved its aim as I do feel I have a bit more knowledge and historical context of early music, yet I also feel like the book is scattershot and withholding key insights in favor of insider gossip and frivolities.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Spencer

    I have no idea how accurate or thorough this is, but it has provided me the broad introduction to the material I sought.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hrishikesh

    Informative and opinionated. A good introduction to the early music movement in Western Classical music.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Korie Brown

    I love the topic, but this was written so dryly that I ended up skimming for information.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    The Academy of Ancient Music was formed for the express purpose of reviving and playing 'old' music. It perhaps seems odd to us that it was founded in 1726, and a great deal of music was yet to be composed which would now seem pretty old in itself. The term 'early music' is clearly a relative one, and the consequent fluidity of its use is one that the author of this book takes a conspicuous delight in. He discusses at length the phenomenon of 'early music', by which he means the movement(s) to r The Academy of Ancient Music was formed for the express purpose of reviving and playing 'old' music. It perhaps seems odd to us that it was founded in 1726, and a great deal of music was yet to be composed which would now seem pretty old in itself. The term 'early music' is clearly a relative one, and the consequent fluidity of its use is one that the author of this book takes a conspicuous delight in. He discusses at length the phenomenon of 'early music', by which he means the movement(s) to revive and play extinct forms of music. Among other things he questions the idea of 'authenticity' asking whether it is possible for people today, who have heard Beethoven and Wagner, to appreciate Baroque music the way its first listeners did, or whether that would be desirable. Apart from this, in a series of chapters he describes the three distinct periods of 'early' music. Acknowledging, with a certain amount of regret, that we know nothing about actual 'ancient' music, he turns his attention to what we know of medieval music. The first written music that we have is from this period (mostly church music), and is the very beginning of the notation we use today; not indicating any harmony, or the length of each note, and gradually developing to become more and more comprehensive. The Renaissance period (although musically the term is inappropriate, since it does not in any way involve the 'rebirth' of ancient music) gives birth to a good deal more variety, and especially opera. Involving music, poetry, physical performance and (more often than not) visual art, opera is perhaps the most supremely synthetic form of art that humanity has devised. Finally, the baroque period expands yet more; the author refers to more composers than most of us can even be aware existed. The author's joy in his subject is transparent and infectious, and suffuses the stream of judiciously presented information to make his book a pleasure to read. By the end of it, the reader cannot help but be well-disposed towards the early music movement, if not outright enamoured of it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    André

    ALTE-MUSIK-INTRO ALS TOUR DE FORCE Während mich beim Gröninger-Buch störte, dass der zu wenig auf Eigenschaften Alter Musik einging (zumal er das gut kann), dafür dann eher Lebenswege repräsentativer Musiker durch die (europ.) Länder nachvollzog - und zumindest einen roten Faden/eine Entwicklung durch die Geschichte skizzieren konnte -, enthält Thomas Forrest Kellys Buch zwar mehr zum Wesen Alter Musik, vermengt das aber als großes, hektisch durcheinandergehendes Faktenaufzählen ("Was fehlt noch? ALTE-MUSIK-INTRO ALS TOUR DE FORCE Während mich beim Gröninger-Buch störte, dass der zu wenig auf Eigenschaften Alter Musik einging (zumal er das gut kann), dafür dann eher Lebenswege repräsentativer Musiker durch die (europ.) Länder nachvollzog - und zumindest einen roten Faden/eine Entwicklung durch die Geschichte skizzieren konnte -, enthält Thomas Forrest Kellys Buch zwar mehr zum Wesen Alter Musik, vermengt das aber als großes, hektisch durcheinandergehendes Faktenaufzählen ("Was fehlt noch?"-Teilüberschrift), immerhin mit den 3 epochalen Einschnitten: Mittelalter, Renaissance, Barock. Dieses kleine Reclam-Heftchen basiert auf einem englischen Original aus der über 500 Bücher umfassenden "Very-Short-Introductions"-Serie. Jedes Buch hätte den Anspruch, "balanced and complete", bestenfalls noch "thought provoking" zu sein. Kelly scheitert m.E. oft daran, gleichzeitig als Musikprofessor "complete" und als Very-Short-Autor genießbar zu sein. Es ist kein Essay, keine Bettlektüre. Man findet paar interessante Informationen, aber ohne Google und YouTube für Alternativerklärungen und Hörbeispiele wird man sich als Laie oft schwertun: Die zweite Buchhälfte (ab Barock) bietet alle 2 Sätze neue Begriffe, Namedropping, musiktheoretisches Kleinklein. Wurde dann unbefriedigend und hab das Buch schon mal in die Ecke gefeuert, weil so nichts bei mir hängen bleibt. Fazit: Eher was für Leute, die es mit Musiktheorie ernster meinen als ich und sich leichter quälen lassen. Wahrscheinlich ist es auch sinnvoller, bessere Bücher über jeweils eine der Musikepochen zu suchen, und Bücher, die nicht gleichzeitig "komplett" und "very short" sein wollen.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Silvio Curtis

    A nice little book about early music, meaning European music that's old enough not to be part of the standard canon of so-called "classical music" or at least old enough to antedate modern "classical music" performance styles. In practice that means that coverage starts from the first manuscripts with musical notation that scholars can partly understand, which is partway through the Middle Ages, and continues all the way up through the eighteenth century. The explanation of how harmony developed A nice little book about early music, meaning European music that's old enough not to be part of the standard canon of so-called "classical music" or at least old enough to antedate modern "classical music" performance styles. In practice that means that coverage starts from the first manuscripts with musical notation that scholars can partly understand, which is partway through the Middle Ages, and continues all the way up through the eighteenth century. The explanation of how harmony developed over time is about as clear and simple as I could ever hope for, though it still assumes more knowledge about music than I have, and in passing it makes the very helpful observation that complex harmony is the main distinctive feature of "Western" music in cross-cultural perspective, where other traditions are much more complex in melody and rhythm. The book is written from within something called the early music movement or early music revival and includes reflections on that movement's principles, which I found very interesting philosophically and helped me clarify my own reasons for reading ancient literature.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hayden Chandler

    This information has potential to become drier and drier. This book presents what you need to know, without giving you cotton mouth. Great read if you need to know a weirdly large amount about early music. I love music so I enjoy knowing weirdly large amounts about it. That's why I gave this book a high rating. This information has potential to become drier and drier. This book presents what you need to know, without giving you cotton mouth. Great read if you need to know a weirdly large amount about early music. I love music so I enjoy knowing weirdly large amounts about it. That's why I gave this book a high rating.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Brilliant.... a book every lover of this stately, captivating music should read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nalora

    Short, easy to read, a great book (in paperback) to take out to the park or garden in summer because of its small size. Covers succinctly with a good overview of much of Early Music in its forms.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Norman Wakefield

    Well written and engaging.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan Vine

    This book is a fair survey of Early Music revivals in Europe and North America (I assume). He mentioned an orchestra in Japan but otherwise there was no acknowledgement of any relevant activity in Asia or the southern hemisphere. Is this ignorance or a considered judgement that nothing interesting has happened in early music in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile? Or a more general assumption that nothing of note ever happens south of the equator. It could be any of those things. Also there This book is a fair survey of Early Music revivals in Europe and North America (I assume). He mentioned an orchestra in Japan but otherwise there was no acknowledgement of any relevant activity in Asia or the southern hemisphere. Is this ignorance or a considered judgement that nothing interesting has happened in early music in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile? Or a more general assumption that nothing of note ever happens south of the equator. It could be any of those things. Also there are parts of the book that give the impression of having been written at speed without much editing. However, his discussion of the key historical, technical and sociological issues is very good and provides food for thought.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hugo Geurdes

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Mozee-Baum

  16. 4 out of 5

    George

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mr S F Mansfield

  20. 4 out of 5

    Przemek Z

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sean Mclaughlin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve Walker

  24. 4 out of 5

    Oleg Shpudeiko

  25. 5 out of 5

    Toon

  26. 5 out of 5

    James

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cristina G. Rojo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tonisq

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nai

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